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18.02.2022

The Woes of Cressida Dick

It is hard to know what to think about Cressida Dick’s resignation. After a long and steady campaign against her, she was finally forced out by Sadiq Khan’s public statement of his lack of confidence. Such public humiliation is painful to watch. However, she has presided over a number of scandals and there’s persistent evidence of racism and misogyny in the Met.

Toppling leaders can be a swift and decisive way to bring about change. But it can risk setting up the next leader to fail equally publicly unless we ask the real questions: how do you reform culture? Whose responsibility is it when the problem is located in so many different people? What is the responsibility of our wider culture and its expectations of the police?

The quandary is hardly new. For centuries, philosophers have considered how to understand the responsibilities of people, structures, and leaders. The Bible has much to say about it too. The book of Judges, for instance, examines a succession of leaders. They all ‘judge’ Israel, but the shape of their leadership differs: some are elected, some chosen by different size groups, some emerge gradually, some come to leadership through birth or family connections.

The structures of leadership differ, but in every case, both people and leader struggle. To ‘judge’ is to bring justice, and to foster the flourishing of every person, particularly the most vulnerable, and that is the responsibility of a whole people, not just leaders. But Judges tells us that however good the ‘system’, the real problem is the human heart: both people and systems need converting, otherwise their efforts will fail.

How can things change then? Scripture’s answer is unexpected. There is evaluation and therefore judgement, and consequences. However, what transforms Israel repeatedly is not judgement, but grace. It is when God reaches out, when God has compassion, when God does not wait for perfection but works with flawed human beings, that things change.

Thinking about Cressida Dick, and the Met, can we, as Christians, offer a different way to speak about failure and transformation? Can we model grace and accountability in words and actions, speaking up for truth and justice, yet keeping sight of the person we criticise as a fellow human being – vulnerable, and loved by God?

If we cannot speak of both grace and responsibility, we are doomed to repeat the cycle, because whoever comes next will, also, only be human.

 

Isabelle Hamley
Secretary for Theology and Theological Adviser to the House of Bishops

Comments

  1. A timely and gracious, grace filled reflection Isabella – we thank you. We offer the fact that Grace’s “twin” in the expression of God’s character and actions towards flawed mankind, be it under common or especial grace, is His quality of MERCY. It is His MERCY, His covenant keeping hesed (i.e. Exodus 34:5ff) that triumphs over His judgment; He is Just and the justifier of those who believe in Christ. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have MERCY upon me a sinner”. “Be MERCIFUL, for I AM MERCIFUL. –
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajal5cQpjCs – Come and see, Come and see….
    Eternal Regards from an icon of His MERCY, Bill Saunders

    By Bill Saunders  -  18 Feb 2022
  2. Such a timely and wise piece, Isabelle – many thanks for crafting this, and suggesting a better way forward than merely demonising a cavalcade of leaders to placate public anger, inviting the next to step up to the plate without soul searching as to what actually makes for a change in culture.

    Toward this end, a report LICC now hosts – ‘Breaking Ground: The Church and Cultural Renewal’ by Dr Nathan Mladin from Theos – offers excellent analysis and ways forward that truly do make for cultural change (https://licc.org.uk/resources/breaking-ground/). We also explore this at https://licc.org.uk/resources/wise-peacemakers-part-4-of-5/, considering how to ‘create’ change through a combination of bespoke spiritual practices to sustain our calling, and healing action aligned with the 6Ms of being fruitful on our frontlines (https://licc.org.uk/resources/6ms/).

    Blessings as you continue to play such a crucial role at this time.

    In Christ,

    Dave

    By Dave Benson  -  18 Feb 2022
  3. A thought provoking piece. Thank you

    By Jacqui  -  18 Feb 2022
  4. We look forward to your emails. Not sure whether we needed to fill this in or not but don’t want to risk falling off the list!

    By Jan Martin  -  18 Feb 2022
  5. Isabel Hamley’s comments on Cressida Dick are interesting and stimulating but offer no suggestions about what to do.

    Cressida Dick has known the shortcomings and failures of numbers of the officers under her for years and has not dealt with them. It is self evident she is not going to.

    For that reason she has to make way for someone else to be given a chance to serve us and the met police better.

    How to do that biblically, graciously and helpfully is problematic and the comment offers no help.

    Peter Vinall

    By Peter Vinall  -  18 Feb 2022
  6. I have been conscious reclently of the need to pray for our leaders. That God will ultimately have His way is beyond doubt. I struggle to understand the implication of the previous statement however in faith I believe it (lord I Believe help thou my unbelief) I often hear myself repeating. For me, there is no positive outcome when we only criticise – prayer for me is the action to positively improve our society.

    By Arthur Bates  -  18 Feb 2022
  7. Helpful reflection and comments. It looks to me like Dave Benson’s links do offer some useful resources, pointers perhaps for Peter Vinall’s perfectly commendable desire for ‘suggestions about what to do’.

    By Bruce Gulland  -  18 Feb 2022
  8. A thought-provoking piece that has a much wider resonance than simply the Met and Cressida Dick. No suggestions offered but that seems to be part of the point; we need to think these things through for ourselves because then we begin to make connections with our own lives and situations. If we are offered solutions it is then too easy, in my experience, to nod wisely and move on, leaving the hard work not done.

    By David Wood  -  18 Feb 2022
  9. Good piece. In modern society people are very quick to criticise and point the finger. I don’t know whether Cressida Dick was up to the job or not. Maybe our expectations are unrealistic but it sounds like there are serious flaws in the Metropolitan Police. We have had our own historic problems in Northern Ireland with the police force and hopefully the future police force will be better but I honestly don’t like judging people too harshly when I haven’t been in that situation myself. Anyway good luck to whoever succeeds Cressida and may they pray to God for guidance and strength to change the Met for the better.

    By Philip Hamilton  -  18 Feb 2022
  10. Thank you for this piece and for many of the comments that follow including Philip’s challenge to pray for our leaders in all walks of life – for Christians in all our police services to be the salt and light. Never more needed than just now
    I don’t know if Peter Vinall knows Cressida Dick personally and her work that he says with such assurance that she knew the short comings and failed to deal with them and that it is self evident that she will not do so. I am quoting my brother who worked with her for many years in the Met and has continued in touch with her since his retirement
    ” It is mostly politics – so virtue hard work integrity outstanding professionalism count for nothing. I consider her the greatest Commissioner of my career .. I don’t deny the vile disgusting racist misogynistic behaviour behaviour that always needs addressing . I challenge that these are as widespread as to cause the fall of a wonderful intelligent 21st century leader who was addressing them”

    May God support and encourage all those in public life – and may we each of us challenge ourselves on matters that we fail to address before we can criticise others for their failures

    By Alison Grieve  -  21 Feb 2022

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