Sunday, 16 November 2014

Over-Coaching a Long-Ball Church

Well call me old-fashioned, but I do worry that it's the over-coaching of bishops that is taking the vibrancy and excitement out of our national game. I mean look at this report on the Bishop of Truro's view of the future of the Church of England:

Bishop Thornton previously said the Church of England would struggle to exist in 10 years.
Speaking on Radio Cornwall, he said: "I'd been saying that for a while now so I think we have to come down and say it's five or six years."
Bishop Thornton said analysis of attendance figures was "all showing one thing".
He said: "I fear that we are on a steady decline at the moment."
The Diocese of Truro voted on 8 November 2014 for a 28% increase in the amount of money it needs from local churchgoers to reduce a £1.2m deficit over the next year.
Look at the evidence - a time-bound prediction of the end of the Church of England, a vague aspiration that things must be done, and no specific suggestions - obviously Bishop Thornton could have come up with all sorts of brilliant ideas that just weren't reported, but the only one we've heard about is shoving up the Parish Share. The Bishop of Truro has clearly been coached by George Carey.
Trainee Bishops go through their paces before meeting Crewe Alexandra

And that's the problem, isn't it? Upping the Share, so as to keep things as they are, while simultaneously saying things can't stay as they are. The Long Ball of episcopal tactics. The fear that, if you tried anything genuinely creative, it might all go horribly wrong and you'd be the Last Bishop of Barchester. Don't play the ball out from the back, just lob it forward, clear your lines for now. It's gonna be 6 years - or 10 years - or a generation - before the opposition dribble it back. But at least you can keep the scoreline down.

Maybe the answer is to do what the Premiership does. Get in some of the most exciting players - sorry, clergy - from around the world. Some of those African bishops, without the privileges enjoyed by our native young bishops, learn to play with flair and creativity. People who can make some decent diagonal moves. Whereas in these safety-first day, we no longer allow young English bishops to play in the streets, learning their craft banging the Book of Common Prayer against a wall. Instead we get them off the roads, safe on EpiscoTurf, coached and trained and standardised. It's not a question of what talents they have - it's about can they fit into one of the standard formations? A defensive 4-4-2 or a Lambeth Quadrilateral?

I suggest the C of E doesn't coach the women. Let them thrive. Let them play their natural game. If they're wide players - and, let's face it, Left-wingers are the only ones that've been acceptable this last 40 years - then let them run with it. If they suit the libero role - free-ranging, bringing other people into play - then let them use their talents. If they're natural sweepers, allowing others to bomb forwards while they clear up the mess at the back, then let them do that - maybe some of the men could learn to do it as well, lest we stereotype.

Let the women be themselves. You never know -  after 50 years of hurt, maybe it's time the Church of England won a Lambeth Conference.


  1. Any possibility that a woman could replace the negativity of the Bishop of Truro?

    1. For all we know, he said "I'd give the C of E 6 years, but here's the 10-point plan to bring the Good News to everyone in Bodmin," but the BBC wouldn't report it would they? Just the first half.

  2. Having coached kids (well a kid, to be more precise) at soccer, I'd say the danger of not coaching many of these women would be the succession of own goals they'd score if left to their natural game.

    Might be a risk worth taking, of course, so I offer it merely as an observation from the sidelines - I don't have a dog-collar in this game.


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