Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Carroll's "Pastor"

Many of you know that I am in a PhD program in congregational studies. For those of you who are curious about what that means, this post and the next will highlight two central figures in the field. This is a continuation of the posts drawn from my PhD exams.

Jackson Carroll is one of the central figures in congregational studies. He has served as the director of the center for congregational research at Hartford Seminary as well as the Pulpit and Pew Project at Duke University focusing on pastoral leadership.
Jackson Carroll’s early work focused on cultural shifts in mainline congregations in the United States since the 1950’s. In addition, his more recent emphasis has been on pastoral leadership. His work in this area has been central to my own research. One of his significant works is As One with Authority. The book focuses on the development of reflexive leadership among pastors. Reflexive leadership involves using socio-analytic tools to analyze situations, putting them in conversation with the Christian story, and suggesting responses. He sees this work as central to the pastoral role. For Carroll, the pastor is a cultural leader, called to shape ideas and values rather than actions. The pastor has been entrusted with the culture of the congregation through the act of ordination.
It is essential for Carroll that the pastor claim the authority that has been given to them through ordination. Just as Jesus spoke as one with authority, so too should the pastor speak as one with authority. Carroll recognizes the crisis of authority that pastors have faced in recent years. He blames the crisis on widespread questions about God, the marginalization of the church, the voluntary nature of the church, and the emphasis on shared ministry. Carroll does believe in shared ministry. He argues that ministry belongs equally to the pastor and to the laity, but there is a clear differentiation of roles. The pastor is called to steward the congregation’s goals and values. In order for the community to function effectively and live out these goals, the congregation must submit to the pastor.
Carroll sees the professionalization of the clergy in recent years as an attempt to reclaim authority within the church. Such professionalization, though, has often meant an overemphasis on actions and on pleasing the laity. Carroll calls the clergy to reclaim their role as the primary constructors of culture within the church through a focus on the organizational tasks of the pastor. In his article on leadership in the book Studying Congregations Carroll highlights the role of pastor in setting goals and creating vision statements for the congregation. While he values the priestly functions of the office, he sees them as secondary to the administrative duties. This emphasis on organization may be due to a Protestant ecclesiology that emphasizes mission to the world rather than the centrality of sacramental worship, but it seems more likely that it is a by-product of emphasizing a sociological view of the church rather than a theological view. Sociology emphasizes human action which can be observed over that of divine action which cannot be scientifically studied.
While Carroll argues for an equality between the pastor and the laity, it is clear that he favors a hierarchical structure of the church with the clergy at the top. The congregation is the people gathered around the pastor. His more recent book on pastoral ministry is entitled God’s Potters where the congregation is envisioned as jars of clay and the pastors as the potters. The pastors are God’s representatives to whom the congregation is supposed to submit. Granted, the congregation has a role in granting authority to the pastor through ordination. He assumes such a hierarchical structure as normative for the church. In fact, he seems to have a single normative view of pastor that is operative in his work but not adequately reflected upon. “Pastor” seems to refer to someone similar to himself: a white, male, middle- to upper-class, ordained clergyperson within a mainline denomination. While he values the ministry of the laity, the emphasis on shared ministry has help create a crisis of authority. While he includes women in his examples and has a chapter on women ministers in God’s Potters, the increase of women in the workforce has created significant problems for the church. There is little reflection on communities where women have always been in the workforce and have served as significant members of congregations. While he acknowledges racial diversity among the clergy, the shift from a young, white, all-male clergy pool has also contributed to the crisis authority and a confusion in the pastoral role.
Carroll’s work is significant because he is currently seen as one of the leading scholars on pastoral ministry in the United States. His work with Pulpit and Pew is being disseminated to denominations throughout the country, including my own. His work serves to highlight the hegemonic discourse regarding pastor that I am trying to dismantle in my own work. While I am willing to learn from his work, its significance is limited for me by Carroll’s blind spots. What I do appreciate is his image of the pastor as playing a significant role as a producer of culture within a congregation. The pastor does often construct one of the dominant discourses within a congregation and laity are often forced to make choices and compromises in response to its power.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year's Letter 2009

Happy New Years 2009!

I am usually a Christmas letter person, but this year I waited until New Years. Not because I was super busy before Christmas, but because I wanted to have some recent pictures to send of all my nieces whom I had not seen in a year! What would keep me away from them for so long? Well, here is an update on the last year.
By December 07 I was finished with all my coursework for my PhD. Believe it or not, my full-time job from February to August was studying for my comprehensive exams. I was tested in four areas: Congregational Research as Practical Theology, Congregational Leadership, Women’s Developmental Theories, and Ecclesiology. I completed them in mid-August. A week later I successfully defended them before my doctoral committee and was officially pronounced “ABD” (All But Dissertation).

This last year I also added a new title to my resume: Adjunct Professor. Last January I taught Women, the Bible, and the Church with Klyne Snodgrass (New Testament Professor) and in the fall Congregational Leadership with Soong Chan Rah (Ministry). I have also been co-teaching Covenant History class for the denomination’s orientation program. This fall I also had the chance to develop my own online version of the Leadership class and will begin teaching that in February of this year.

Exams meant less travel this year. I did make it to Minnesota in the Spring to visit my friend Kirsten and her family in Ranier. Her mom owns a great little bed and breakfast right on the lake. During the visit, Kirsten opened her new shop featuring art and crafts from various Covenanters including me! Several of my photographs sold as framed prints, coasters, and cards. Kirsten runs the shop in the summer and then brings her stock on the road to various Covenant events or sets up shop for a day in the front room of my house.

Following exams, I finally found time to visit family. In October I spent a week with my mom in Maine. We wandered through nature preserves, walked on the beach, and explored the local cemetery.
We also had a chance to drive down to Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents where I was reminded of their love of horses and our shared love of art. My Grandmother and I finally made it to the Barnes Museum. It is an old estate filled from floor to ceiling with paintings mostly from the Impressionist era.

November found me in Nashville with my sister and her family. Sienna was just barely crawling last year and is now running all over the place. She is full of energy and personality at 2 years old. Amber is growing up fast! At 5, she loves to help bake with Mom, read books, sing with her sister, and play dress-up. I got my first spontaneous “I’ll miss you!” out of her as we left this year.

In December, I flew to San Diego to see Jim and his family. My 8 year old nieces and I had been e-mailing about the trip since Thanksgiving. Jordan is quite the artist. She loves to draw and has created a web page of mythical creatures. She also loves reading and can beat us all on Mario Mart (a driving game on the Wii). Brenna started karate and won first prize with the Bo (a long staff). Her dad loves that it helps her focus, because outside of karate Brenna is all emotion and expression. She never stops moving or talking!

The next few months will be focused on completing my dissertation and finding and job. My dissertation will consider how young women’s understandings of gender and pastoral leadership are being formed in a local congregation. I began interviews before Christmas and hope to complete those in January. I am hoping to be done by June 2009. I began searching for jobs in November hoping to find a teaching position that would begin Fall 2009. For many different reasons, none of the positions worked out. While I am still considering teaching positions, I have been wondering if God is perhaps calling me back into church ministry. With that in mind, I have recently also started looking for positions as a pastor in a local congregation. I would ask your prayers for wisdom and discernment during this process and that God would provide work and finances as needed.

The search process has found me entering a season of waiting again… perhaps the PhD is a bit like Christmas, waiting for something new to begin. The job search feels a bit more like epiphany, trying to follow where God is leading with only a star and perhaps a few cryptic prophecies to guide me. May we all be faithful in whatever journey God is leading us on… and may we be blessed with a star that shines bright to guide us.