The findings of Guerrier and Bond indicate a profound tension between the secular and the sacred, perhaps one that cannot be addressed simply by careful use of language. Another frame that might be used in this context is the notion of a ‘psychological contract’. This is an area of study in industry concerned with the perceptions and feelings of mutual obligation between employee and employer. This has particular resonance within a Methodist context because of the notion of the Covenantal relationship that is used to describe the office holder status of the Methodist Minister. Christeen George outlines a ‘general consensus’ regarding this particular lens:
- It is promissory based in a belief about what an organisation is offering
- It is unspoken but implied, known most obviously when broken
- It has two sides to it, an exchange of promises between individuals and the organisation itself
- It is shaped by individuals’ perceptions
- It can be understood in terms of needs and expectations.
(George, 2009 p.3)
Given that the most distinctive element of a Methodist understanding of Ordination is indeed the relationship with the Conference, to be in ‘full Connexion’, and this is marked by a Covenant, the notion of the psychological contract provides considerable potential for understanding the reaction of Ministers to new developments such as MDR and also for addressing them in helpful ways. George raises the issues of when contracts are damaged and indicates in that how organisations might become more helpful to their employees. Such a breakdown of the contract may indeed be the norm (Robinson and Rousseau 1994). Quoting Springett, George wonders if ‘employees should be encouraged to develop a relational psychological contract’ (Springett 2005, George 2009 p 132). This emphasis on relationships, to articulate the implicit psychological contract with an intentional effort to pay attention to those within the organization, is worth exploring.
The literature on Psychological Contracts, particularly when contracts break down, offers a number of ways of understanding the difficulties the Church has in developing policies and implementing change. It suggests the importance of building relationships, informal and formal, within organisations, and ways of doing that.
Guerrier and Bond indicate issues around individual identity that are called into question by concerns about management. Management is identified as more than a list of tasks or competencies (Guerrier and Bond 2014 p 4). The individual identity is shaped by and shapes the wider organisational identity. It is worth noting that the idea of Management as an identity is not without controversy; Ministers are not the only reluctant managers (Brocklehurst, Grey et al. 2009). It has long been observed that this sense of identity becomes part of what constitutes our sense of order and reality (Berger and Luckmann 1971). Berger and Luckmann follow Durkheim in their book on the construction of reality, and importantly Durkheim’s published work included fear of anomie expressed as suicide (Durkheim 1951). This helps understand the level of reluctance that any challenge or uncertainty about identity can raise and the Minister’s self-understanding is not clear either (Methodist Council 1996, Luscombe and Shreeve 2002, Methodist Conference 2002, Methodist Conference 2004). Guerrier and Bond point out some of the challenges which Ministers face (Guerrier 2012, p 6, 7).
Alongside individual identity, but linked to it, Albert and Whetten introduce and develop the concept of organizational identity and the related concepts of dual and multiple identity (Albert and Whetten 1985). They offer a methodology for studying dual and multiple identity organisations. Dave Whetten has also reflected on his journey of faith and his academic life and the importance of both in understanding organisation. Hatch and Schultz have put together a very helpful collection of essays an organisational identity (Hatch and Schultz 2004). In that volume Barbara Czaniawska takes a constructionist perspective on organizing. Her research methodology is also of interest, looking at ‘narratology’, which offers ways of both understanding organisation, and also of offering insights into helping them. Her use of the expression, ‘dramas of institutional identity’, offers a rich vein of understanding the visceral response of the Church in changing times (Czarniawska-Joerges 1997).
At the end of William Scott’s book on institutions and organisation he offers what he calls a, ‘sermon’ in support of the cause of institutional analysis. Here he advances Philip Selznick institutional approach(Scott p 273). The values in and the values of institutions enable or perhaps disable individuals, and it matters to seek understanding and build relationships within the organisation.