Leadership in the Church
: A heuristic framework and critical appraisal of contemporary British Church leadership literature

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Since the mid-1970s, there has been a significant increase in British ministerial literature focusing on a particular understanding of leadership. Whilst many within the Church have eagerly adopted this approach, others have been troubled by significant aspects of its recommendations, sensing them to be anomalous within the life of the Church.
Treating this ministerial literature as a discourse (which it terms the Church Leadership Discourse (CLD)), this thesis has held against it a heuristic framework comprising two approaches to reality (which are derived from the works of McGilchrist and Louth in particular). One of these approaches, termed the Cartesian, is characterised by clarity, focus and detailed analysis. The other, termed the Gestalt, is attuned to questions of degree, of disposition, and of connectedness. Importantly, both approaches are needed, but their proper relationship is not one of simple balance. Rather, the clarity of the Cartesian approach should always be in service of the broader wisdom of the Gestalt. A further significant move, inspired by the work of Kuhn, was to recognise the importance of anomalies as potential indicators that an existing paradigm may be insufficient.
In the core chapters of the thesis, I examine the CLD in the light of this heuristic framework. My conclusion is that the CLD is significantly biased towards a Cartesian approach. Examining the CLD in the light of this framework proves fruitful not only in identifying a broad range of anomalies within it, but also in establishing their interconnectedness, pervasiveness, and theological insufficiency. Taken together, these findings form a strong argument that the CLD arises from an approach to reality that is inappropriate and inadequate for a significant role within the Christian Church. The thesis concludes by offering an outline of a reconfigured ministerial discourse. Here, the calling of the Church is to improvise faithfully and trustingly within God's unfolding drama, in such a way that the mode of being of the Church is increasingly conformed to the very being of God.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPeter Ward (Supervisor) & Meg Maguire (Supervisor)

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