Saturday, 8 January 2011

Loss of diocesan advisor for LLMs

Those of you who follow me on twitter will have seen my upset, anger and disappointment at the news that the Diocese of Oxford have made redundant the post of "Diocesan advisor for LLMs".  

My first emotion was shock. Shock that the wonderful lay minister Sheila Lloyd would be made redundant from her post when she has spent the last 2 years regenerating the ministry and community of lay ministers in Oxford diocese.

I quickly moved to anger. Anger that the diocese should let down it's LLMs by no longer employing anyone to be their advocate, support and leader.  Anger that the diocese doesn't seem to value lay ministry if it can leave us high and dry in this way. Anger that this decision has and will continue to cause so much pain for individuals.

Being a practical person my third response was action.  I tweeted quite emotionally to +Alan (Bishop of Buckinghamshire).  I wrote an email to +Colin (Bishop of Dorchester who now becomes the warden of readers) and +John (Bishop of Oxford) explaining how I felt about the decision.  I rang my archdeaconry advisor for LLMs and we had a long discussion about how upset we both are.  I spoke to my vicar about how Christian I felt about the whole situation.

Fourthly, finally (about time) you might say, I prayed on the situation.  This was inordinately difficult.  I felt so let down by the organisation of the church, so distanced from the ministry I feel so called to, so abandoned.  But God is good, God is love, God came through, God held me tight and reassured and brought me back to His calling on my life.  

Fifthly the church itself reached out to me.  +Alan tweeted me a number of times showing true care, compassion and understanding.  +Colin emailed me almost immediately in an extremely affirming way and invited me to meet with him in the spring to discuss LLM ministry.  And I was reminded by many amazing vicars and laiety how the focus of my ministry is all about the local and that doesn't change.

It has been quite some 48hours, a real rollercoaster.  This issue is in no way concluded, I still feel the diocesan decision is wrong, but I feel more able to cope with it positively.  For example,  I am now part of a team setting up a website for Oxford LLMs which should help us support each other as peers.  

This is a time of change, it's not nice but if nothing else it has brought me closer to understanding those in the community who are suffering the same experiences of redundancy and change. In time we will look back and see how we grew through this, but for now we will middle through with our emotions, our concerns and our faith.


UKViewer said...


I can see how this has really impacted on you. Someone you knew and trusted has been cast out, without any discernible reason, other than money saving.

I am unsure of how much the cost was, but perhaps they might have considered converting the post to part-time or voluntary. But I am not familiar with diocesan finances, so cannot really comment on that aspect.

I always look for imaginative solutions in these situations - but wonder if there is perhaps some imagination lacking in diocese.

I feel that you will find Bishop Colin very supportive. I have met him and work with him in a charity he chairs. He will make the utmost effort to ensure that arrangements will be put in place to continue the Ministry of Sheila, even if on a shared basis.

In the meantime, I think that your reaction is natural, and now you are seeing things a little clearer. I loved the piece about God is love - as I see it so often in my life and of others I meet. That is what we need to offer to others all of the time to make the world a better place.

MK22 said...

I'm sorry to hear you are so upset about this. Sadly the whole sorry saga dates back to something called the Hind Report and a perception in the Church of England as a whole that the training of priests, particularly in the first few years after ordination, needed to be improved. The result has been (and as I am an LLM and an ex Archdeaconry Advisor, you will appreciate I am completely unbiased on this) an unwieldly, expensive (ordained) organisation in Diocesan Chruch House to cope. As the financial crisis has taken hold the costs involved in this re-organisation have meant cut backs elsewhere. Some Dioceses have opted to combine the role of the Diocesan Director of Ordinands with that of the person responsible for post ordination training. Oxford, as you know, has decided not to renew the contract of the Diocesan Advisor for LLM. In all fairness a number of Dioceses have a Bishop as Warden of Readers, but I suspect their workload is somewhat less than that of a Bishop in a massive Diocese like Oxford. Oxford has almost highest ratio of priests to LLM (about 2:1) of any Diocese of the Church of England so it is hardly surprising that the Diocesan focus is on the priestly role not the LLM role.

It is unfortunate that Bishop John, who has been a Warden of Readers, allowed this to go ahead as I suspect many LLMs will not be impressed. But short of Diocesan Synod rising up against what has been done, frankly I cannot see it changing, not, at least, until we get a sensible balance of the Laity in the responsible positions in the Department of Mission.