Being and becoming the church: organisational and ecclesiological perspectives on Renewal and Reform in the Church of England

  • Keith Anthony Elford

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis investigates the ecclesiological and organisational rationales of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme. At the same time, and in order to develop a frame of reference for considering Renewal and Reform, it explores the practical and theoretical value of organisation theory in this ecclesial context. It develops an ecclesiological argument for understanding the Church of England to be, in part, an organisation, by conceiving the nature of church as both Body of Christ and human system in sacramental terms. It argues that organisation theory offers a richer source of ideas and practices than critics allow, and that these ideas and practices are capable of illuminating and supporting the concrete existence of the Church of England as a pilgrim church in history. It develops an experimental example of an ‘organisational ecclesiology’, in the form of a model of ecclesial adaptivity, the ‘Theological Trialogue’. This model brings together organisational cybernetics and the theological concept of faithful improvisation and is used as part of the interpretative framework employed in empirical research into Renewal and Reform. The Renewal and Reform programme is then investigated empirically. The findings from a thematic analysis of the programme’s documentation and of interviews with fifteen senior Church of England officers are set out. Renewal and Reform is discovered to be shaped by a desire for church growth, principally in numerical terms, and by the urgent concern of its architects to reverse the decline in the Church of England’s numbers of adherents. The ecclesiological and organisational rationales lack clarity and are somewhat incomplete, especially with regard to the Church of England’s identity and ecclesial traditions. The thesis concludes with recommendations for revised practice which focus on adopting a more systemic approach to change and a greater appreciation of the Church of England’s nature and being.
    Date of Award6 Sept 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SponsorsSusanna Wesley Foundation
    SupervisorAndrew Rogers (Director of Studies) & Clare Watkins (Co-Supervisor)


    • Organisation
    • Renewal and Reform
    • Church of England
    • management
    • organisation theory
    • ecclesiology
    • theology

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