The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is leading the world Anglican communion through a combination of charismatic-personal authority and managerial culture that departs from the more traditional leadership styles of his predecessors, writes Oxford University theologian Martyn Percy in the Journal of Anglican Studies (online May). Percy credits Welby as managing to avoid the gridlock and divisions of his predecessor Rowan Williams over such matters as sexuality, as he draws on his extensive business background that stresses action and avoids red tape. Some observers have compared Welby’s leadership style to former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s personal and charismatic approach. Welby’s personal style has led him to make such time-consuming commitments as promising to visit each of the world’s 38 head bishops in their own provinces. But Percy argues that Welby’s stress on personal ministry risks disintegrating into “a set of warm reciprocal relations” divorced from institutional realities and conflicts that might be aired in meetings and gatherings. Along with Welby’s stress on charismatic and personal ministry is his adoption of leadership and managerial techniques and practices in the Church of England that downplays traditional church structures.
Percy points to a recent task force on theological education that was dominated by lay people from the financial world while excluding current theological educators, as it “simply recommended ‘deregulation’ as the way forward for theological formation and training.” Like Tony Blair’s informal “kitchen cabinet,” Welby has cultivated an “inner circle” that can develop into a “very small, tight-knit group of loyalists and…a larger devoted cadre.” While this kind of leadership can be effective in the short term, over time “it disenchants and alienates, while the cadres and elite become both increasingly powerful and paranoid,” Percy writes. The use of both charismatic leadership and managerial tactics also characterizes English archbishops who are now “functioning much-like corporate chief executives within their respective provinces, and nationally.” This has the effect of bishops serving as “area managers,” controlled through a tightly regulated training process, with targets and objectives set by executive managers and endorsed by “visionary” archbishops. In such a scenario, parish clergy are reduced to the status of local branch managers, “thinly stretched in resourcing, but made to chase the (unreachable) targets set by the area managers.”
(Journal of Anglican Studies, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=AST)