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A Permeable Way: How Vulnerability Nourishes Pastoral Leadership

  • Author / Creator
    Smith, Catherine Elizabeth
  • The purpose of this research is to examine the phenomenon of vulnerability as it relates to pastoral leadership. Setting the phenomenon within a theological framework, I ask: What difference does it make to the understanding and practice of pastoral leadership when it is viewed through a hermeneutic lens of vulnerability? By way of clarifying the phenomenon, I examine its treatment by authors representing a variety of disciplinary approaches, and I identify it as a theological theme exemplified in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and, indeed, throughout the scriptural narrative in so far as it exhibits a pattern of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation in depicting the dynamics of our life with God. On the basis of these considerations, I argue that vulnerability is an inherent and valuable element of our being. It is the milieu or quality through which not only wounding but healing arrives. Because of this perceived duality vulnerability may induce anxiety and is thus frequently repressed through the use of strategies of invulnerability which diminish those who employ them and often damage others. I claim, however, that when vulnerability is accepted, honoured, and inhabited with peace, it is generative of courage, creativity, and compassion. I demonstrate this claim by analysing my own experience in pastoral leadership, employing an autoethnographic methodology. After examining the qualities of vulnerability and of leadership I reflect on liturgy, contemplative artistic practice, and governance, as areas in which leaders may gain facility in inhabiting vulnerability in ways that nourish their leadership and in which they can model the vitality of this inhabiting for those with whom they are in pastoral relationship. I suggest that a language of vulnerability comprising words and silence, ritual and gesture, is essential if the language of the market, frequently embraced by the church and its leaders, is to be subverted. I also argue that scripture and spiritual practice provide rich resources for the peaceful inhabiting of vulnerability.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Ministry
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-m9b9-rk32
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.