• Telling Our Stories: Towards an Understanding of Lived Methodism

      Graham, Elaine; Llewellyn, Dawn; Edwards, Graham M. (University of Chester, 2018-12-19)
      This thesis argues that a thorough understanding of Methodism must attend to the lived experience of Methodist people, expressed within Methodist church communities. I use narrative research methods to show the nature of local Methodist identity. This research was conducted using group interviews with participants from three Methodist churches in West Yorkshire. In analysis of these interviews, a ‘narrative of place’ is revealed: this is how participants talk about the experience of their church’s ‘space’ and make sense of their belonging. It communicates a shared sense of identity in each context. Through the narrative of place, I identify the shared experience of ‘lived Methodism’ that reflects my participants’ belonging within a Methodist church and within that tradition. In 1932, three independent Methodist church groups, each with their own practical and theological emphases, united to form The Methodist Church of Great Britain. The contemporary Methodist Church claims and cherishes its place as a ‘wide’ church, accepts a diversity of practice. Therefore, attempting to define Methodist identity can be problematic. This thesis argues that Methodist identity is not merely given to the church by the Methodist Connexion, or as a function of meeting in a Methodist building, instead it is appropriated and lived locally. A series of two group interviews in three Methodist communities generates the data recorded in the form of transcripts. Using a narrative research methodology to interrogate this data, I expose the narrative of place and its three core emphases, these show how lived Methodism is revealed in my work. Initially, place and community demonstrates how community is formed locally. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of habitus, I argue that the language of place and community functions in setting the boundaries of that particular group in both conscious and unconscious ways. The community thus governs its practice and ecclesial identity. Secondly, place and memory is outlined. In the three church narratives, memory is used to claim validity for the current expression of the community, and to articulate the values the community wishes to highlight. These two areas highlight how the local churches own and understand their identity, leading finally to an analysis of place and tradition. This demonstrates an understanding of what it means to be a Methodist church. There exists a local tradition focussed on 'being the church here and now’, which is fed by a received tradition mediated by those who are part of a broader Methodist narrative. The interface of these two modes of tradition creates a contextual Methodist tradition in each setting. I argue that it is here that a rich understanding of Methodism exists. Methodism is not a gift offered to a community, but a lived reality, claimed and valued by those who tell its story. The local narrative of place allows the lived experience of Methodism, in local church communities, to be heard and understood.
    • Tensions in charismatic-evangelical urban practice: Towards a practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic

      Baker, Christopher; Wier, Andrew P. (University of Chester, 2013-03)
      The past fifteen years have witnessed a growing engagement with disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods on the part of UK charismatic-evangelical churches. Yet this has received little attention within previous academic studies across a variety of disciplines (voluntary sector studies; the sociology of religion; Christian social ethics; and evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal theology). In addressing these gaps, this study achieves two main purposes. Firstly, it enables greater understanding of charismatic-evangelical motivation and urban practice. Secondly, it reflects theologically on such motivation and practice, and articulates a distinctive practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic. To do this, the study drew on models of practical theology to integrate qualitative research with theological reflection. Given the under-researched nature of the subject area, an exploratory, inductive, and multi-method research approach was chosen. This combined an ethnographic study of a charismatic-evangelical urban church with focus groups in a further three charismatic-evangelical churches. Analysis of the qualitative data gathered led to the identification of six tensions that characterise contemporary charismatic-evangelical urban practice. An engagement with other bodies of literature then found that all six tensions have some resonance with the findings of previous research in voluntary sector studies and the sociology of religion. However, it also revealed that the experience of UK charismatic-evangelical urban churches challenges certain established understandings in these disciplines. The task of (more explicit) theological reflection involved a series of facilitated dialogues between charismatic-evangelical urban practice and theoretical approaches to Christian social ethics. These dialogues then led on to an attempt to construct a distinctive practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic. This is presented as a creative response to the tensions encountered in charismatic-evangelical urban practice that is both consistent with charismatic-evangelical convictions and open to insights from other traditions. The thesis makes two main contributions to academic knowledge. Firstly, it brings a greater understanding of charismatic-evangelical urban practice to the disciplines of voluntary sector studies and the sociology of religion. Secondly, it represents both a contribution and a challenge to established theoretical perspectives in Christian social ethics and evangelical theology. Contributing as it does to a variety of academic disciplines, as well as enhancing institutional and professional knowledge, this is a not a prepositional thesis, but a foundational one. As such, it opens up a new field of enquiry and sets out theoretical conceptions intended to provoke further scholarly enquiry and reflective practice.
    • Theology in a Local Church: An Ordinary Ecclesiology

      Morris, Wayne; Hoyland, John G. (University of Chester, 2017-01)
      Contemporary studies in ecclesiology cover a range of issues and contexts. Studies in ordinary theology also deal with a diversity of doctrines. There is, however, no substantial study of ordinary ecclesiology, that is, the understanding of church by ordinary members individually and by local churches congregationally. My personal and professional context is that of an ordained Anglican. In the light of this the study addresses this gap in knowledge by exploring the ordinary ecclesiology of a Church of England congregation. It is an example of an ordinary ecclesiology contributing a thick description (Geertz 1973) of a particular congregation to studies of church. The focus on ecclesiology is driven by issues raised in the literature review which demonstrate that the mainstream denominations in Britain face particular challenges such as numerical and influential decline. The study is based on a two year ethnographic study of a commuter village church in a united benefice of four churches. The ethnographic study, based on participation in and observation of the church on a weekly basis, includes interviews, conversations, a focus group and an examination of the written data generated in the church (web-site; publicity; church newsletters; magazines; documentation). This qualitative data is analysed using a form of interpretive dualism (Soja 1996) which emerged as an appropriate method during the research. Three binary pairings describing ways of thinking about church are used: instrumental – ontological; temporal – transcendent; patron – subscriber. The research demonstrates how this local church goes about theological thinking on the idea of church and reveals the content of that thinking. The study concludes that ordinary theology is present in the local church but that it is largely unacknowledged as such and is mainly a personal or individual enterprise. The implications of this are discussed. That discussion concludes that ordinary theology needs to be seen as the task of the whole λαός of God rather than the task of the laity and that in order to do this the local church needs to be re-imagined as a theological community where theological thinking is encouraged and resourced. This discussion centres on the importance of ecclesiology as a key doctrine in the Church of England’s contemporary context. The study therefore makes a contribution to knowledge by identifying and articulating what the ecclesiology of a local church looks like. It contributes to and challenges current practice by proposing rethinking the nature and purpose of the local church.
    • To what extent is George Lindbeck’s ‘Postliberal’ approach to doctrine helpful for the resolution of contemporary Christian controversies?

      Fulford, Ben; Rodgers, Alasdair M. (University of Chester, 2019-01-15)
      The extensive critical response to George Lindbeck’s book, The Nature of Doctrine, has frequently overlooked the author’s own primary intent to propose an innovative ‘grammatical’ approach to the function of doctrine (or ‘rule theory’), which would explicate, and replicate, observed ecumenical instances of doctrinal ‘reconciliation without capitulation’. This current research evaluates and tests, in a way which has not previously been undertaken by either Lindbeck or his critics, the extent to which a regulative approach to doctrine can provide a fruitful model with which to approach current ecclesial conflicts. This will be achieved by applying a modified version of rule theory within the case study of a contemporary ecclesial conflict. Following a clarification and modification of Lindbeck’s rule theory, I undertook a qualitative analysis of Christian liturgies, autobiographical accounts and position statements in the context of a single controversy (Church of England debates concerning same-sex relationships), to assess the extent to which a modified version of rule theory would provide a useful model with which to approach similar contemporary ecclesial conflicts. An analysis of the beliefs and practices of representative groups (as evident within their liturgies, autobiographical accounts, and descriptions of ‘faithful discipleship’) was undertaken, to ascertain whether operative regulative principles, akin to ‘grammar’, could be identified, and to test whether a comparison of identified ‘grammars’ would prove reconciliatory. The research discovered that the operative ‘grammar’ of different representative groups could be identified and compared, and that the modified version of rule theory had the ability to: disentangle debates about apparently inexorably conflicted positions over particular practices or beliefs; and facilitate a deeper understanding of the regulative principles which shaped interlocutors’ practices and beliefs, which would make a valuable contribution to the debate, but not necessarily in an immediately reconciliatory way. Consequently, this research has discovered that a modified version of rule theory does provide a helpful model with which to approach contemporary controversies, offering the potential for both the discovery of ‘grammatical’ coherence where it is present, and the identification of the true location and extent of ‘grammatical’ differences if they are present. Therefore, the modified version of rule theory under consideration is shown to provide a basis for dialogue which may variously lead to: a recognition of previously obscured ‘grammatical’ coherence; a form of reconciled diversity; the identification of promising areas for the negotiation of a new shared ‘grammar’; or the recognition of the presence of irreconcilably divergent ‘grammars’, which may, in some instances, lead to a degree of ecclesial separation.
    • Touching the future: A feminist theology of eschatalogical bodies

      Bacon, Hannah; Pennington, Emily (University of Chester, 2014-08)
      This thesis reclaims the eschatological future in light of and for feminist theology. It is mindful of critiques which expose the patriarchal, androcentric, and futuristic tendencies of traditional eschatological thought. Themes are detected amongst these critiques that pertain to the process, content, and time of eschatology: feminist theologians have proposed that traditional models of eschatology present the process as known and controlled by God alone; the content as fleshless and static; and the time as dislocated from present realities and concerns. Feminist theologians respond by attending to and affirming the complexities and significance of present embodiments. Three aspects of existence that are typically associated with women emerge as integral to this pursuit; namely embodied relationality, fluidity, and sensuality. I detect in these responses both potentials and problems. Reclaiming aspects of existence that have been excluded from and therefore devalued by eschatology, specifically because of their association with women, is affirmed as a necessary and important contribution. However, I note that the overwhelming (if understandable) reluctance amongst feminist theologians to speak of eschatological finality, or to grasp at specificity about the future, prevents us from hoping for fulfilled experiences of these aspects, and robs all of creation of a usable and hopeful future. The eschatological future is ultimately left in the hands of patriarchy. I attempt, therefore, to reconstruct the process, content, and time of eschatology in such a way that it not only affirms embodied relationality, fluidity, and sensuality, but also offers new and beneficial ways to think about these values. My thesis is thus firmly rooted in present feminist perspectives on, and some women’s experiences of, embodiment. What is more, it converses with these by negotiating some ways in which a reconstructed eschatology can be open to and changed by our present existences, even as it is able to inform and direct them. My ultimate goal is to uncover in the eschatological future a way in which to take and transform patriarchal constructions of female bodies in order to uncover a real and present hope for all bodies.
    • Towards a Narrative of Hope and Resilience: A Contemporary Paradigm for Christian Pastoral Ministry in the Face of Mortality

      Smith, Alexis (University of Chester, 2014-10)
      Analysis of current pastoral care practice, particularly of Christian pastoral care providers and chaplains, reveals a contemporary lacuna in Christian theological frameworks which contributes to North American Christians’ inability to connect a theological understanding of death with the experience of their human finitude despite the presence of considerable literature on death and dying. This gap deprives many Christians of the possibility of finding a unique and specific source of hope and strength within their own faith tradition for facing crisis. This thesis provides a methodology and theological foundation for a uniquely Christian contribution for facilitating hope, resilience--even transformation--throughout the various stages of life until the time of death. Extensive analysis of Christian views of death, as contrasted with non- Christian views, examined through early Christian writings, late Medieval and early Reformation texts, and the late twentieth century work of Moltmann contributed insights into theological frameworks to remedy the gap and also uncovered themes, metaphors, and language that could be important as Christians interpret life experience and dying. The thesis then utilized three contemporary fields of study to apply the insights into a practical ministry model: (1) research in resilience; (2) Narrative Therapy as developed by White and Epston and utilized by Christian therapists; and (3) hermeneutic theory from Capps, Browning, and Gerkin. Insights from these sources were critically evaluated for application in pastoral counselling, support, and education to help people, both in crisis and when facing death, find a substantial hope that transcends the reality of what they are experiencing. This thesis proposes a distinctively Christian response to death that enables people to retain a sense of their own worth and dignity in order to live meaningful lives until they die. Many people find 21st Century healthcare impersonal and non-empathetic; the work of this theses is intended to be important for helping people regain their sense of self and identity, thereby supporting healing and resilience. In addition, the thesis proposes pedagogic and theological reflection methods that would enhance the practice of chaplains in a rapidly changing healthcare environment that will increasingly require them to demonstrate how their practice enhances the wellbeing of those they serve and provides a contribution that is unique and has value to the healthcare system.
    • Towards Convers(at)ion: Postmodernism, Evangelism and the Emerging Church

      Knowles, Steve; Wade, William (University of Chester, 2016-01)
      When the Manic Street Preachers labelled their 1998 album 'This is My Truth Tell Me Yours', it was more than just a marketing gimmick. It was capturing the mood of an emerging generation. It is argued that the age we find ourselves in is currently being shaped to one degree or another by postmodern philosophy. It is a philosophy what has purportedly infiltrated sections of Western society, replacing rational, scientific reasoning with subjective relativism, a reticence towards objective truth claims and the questioning of a societal framework of morality. One particular section of Western society which is wrestling with postmodernism's claims and influences is the Western Church. This is not unusual, as the church has had to deal with cultural change and even crisis in its long history. However, the philosophy of postmodernism has the potential (either positively or negatively) to not only strike at the heart of the ecclesiology of the contemporary Church, but significantly at its theology, and specifically at its missiology.
    • Transforming practical theological education in the changing context of non-confessional higher education

      Graham, Elaine L.; Stuerzenhofecker, Katja (University of Chester, 2016-10)
      This thesis is concerned with practical theological education in non-confessional higher education. If non-confessional Practical Theology is to take seriously its mandate to shape all of its students’ orientation and future actions regardless of their position vis-à-vis religion, it needs to respond to the increasingly diverse character of younger generations’ religiosity and the presence of non-Christian students. However, available studies of learning and teaching in Practical Theology, especially those originating in North America, predominantly focus on a Christian and clerical paradigm that is inappropriate for students of all faiths and none. Instead, I propose a reflexive process of formation in critical conversation with external norms and values. The development of this pedagogical reorientation requires an inductive study of participants’ positionalities. I welcome this as an exciting opportunity to move on from the Christian and clerical heritage with its concomitant process of formation through integration of external norms and values. My conceptual framework for this thesis is made up of four elements. The value of ‘prefiguring flourishing’ shapes my praxis in research and education. This leads me to adopt ‘Transforming Practice’ as the theoretical model for the design of my critical action research process. The hybrid positionality of ‘insider-outsider’ instead of a binary emerges from the research as a key concept that captures contemporary developments in religious identities, and affirms plurality and contingency in identity construction and group dynamics. This links to ‘rhizomatic fragments’ as conceptualisation of the ordering process in human life story construction, and in the research process and its presentation in the thesis. Based on this framework, I show how critical, reciprocal conversation between theological scholarship and alumni perceptions of long-term learning outcomes of my teaching practice can generate normative pedagogical principles for non-confessional PT while also prompting revision of theological concepts. The normative principles inform my student-focused reorientation of the model and aim of non-confessional PT, relevant curriculum, and appropriate learning, teaching and assessment. Secondly, I demonstrate how triangulation between these alumni-based normative principles, theological scholarship and autoethnography can contribute to the educator’s personal and professional development to realise their values more fully in their practice. This involves first deconstructing my past identity in theological education and vis-à-vis religion, and second reconstructing a confident future-oriented identity as theological educator.
    • The United States Army chaplain's role during times of traumatic injury and death in a combat environment

      Morris, Wayne; Rindahl, Steven G. (University of ChesterUnited States Army, 2012-01)
      It is critical that anyone responding to a traumatic event must be able to fulfill his or her purpose in the situation. The US Army Chaplain must be prepared to provide valued minisry during times of traumatic injury and death in a combat environment. The purpose of the investigation was to establish core ministry actions based upon identified common expectations and standards between chaplains, officers, and Soldiers of their command relating to ministry during times of traumatic injury and death in a combat environment. The intent was met though a series of steps beginning with the identification of the problem that US Army Chaplains have not been adequately prepared for the task of Combat Trauma Ministry. A review of current scholarship in the field demonstrated that significant works on Combat Trauma Ministry are almost non-existent. In order to accomplish the investigation two research methodologies were employed. There was use of quantitative data and large scale use of qualitiative research. The qualitative research provoed to be particualrly useful becauise of its focus on the study of problems in the social context. Research of the issue began with an examination of chaplain qualifications. This included a rebiew of the educational and ministerial prerequsities applicants must meet. A study of the training provided by the Army to those newly entering the US Army Chaplain Corps follows. This process revealed the challenges posed in trying to teach clergy from civilian parishes tom minister in the Army context of which many have no experience. The heart of the research is the body of interviews of chaplains, officers, and Soldiers. These personal accounts of ministry done, and failing to be done, with the theological impetus behind it provided the groundwork from which to draw the research conclusions. The research concludes that preparation for Combat Trauma Ministry within theArmy is still lacking but improving. In order to covercome remaining deficiencies individual chaplains, supervisory chaplains, and the US Army Chaplain Corps need to personally and professional augment training to ensure that the Chaplain Corps' Core Competencies Continuum - Nuture the Living, Care for the Wounded, and Honor the Dead - are adequately performed. The research identified three priorities of ministry to accomplish this intent. They are: Maintain Composure, Give them Something Tangible, and Share in the Burden. Finally, there is the recognition that the US Army Chaplain Corps must become more stringent in three specific concerns: Training and Qualification standards, developing self and supervisory care for chaplains, and prepating for the long-lasting effects of combat exposure and PTSD with a Soul Care emphasis.
    • Unspeakable things unspoken. Otherness and victimisation in Judges 19-21: An Irigarayan reading.

      Firth, David G.; Hamley, Isabelle Maryvonne (University of Chester, 2017-07)
      It is June 2001, in a small church in deepest Arkansas. ‘Brother John’ is speaking at a youth service. The text he has chosen: Judges 19. ‘This is the story of a woman who left her husband. She disrespected authority and leaders. She got what she deserved. This is what will happen to you if you disobey your leaders.’ This is by far the worst sermon I have ever heard, and it started my journey with Judges 19-21. It is the only time I have ever heard this text referred to in public worship. There was nothing in my Christian journey until then that could have given me the skills to deal with that text, or that sermon. At the same time, it is a text that burrowed its way into my consciousness, because I have consistently worked with women (and men) who have experienced sexual abuse over the years. How can they read this text? Why is it there? In what sense can it be Scripture? While the text has been used oppressively, can it be read differently, and redeemed from oppressive interpretations? Has it got anything to offer, beyond a reading in memoriam?
    • US Protestant natalist reception of Old Testament "fruitful verses" : A critique

      Clough, David; Deane-Drummond, Celia; Christianson, Eric; McKeown, John P. (University of Liverpool (University of Chester), 2011-07)
      The advocacy of a high birth rate is an ideology called natalism. In the USA since 1985 some Protestants have used Old Testament verses to support natalist arguments. This thesis argues that natalism is inappropriate as a Christian application of Scripture, especially since rich nations’ populations’ total footprint is detrimental to biodiversity and to poor nations’ welfare. The methodology is analysis of natalist writings, investigation of possible historical roots, and then evaluation of natalist interpretation from three perspectives: the ancient Near Eastern OT context, patristic Christian tradition, and contemporary ecological concerns. The analysis and historical investigation consists of two chapters. Chapter 2 considers wider natalism, modern secular and religious varieties, and the cultural context of US Evangelicalism. Through textual analysis of biblical reception in recent natalist writings, it identifies the verses cited and common interpretative arguments. Chapter 3 asks whether this natalism has roots in historic Protestantism. It investigates the claim made by some natalist advocates that Martin Luther in the 16th century expounded similar ideas about fecundity. The evaluation consists of three chapters. Chapter 4 explores the ancient Near Eastern cultural context, and Old Testament ideas about fecundity’s role in God’s project of salvation. Ventures by biblical scholars into contemporary application of the verses in question are critiqued. Chapter 5 considers Augustine’s comments on human fruitfulness in the Bible and his thinking on fecundity. Using ressourcement from this representative of patristic tradition, Augustine’s reception is compared with natalism. Chapter 6 explains an ecological hermeneutic which brings biblical and classic Christian biblical reception into conversation with contemporary concerns. My reception of the verses uses a hermeneutic lens derived from Genesis 1, and gives priority to the contextual issues of biodiversity and the un/sustainability of the ecological footprints of overpopulated rich nations. The thesis is the first to offer systematic analysis of natalist biblical reception, and focuses on the neglected majority of natalists which accepts family planning. It highlights exegetical arguments which are then compared with Luther’s writings, tested against plausible meanings of the fruitful verses, and tested against Augustine and patristic tradition. Previous research on ecologically responsible interpretation of these verses and on Christian thinking about human fecundity and overpopulation is updated and extended in this dissertation.
    • What is the meaning of equal marriage in the Church of England?

      Henwood, Gillian (University of Chester, 2019-01)
      The Church of England’s traditional theology of marriage between one man and one woman is protected in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 from reforms to civil law to include same-sex couples. Within the Church of England, same-sex couples who enter civil unions (of partnership or marriage) are not permitted to have a service in church to celebrate with prayer for God’s blessing. Clergy in civil partnerships are not permitted by the Church of England to convert their union to civil marriage if they hold a bishop’s licence to practice. This research questions the meaning of equal relationships, both marriage and same-sex unions, to test three of the benefits of marriage asserted by the Church to the UK Government: mutuality, fidelity, and the biological complementarity of the couple with the possibility of procreation (Church of England, 2012). A methodology of practical theology, where my practice-based research leads to theory that reforms practice, fosters dialogue among voices of theology within the context of the Church of England. A postliberal interdisciplinary approach recognises plural meanings within my research field and adopts narrative methods for data generation, analysis, interpretation and presentation. Theologies of equal marriage and union, interpreted from narratives co-constructed with my participants, are brought into conversation with premodern liturgies for blessings of unions of Christian harmony and peace, seeking a fusion of horizons expressed through performed ritual. This research argues that two of the Church’s benefits of marriage, mutuality and fidelity, are embodied in all participants’ marriages and civil partnerships, but challenges the Church’s third benefit, because it is stated as derived from acknowledgement of an underlying biological complementarity of the couple. Changes in the legal and social contexts in England, academic research literature in the fields of gender and sexuality, and evidence from research participants’ lived practices lead to reinterpretation of the third benefit as responsible choices for parenting and the nurture of children in a pro/creative relationship. Implications for the Church of England are that emerging theologies in this research mandate policy changes, to lift the Church’s prohibition of services in church after same-sex civil unions and to pilot new liturgies of blessing. For mixed-sex couples to marry each other in a liturgy of Christian equal marriage, this research offers two areas for light revision of the Church’s contemporary liturgy to provide alternative options: gender-neutral language and rubrics, and nuanced language expressing loving intimacy rather than specific emphasis on sexual union. These changes will enable the Church of England to renew Christian marriage based on a recovered and reinterpreted theology of Christian unions of harmony and peace, so that couples can celebrate in church with prayer for God’s blessing either through marriage or a service after their civil union.
    • When the personal Call to Ordained Ministry is not recognised by the Church: Implications for Selection and Pastoral Care

      Routledge, Robin; Dyer, Anne; Gubi, Peter M. (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-05-01)
      The effect of not being recommended for ordained ministry when a person is convinced of their personal Calling can be devastating, and it is a phenomenon that is under-researched. The research question is: ‘How does having one’s sense of vocation for ordained ministry rejected by the Church impact at a psychological and theological level?’ The aims of the research are: To explore how having one’s sense of vocation for ordained ministry rejected by the Church impacts on individuals at a psychological and theological level; and to better understand the implications for selection and pastoral care. The core purpose of this research is to enable better pastoral care during and after the discernment and selection processes. Structured by Swinton’s and Mowat’s (2006) Practical Theological Reflection model and contextualised within the Church of England, eight Diocesan Directors of Ordinands (DDOs) [Stage 1] and nine non-recommended applicants (NRAs) [Stage 2] were interviewed to determine their experience of selection and how they theologically and psychologically made sense of non-selection. The data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In Stage 1, four superordinate themes emerged: Vocation; Selection processes; Theological perspective; Pastoral care; along with thirty-seven subordinate themes. In Stage 2, four superordinate themes emerged: Pursuing ordination; BAP experience; Pastoral care; Making sense; along with twenty-three subordinate themes. The thick data reveal the lived experiences and ‘sense-making’ of the participants from psychological and theological perspectives. In reformulating revised practice, a number of recommendations are made, that: a) the way that vocations are ‘marketed’ and encouraged needs refocussing; b) the vulnerability surrounding the process of responding to Calling to ordained ministry is akin to a ‘coming out process’; c) appropriate training is provided for incumbents and congregations to raise their awareness of the issues surrounding non-recommendation; d) incumbents be in Pastoral Supervision; e) training be given to Vocations Advisors, DDOs and Bishops which highlights the ways that spiritual abuse and inappropriate behaviour can occur in the discernment process; f) dioceses work more coherently to establish ‘best practice’ in the discernment process; g) safeguarding systems be put in place centrally to which candidates can complain/appeal when perceived spiritual abuse or inappropriate behaviour occurs; h) there is greater transparency in the sharing of reports and references with applicants; i) Canon C4 be reassessed; j) counselling be offered to candidates throughout the process of discernment, and after, as needed; k) the value of the BAP process be re-evaluated; l) opportunity for debriefing immediately after the BAP be offered; m) the wording of reports consider the impact of the words on the recipient; n) the discernment process pays attention to other forms of vocation than ordained ministry; o) issues of sexual discrimination are mitigated against and prohibited.
    • Working with the wisdom of the congregation: Theology, learning and organizing in the local church

      Baker, Christopher; Impey, Richard (University of Chester, 2013-05)
      This thesis contends that a pattern of training entitled Parish Development devised by the author in the course of his professional role as a training officer in the Church of England is a new, versatile and valuable training resource for training and development in the Church of England (and potentially for other churches too.) This pattern of training engages with the congregation as a whole, unlike traditional training methods which focus on the individual who is being prepared for, or supported in, a leadership role within and on behalf of the local church. Parish Development enables a congregation to discover important aspects of its own wisdom by constructing an account of its story, size, purposes, outlook, stage on a life cycle and shared values in belonging to this particular congregation. The resulting account will have implications for the way the congregation organizes its life and activities which usually imply that some improving or developmental action can be taken. The account is also relevant to several issues facing congregations both in the normal course of change, like the appointment and induction of a new vicar, or in more substantial change like merging with another parish or sharing clergy. This new pattern of training has been constructed from insights to be found in Congregational Studies and turned into exercises designed to enhance the self understanding of the congregation as a whole. It employs a pedagogy which draws inspiration from Freire, Vella and Wickett in focussing on dialogue and conversation designed to reveal the wisdom already present within the congregation and to build on that. The notion of the wisdom of the congregation has roots in Aristotleʼs use of phronesis, a concept familiar to practical theologians through the writings of Browning and Graham, but just as importantly, it makes sense to congregational members themselves. The theological purpose driving this pattern of training is the desire to build up the local church as the body of Christ. This accords with the congregation as koinonia, an important ecumenical understanding of the church, which is always in need of oikodome or building up. The research interprets data about the impact of this training on four selected case studies. The data consists of locally published reports of the training events, interviews with participants looking back on what happened, and the results of a questionnaire designed to explore the status of contrasting accounts. It also uses eight metaphors for organizations identified by Morgan to provide further insights into the complexity of what is happening. The method is shown to be versatile enough to respond positively to difficult decisions and changes in parish life. It harnesses a hitherto largely ignored resource to explore and contribute to solving significant problems facing the contemporary church. To demonstrate its implementable validity the thesis concludes with a practical proposal for employing this method to address the challenge of declining clergy numbers. An Appendix offers a theological commentary on Parish Development showing that this proposal is in line with contemporary Anglican ecclesiology.