Church considers psychometric tests as experts raise fears about clergy narcissism

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “It is vital to use all means available to find people with the right skills and aptitudes for this unique, but very challenging, calling.“Some dioceses have been using forms of assessment for a while to provide insight about how candidates might develop and respond to the challenges of the role,” he added. The Daily Telegraph understands that an important use of any new test would be a way for the church to analyse the make-up of those applying to the priesthood to see what kinds of people it is attracting. The data could then be used to affect the way the church markets itself to prospective clergy, for example, by emphasising the community-focused and collaborative aspects of the role, to attract people with strengths and interests in that area.Tests currently in use in Church of England dioceses, for team building exercises as well as for trainee clergy, include the Myers Briggs test, which categorises people based on four criteria, and an Enneagram, which involves nine personality types.  A proportion of people in leadership positions with narcissistic traits will very malignly take it out on othersMark Vernon The Church of England could administer personality tests for trainee priests amid fears it appoints too many narcissists.The Church is examining ways to analyse the personalities of new priests to in an effort to understand the types of people it is attracting. New tests set to be considered by bishops next year could also measure how well a trainee copes with stress and being in a position of authority. Julian Hubbard, director of the Church’s Ministry Division, said the tests could also be a “useful tool in helping candidates grow in self-awareness”. He said the church was “considering the use of psychological assessment as part of the process of discernment for those seeking ordination in the Church of England”. The news comes as experts have raised concerns that narcissistic people are more likely to be attracted to ordained ministry.A recent book by North American researchers R. Glenn Ball and Darrell Puls concluded that more than 30 per cent of ministers in a mainstream Protestant church in Canada met the criteria for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Mark Vernon, a psychotherapist and former Church of England priest, said narcissists were drawn to positions of power in order to “lord it over others”.”The church offers a particular route which would appeal to some who like the entitlement – you’re called a reverend, you sit in high places, you wear special clothes, you’re seen as authoritative, you have captive audiences, you’re spiritually elite – whatever it might be, people get drawn to that way of trying to cope with that sense of self-dissatisfaction,” he said. Clergy profiling was raised at recent hearings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, where the bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, said the diocese was planning to implement psychological testing for new priests to check they were suitable to be ordained. It is understood that some dioceses already administer tests to prospective clergy.A new policy, set to be considered by bishops next year, would introduce national guidance for dioceses on implementing personality testing. It would likely then be introduced in 2020. Church leaders have recently raised awareness of the issue of spiritual abuse, where a member of the clergy uses their religious authority to coerce or exploit others. “A proportion of people in leadership positions with narcissistic traits will very malignly take it out on others,” Mr Vernon added. “Certainly someone with a malign type of narcissism would try spiritually to exploit people.”Mr Hubbard said that the change was “not only about safeguarding”.