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Emergent Archiepiscopal Leadership within the Anglican Communion

  • Martyn Percy


Each Archbishop of Canterbury has a distinctive style of leadership. To some extent, this will always be shaped and framed by prevalent contemporary cultures of leadership that are to be found within wider society. The paper examines and questions some aspects in the development of the current Archbishop of Canterbury's role. It argues that the combination of a certain kind of charismatic leadership, coupled to enhanced managerial organization, may be preventing the prospect of theological acuity and spiritual wisdom playing a more significant role in the continual formation of ecclesial polity in the Church of England, and across the wider Anglican Communion.


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The Very Revd Professor Martyn William Percy is Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. He was, from 2004 to 2014 the Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon. He is a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, where he also tutors for the Said Business School, and writes and teaches on modern ecclesiology.



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2. Shortt, Rupert, Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014).

3. See Andrew Atherstone, Archbishop Justin Welby: Risk-Taker and Reconciler (London: DLT, 2014).

4. Bermejo, Luis SJ, The Spirit of Life: the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Christian (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1989).

5. ‘Archbishop Visits Hong Kong’, 28 October 2013, available at:

6. See P. Selznick, Leadership in Administration: A Sociological Interpretation (New York: Harper, 1957). See also Paul Avis, Authority, Leadership and Conflict in the Church (London: Mowbray, 1992), pp. 107–109.

7. Western, Simon, Leadership: A Critical Text (London: Sage, 2008).

8. Western, Leadership, p. 22.

9. Western, Leadership, pp. 80–126.

10. See Atherstone, Archbishop Justin Welby.

11. ‘Revealed: Archbishop Blindfolded by Rebels with Kalashnikovs on Jungle Mercy Mission’, The Daily Mail, 11 November 2012.

12. Western, Leadership, pp. 173–97.

13. This was, of course, the normal modus operandi of Archbishop Rowan Williams. While this led to some inertia, as well as failures, the strength of the model is that it can build collegiality in the medium and long term. Messiah leadership discourse, in contrast, tends to foster cultures of followership; and it marginalizes the critical voices that are essential for developing balance and breadth.

14. Western, Leadership, pp. 183–97.

15. For further discussion see Archie Brown, The Myth of the Strong Leader (London: Bodley Head, 2014).

16. ‘Rome, Constantinople, and Canterbury: Mother Churches?’, Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius at St Vladimir's Seminar, New York, 5 June 2008, available at:

17. On this, see Lewis Minkin, The Blair Supremacy: A Study in Labour's Party Management, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014). Minkin shows how Blair's leadership substituted consultation for personal charisma and executive authority.

18. Linda Woodhead, ‘The Vote for Women Bishops’, available at:

19. F. Parkin, The Marxist Theory of Class: A Bourgeois Critique (London: Tavistock, 1979), pp. 45–46; P. Sorokin, ‘What Is a Social Class?’, in R. Bendix and S.M. Lipset (eds.), Class, Status and Power (2nd edn; New York: Free Press, 1966), p. 90; T. Parsons, ‘A Revised Analytical Approach to the Theory of social Stratification’, The American Journal of Sociology 45.6 (May, 1940), p. 122.

20. See M. Percy, ‘Growth and Management in the Church of England: Some Comments’, Modern Believing 55.3 (2014), pp. 257–70.

21. Welby's background may be important here. The elitism of Eton and a privileged, though personally difficult childhood, coupled to his career in executive management, are important factors in shaping his ecclesial leadership.

22. See Elliott Jaques, A General Theory of Bureaucracy (London: Heinemann, 1976), pp. 344–347. Jaques argued that the church was an ‘association’, and clergy ‘members’, not its employees. Jaques argued that once clergy come to be regarded as employees in a manager-subordinate relationship, congregations become customers, and the sacred bond between laity and clergy becomes broken, and turned into one of consumer-provider. Jaques specifically praised those churches that promoted life tenure for clergy, because it guarded against centralised managerial interference, and protected the deep communal and personal ethos of the clergy-laity bond. Overt central control and monitoring by churches, argued Jaques, slowly destroyed local spiritual life, because the clergy would be subject to demands on two fronts. Namely, those targets and priorities set remotely by central management, and the local consumerist demands of congregations. The combination would erode public-pastoral ministry to the whole parish, with the clergy becoming demoralised and alienated.

23. The Labour Party was subject to similar dynamics under the leadership of Tony Blair: controlling structures that distanced dissent, coupled to charismatic leadership that gave vision, in the Weberian sense.

24. Report of the Lord Green Steering Group: London: General Synod Document no. 1982, 2015.

25. See; see also and, Cf. M. Percy, ‘Are These the Leaders We Really Want?’, Church Times, 12 December 2014, pp. 14 and 31. (See also the Leader Article in the same edition). The Report on Resourcing Ministerial Education is currently work in progress. See:

26. Despite considerable ferment, the Green Report was not allowed to be debated at the February 2015 meeting of the General Synod. The censoring of the criticism of the Green Report is reported in Church Times, 13th February 2015, p. 3.

27. See, for example, J.L. Badaracco, ‘We Don't Need another Hero’, Harvard Business Review 79.8 (2001), pp. 120-26, and H. Mintzberg, ‘Rebuilding Companies as Communities’, Harvard Business Review 87.7-8 (2009), pp. 140–43.

28. John Webster, ‘The Self-Organizing Power of the Gospel of Christ: Episcopacy and Community Formation’, International Journal of Systematic Theology 3.1 (2001), pp. 69–82; and Richard Roberts, ‘Lord, Bondsman and Churchman: Identity, Integrity and Power in Anglicanism’, in C. Gunton and D. Hardy (eds.), On Being the Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), pp. 156–224.

29. See, for example, Stephen Pattison, The Faith of the Managers: When Management Becomes Religion (London: Cassell, 1997); Gordon Oliver, Ministry without Madness (London: SPCK, 2012).

30. See Augustine, On the Trinity 12.1-3; see The Trinity (trans. S. McKenna C.Ss.R.; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1963).

31. Evagrius, ‘Chapters on Prayer’, in The Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer (trans. J. Bamberger; Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1981).

32. D.W. Hardy, ‘Anglicanism in the Twenty-First Century; Scriptural, Local, Global’, unpublished paper from Society for the Study of Anglicanism at the American Academy of Religion, 2004, p. 5, quoted in Sidney Green, Beating the Bounds: A Symphonic Approach to Orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014), p. 176.

33. See Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988), and Gerald Arbuckle, Refounding the Church: Dissent for Leadership (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1993).

34. L. Mead, The Once and the Future Church (Washington, DC: Rowman & Littlefield, 1991).

35. See M. Percy, Modern Believing 55.3 (2014), pp. 257–70.

1. The Very Revd Professor Martyn William Percy is Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. He was, from 2004 to 2014 the Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon. He is a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, where he also tutors for the Said Business School, and writes and teaches on modern ecclesiology.

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Journal of Anglican Studies
  • ISSN: 1740-3553
  • EISSN: 1745-5278
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