Improving church governance: Lessons from governance failures in different church polities

Tabalujan, Benny Simon (2020) Improving church governance: Lessons from governance failures in different church polities. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis focuses on the question as to whether using a particular church polity raises the likelihood of governance failure. Using the case study research method, I examine six case studies of church governance failures reported in the past two decades in the English media of mainly Western jurisdictions. The six case studies involve churches in the United States, Australia, Honduras, and Singapore.

Three of the case studies involve sexual matters while another three involve financial matters. For each type of misconduct or alleged misconduct, one case study is chosen involving a church with congregational polity, presbyteral polity, and episcopal polity, respectively. The result is a set of six case studies where for each polity there is one governance failure involving sexual matters and another governance failure involving financial matters. The six case studies demonstrate how churches with different types of polity – congregational, presbyteral, and episcopal – experience governance failure.

For each case study, two research questions are asked. First, why did the church’s governance framework not prevent the governance failure? Second, how did the church’s governance framework respond to the governance failure? A cross-case analysis is then undertaken in order to identify patterns and draw generalisations. Based on the cross-case analysis, the study identifies two structural characteristics which feature in churches which experience financial and sexual scandals. The first characteristic is the presence of one prominent and influential leader which causes the church to lean towards a one-person leadership model (“monarchicalism”). The second is a sense of distance or opacity in decision-making at one or more levels of church polity (“hierarchicalism”). The study delivers a preliminary finding of a positive correlation between monarchicalism and hierarchicalism in a church polity and the incidence of governance failures.

The study concludes by offering six practical recommendations concerning church governance. The recommendations are designed to help reduce the risk of sexual and financial scandals. They are also polity agnostic. This means they can be implemented to varying degrees by churches using congregational, presbyteral, and episcopal polities. The goal is to suggest ways for churches of all stripes to improve their governance in order to reflect better the goodness and grace which should mark the church of Jesus Christ.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: church governance, church polity, church misgovernance, church governance failures, church leadership, church sex scandal, church financial scandal, church scandal, episcopal governance, presbyteral governance, congregational governance, monarchicalism, hierarchicalism, Ted Haggard, Kong Hee, Tullian Tchividjian, Cecil Brooks
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: McIntosh, Professor John R
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Mr Benny Tabalujan
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81403
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2020 06:36
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2020 06:39

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