Understanding Local Churches as Porous Living Systems: Insights from the Tavistock Tradition

In: Ecclesial Practices
Author: Nigel Rooms1
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Systems thinking, organizational psychodynamics along with group relations and complexity / chaos theories have rarely been placed in dialogue with the dilemmas facing contemporary UK local churches and the systems that support them in the face of decline. In this article the author attempts such a project from his experience both as a consultant to, mainly Anglican Church systems through the Partnership for Missional Church process (pmc) with the Church Mission Society, and his 2017–18 training with the Tavistock Institute. Relevant parts of this ‘Tavistock’ tradition are explicated and thickened with narrative anecdote and research evidence from the pmc process. The article recommends moving from closed to open systems under conditions of porosity. Thus, treating churches less as mechanical objects to be manipulated, rather as non-linear living systems that need to be contained, discerned and disrupted. All of which allows for a fresh (but unfinished and incomplete) approach to the ecclesiology of local churches in relation to the activity of God, the missio Dei.

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