Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Larry K. Graham, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Trickett

Third Advisor

Gregory Robbins


Bowen, Murray, Clergy, Congregation, Friedman, Edwin, Leadership, Process theology


As with all bodies, congregational bodies experience challenges to their health, well-being, and ability to function as they desire. Problems in faith communities range from severe, intractable conflict to lethargy and decline, with far-ranging effects. The practice of offering pastoral care to individuals experiencing difficulties is rooted deeply in the Judeo-Christian tradition. There is, however, no explicit tradition of pastoral care for corporate congregational bodies experiencing difficulties. This dissertation draws on Bowen Family Systems Theory and its application by Edwin Friedman to congregations and leadership, in conjunction with aspects of process theology, to develop a pastoral theology of congregational care and leadership to guide care of suffering congregations.

The cornerstone concept of Bowen Family Systems Theory, differentiation of self (a capacity to maintain self in relationship), is brought together with Whitehead's understanding of the teleology of the universe as maximizing beauty (the harmony of contrasts) to name differentiation as a process by which the Divine lures creation toward beauty and the emergence of new phenomena. A positive response to the lure of the Divine toward beauty and emergence, or serendipitous surprise, is posited as a norm for the life of a Christian congregation. Care and leadership of congregations involve nurturing movement toward beauty and emergence through the presence and being of a clergy caregiver/leader working on differentiation of self. This promotes the capacity of the congregation to be theotokos (God-bearer), embodying the presence of God's differentiating, life-seeking, graceful, and creative relationship with the universe.

Pastoral theology begins with situations of human suffering and brings together cognate and theological resources to deepen understandings and shape care to respond to the suffering. Traditionally, academic pastoral theology addresses the difficulties of individuals and families, as well larger societal issues that contribute to difficulties. In conceptualizing a congregation as a whole in need of care, and attending to its healing and care from the perspective of pastoral theology, this work offers an extension of the discipline of pastoral theology into congregational care.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Carol P. Jeunnette


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

396 p.


Pastoral counseling, Theology, Organizational behavior