Religious Leaders Condemn Portfolio Careers

by Barrie Hopson on September 5, 2008 · 2 comments

in Uncategorized

Does Dr. Rowan Williams have a second job?
(That’s him in the builders hard hat!)
We are most grateful to Sarah Dillon who brought to our attention an amazing interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Times a couple of years ago in which he criticised Britain’s “portfolio culture”, in which personal integrity is being sacrificed to short-term goals. He stated that the “portfolio approach to identity” is a trend that is affecting people’s sense of who and what they are. “It is often said, I think with some truth, that the short-term job and the short-term relationship go together. The short-term job and the short span of attention go together.” His comments brought immediate agreement from other religious leaders.

The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, said: “The great paradox of our time is that we face huge long-term problems while our lives have become more short-term than any previous generation — short-term jobs, short-term relationships, short-term fashions in everything from clothes to lifestyle to religious beliefs.”

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Dr Rowan Williams has put it most aptly. What we have really come to suffer from is short-termism which is nothing but a day-to-day and me-alone approach to life with little thought about tomorrow.

Dr Clive Marsh, secretary of the faith and order committee of the Methodist Church and author of Christianity in a Post-Atheist Age, said: “As usual, Rowan Williams’s comments are spot on.”

So are we portfolio career workers really contributing to the moral decline of our nation? Are portfolio workers more likely to have serial marriages, have affairs and have little thought of tomorrow? Why is it acceptable to strive for one job and one career but not to want to express the full range of one’s motivated skills by opting for a number of jobs? Methinks it is something to do with a belief in the value of hair shirts. It is good for the soul to plough on with an unfulfilling work life or a career that you chose when you were 20 but now you are 50 and are just a little bit different!

Interestingly we have evidence that there are at least a few clerics who – can you believe – have portfolio careers! 2 famous ones are of course Lewis Carroll – Author, Mathematician, Anglican Clergyman, Photographer, Logician, and the Rev. W. Audry – Thomas the Tank Engine. Did Jesus have a portfolio career? I think he might have done. Think about it.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bruce Lynn September 6, 2008 at 12:37 am

Everytime Katie accepts a new contract, it’s not for yodelling, hot-dip galvanising or teeth extraction. It’s for the skills in coaching, presenting, etc. that are her forte. In the same respect, it is common in most religions to find the concept of the ‘itinerant’ clergy who go from assignment to assignment employing their key skills of counsel, sermonising, etc. In fact, some demoninations make an active effort to move clergy around a ‘portfolio’ of church assignments to foster professional growth. Many churches also have the concept of ‘lay clergy’ which brings people who have other jobs into the role of ministry to blend in with their other occupations. So I think the clergy itself has in many respects been leaders in ‘portfolio careers’ for some time.

I’m guessing/hoping that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments were simply misunderstanding the true nature of ‘portfolio’ careers. The most typical definition is working for different employers on different assignments. It doesn’t mean that you are an architect one day, a teacher the next, a clergman the next and an author after that (though that is precisely the career my father enjoyed which led to him being a leading authority on church architecture).

2 Barrie September 6, 2008 at 2:54 am

A very perceptive comment yet again Bruce. I also am familiar with clergy members who do a wide range of activities and I like your point about itinerant clergy. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to get the Archbishops comment on this!

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