The changing landscape in religious leadership : reflections from rural African faith communities

Nell, Ian A. ; Nell, Elzette (2014-05)

Nel, I. & Nell, E. 2014. The changing landscape in religious leadership : reflections from rural African faith communities. Rural Theology, 12(1):29-41, doi: 10.1179/1470499414Z.00000000020.

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"Religious leadership is a contested field of study in the process of finding a footing in the academic world. In Africa, a long history of hierarchical leadership is experienced - not only in the spheres of politics, economics and culture but also in the sphere of religion. Many factors influence the changing landscape in religious leadership. The purpose of this article is to present a descriptive-empirical investigation into some of the processes of leadership transformation by listening, amongst others, to the voices of rural African postgraduate students studying theology at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The empirical results are read through the lenses of Social Identity Theory (SIT). As part of the interpretation of the data, four clusters of theories are used as heuristic tools, while different perspectives on leadership in Africa inform the discussion. Codes are used to analyse the data. The codes mould into themes. The themes that emerge are: 1. Uniqueness of faith communities. 2. Tensions between leadership images that exist. 3. New leadership identities are forming; they are … leadership is chosen, relational, in service of the community, and pedagogical. This is also done with a keen interest to see whether the concepts of leadership that are in use are still adequate, and to search for new understandings of religious leadership identities that might emerge."

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