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Title: The Good Church : an exploration in virtue ecclesiology
Author: Fitzmaurice, John
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 5924
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis is an interdisciplinary exploration of the formation of virtuous character in the Church. It critiques the prevailing metaphor of growth within the Church, contending that it has failed within society leading to what Richard Sennett calls a ‘corrosion of character’. It is my contention that a similar process can be seen within the Church. I suggest that the growth ethic should be replaced by one based on virtue. The work of both Sennet and Erich Fromm is used to critique this 'growth ethic'. MacIntyre's proposal for a recovery of a virtue-based ethic is examined and interpreted theologically through the concepts of narrative theology, community, sacraments and sanctification. Here the work of Hauerwas is also significant. Central to MacIntyre's project is the role of 'practices' in developing virtuous character. MacIntyre's proposal is read in dialogue with the pedagogy of Etienne Wenger, and both are critiqued by the as potentially idealist by the work of Nicholas Healy. The nature of a virtuous organisation/church is then explored through the discipline of organisational psychodynamics, notably thought the work of Bruce Reed. The confluence between Reed's work and the ascetial theology of Martin Thornton is noted. This psychodynamic insight is then used to explore the role of character in the tasks of the Church that involves a focused understanding of kenosis as a form of vicarious self-offerting. This understanding of a virtuous Church is used to inform a model of Church as a Community of Interpretation, not just of its own normative narrative but also of the society in which it is placed - the Church offers an analysis of its own internal life as a mode of interpretation of the dynamics of the wider society. This preferencing of internal goods over external (in MacIntyre's language), or 'quest' orientation over intrinsic or extrinsic (in the language of Allport & Ross) then becomes a model for holiness, and I explore how in this context mission becomes the cultivation of holiness, wisdom and right action. I suggest that it is in and though sacramental practices that the transitional space for these virtues to be formed is created. The penultimate chapter uses current Church of England policy on theological education as a case study to explore the presence and/or absence of notions of virtuous character in ministerial formation. The thesis ends with a conclusion that seeks to identify some possible ongoing policy implications for the life of the Church were it to adopt the notion of virtuous character as part of its teleology.
Supervisor: Ward, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available