Meet some of our current students and recent research graduates and hear about their journey to complete their studies.
Doctor of Philosophy Graduate (2020)
Trinity College Theological School
Rev Associate Professor John Flett and Rev Dr Alan Niven
A new body and a new voice: hybrid structure and practice in an evolving form of secular public engagement for the Anglican Church of Australia
I chose the University of Divinity because it specialises in theological research, appropriate to my specialisation in public theology.
In particular, I wanted to retain my long association (since 2002) with Trinity College Theological School, which has nurtured my development as a theologian.
The institutional church in Australia presently has a limited influence on public policy formation, especially in the world of economics, finance and business. However, the Anglican church (which is my tradition) and probably other denominations have isolated examples of church organisations, like chaplaincies and welfare providers, that maintain very good relationships with business and government and are very effective advocates for policy change.
In my thesis, I made a representative selection of such organisations (case studies) to examine the practices and processes they use to engage the economics, finance and business worlds. I discovered they all use a form of organisational structure, which I call hybrid organisation and have a series of common practices and processes that make this work. I synthesised this information to build a methodology that can be used by any church to help it engage with the secular community, especially businesses.
This is a bit of researcher nerdiness, but I have a clear memory of the moment in an interview with one of my case study participants when the lightbulb clicked on in relation to how hybrid organisation was being used as the vehicle for bridging the gap between the church and secular business and government. At that point I realised I was on to something, and the idea became central to the rest of my research.
The methodology I developed needs to be further tested in real life. I have commenced an initiative, called The Good Business Project, with a global church-based workplace chaplaincy and some parishes of the Anglican Church in Melbourne to develop a ministry to the Melbourne Docklands and the Yarra business communities which will be based on this methodology. The experience of implementing the methodology will provide data for further research.
My goal is to establish The Good Business Project as a hybrid organisation that stands with one foot in the business community and the other in the church and which works to build community understanding of how we all flourish in this complex working environment.