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Reforming Pastors : A Study on Reforms and Attempted Reforms in the ELCI with a Focus on the Role of the Pastors

Reforming Pastors : A Study on Reforms and Attempted Reforms in the ELCI with a Focus on the Role of the Pastors

Title: Reforming Pastors : A Study on Reforms and Attempted Reforms in the ELCI with a Focus on the Role of the Pastors
Author: Björnsdóttir, Steinunn Arnþrúður
Advisor: Harald Hegstad, Hjalti Hugason
Date: 2019-05-24
Language: English
University/Institute: Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society
Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Hugvísindasvið (HÍ)
School of Humanities (UI)
Department: Guðfræði- og trúarbragðafræðideild (HÍ)
Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (UI)
Subject: Guðfræði; Kirkjan; Doktorsritgerðir; Practical theology; Church; Ecclesiology; Institutional change
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/4028

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This is an empirical study on changes and reform attempts in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland (ELCI), focusing on the role of pastors in the processes. The aim is to understand the role pastors played, how and why they contributed to or resisted changes or reforms. The emphasis is both on the role of pastors locally, in the parish, and at national level, looking at the interaction between the pastoral office and the organisation that constitutes the work environment. The approach is thus bifocal, on the pastors and on the church as an organisation. The main research question is: How did changes and attempted reforms in the ELCI affect the role of pastors, and which role did pastors play? The research is based on three separate case studies which all study changes in the wake of reforms or attempted reforms. The first one looks at changes in the church following tax reforms which boosted church funding significantly and led to numerous changes in church work, especially in the capital and in larger towns. The study shows that pastors were active participants in the changes that followed in the parishes and that these changes were locally instigated. The second study analyses the reception of a strategic planning process in the ELCI and the third evalues the success of a centrally instigated attempt to establish cooperation areas in the ELCI. In both cases the results show limited participation on behalf of the pastors. All three studies have been published in peer reviewed journals. The case studies employ qualitative methodology, two sets of interviews, two short questionnaires which included open ended questions and study of related documents, including parish reports and official documents from the General Assembly of ELCI, the Parliament and other institutions. The theoretical framework is taken from organisational studies and sociological analysis on change and reform, authority and legitimacy focusing on the pastoral agency in the church structure, locally and nationwide and on the meeting of organisational models and ecclesiology. A theoretical focus was on the relationship between the structural and individual dimension, framed as a sub-question to the research question: What are the relationships between individual and structural dimensions in the changes and attempted reforms in the ELCI? The main conclusion is that the different organisational approach of the Church‘s Central Authorities and the pastors is an important factor in explaining the results of the different projects. The organisational approach of the CCA is structural, whereas the pastors approached changes and reform mostly from a subjective perspective. This difference in how vi these actors viewed proposed reforms is part of the explanation as to why they did not work. Viewing the changing role of the pastor in light of authority, the authority of the pastor can be understood in objective terms when linked to the institution of the pastoral office, and in subjective terms when its legitimacy is based on the authenticity of the pastor as an individual. Both are exercised and apparent in the studies. When the authority is linked to the pastoral office objectively, as an institution, it facilitates legitimacy for the pastor in areas that are not formally part of his/her domain. As the pastor also interprets the office subjectively, notably in response to the objective aims of the CCA, we can see the pastoral agency as interacting and reinterpreting the structures surrounding the office and in doing so, affecting them.

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