Religion, Theology, and the Human Sciences

By Richard H. Roberts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Ruling the Body: the care of souls
in a managerial church

In the first part of this book we traced out aspects of the process through which British, and in particular English, society under Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair has absorbed and imposed upon itself the new paradigm of a managerial modernity. In the last chapter a centrally important Anglican attempt at self-definition was critically examined in some depth in relation to ecclesiology. Now, in this chapter, it will become apparent that with characteristically Erastian impulse the Church of England would appear to have followed contemporary trends and to be involved in the process of managerialising its mission and ministry. Given the historical context, this transformation can be seen as offering a beleagured senior Church leadership in the socalled 'essential ministry' a long-sought-for identity, in exact terms the opportunity to regain what Bishop Sykes called the 'real power' of the Gospel, which, although problematic and ambiguous, has, he argued, nonetheless to be grasped and operationalised. The aggregation of the Church of England to societal trends has, it will be argued, fateful consequences within the wider setting of a world order in which invasive commodification is rampant and where the future of the human is placed under a multiplicity of threats. Can, indeed should, a managerialised church serve the wider religious and spiritual needs of humankind, or should it simply acquiesce in its reconfiguration as a 'quality'bound, 'supply-side' organisation dedicated to the well-marketed and efficient delivery of what amounts to a pre-determined English Anglican 'GospelTM' in limited (because privileged) competition with other outlets in the spiritual market-place? These are controversial questions posed primarily in relation to both English and Scottish church experience, but which have implications for all main-line religion at the outset of the twenty-first century.

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