I’ve invested quite a bit of time in June and July in a process of Ministerial Development Review, the total net result of which appears to have been sending the Bishop a couple of lines about each of three of the things on which I was already fully aware that I am focussing at the moment, now expressed as ‘objectives’ for the next year.
The ‘new’ Common Tenure terms and conditions include obligations for the provision of and participation in Ministerial Development Review in a form which has regard for Archbishops’ Council guidance. It is something about which I’ve blogged before here and here and here, fretting among other things about the way it might end up being an inefficient process of management by such objectives - the guidance doesn’t actually offer any theological or practical argument for its particular focus on this tool.
I had really hoped that there would be more to it than that, but when I sat down with my pleasant and supportive reviewer her first questions were indeed about how the substantial background material on which I had worked for her might be converted into some narrower specific objectives.
I had already found that the Agreed Summary and Objectives form (the one thing which the Bishop and CME Officer would see and the one thing which would be kept on my official file) is a single side of A4 and one which acts as a template for recording these objectives alone – there is a suggestion that additional pages could be added but each time this would require a specific initiative by reviewee or reviewer to do so (so, to take one example, there is no prompt to respond to the Archbishops’ Council’s suggestion that ‘where people have particular strengths these should be identified for particular comment’).
The introductory material to the diocesan scheme says among other things ‘[The Bishop] is responsible for... understand the challenges [the clergy] face... The Ministerial Development Review has been developed to provide a formalised process... to ensure that every member of clergy has the opportunity to feed back their concerns, their needs and their triumphs’ but this template is designed instead simply to report the objectives and how these might be facilitated and doesn’t actually prompt any feedback to the Bishop about challenges, concerns or triumphs.
In May, a disgruntled clergyman wrote to the Church Times about his own experience and was even more cynical: “my perception – am I right? – is that ministerial review is really intended for Common Tenure clergy partly to provide a paper trail in case the history of a clergy member’s employment ends up in an Employment Tribunal: ‘S/he may have had a breakdown through overwork, but we have written evidence through ministerial review of our advice to attend a course on How to Delegate’”.
I had actually wondered whether the legal obligation to participate actually exists since the diocese does not yet have provision in a form which has regard for Archbishops’ Council guidance in terms of a number of things including frequency (my invitation to take part in what is recommended to be an annual process but which is required to happen at least every two years came after more than three years subject to Common Tenure) and the gathering of feedback from others (which is not part of the present diocesan scheme at all).
But I didn’t have the energy to cause a fuss around refusing on that basis. Instead I’ve done my bit, and included some of the above in the feedback requested on the process. There was also in May a couple of people from outside the diocese reviewing our provision so, who knows, things may be about to change for the better anyway.