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A Psychodynamic Analysis of Problems Confronting Anglican Parochial Clergy

Warren, Y. (2000). A Psychodynamic Analysis of Problems Confronting Anglican Parochial Clergy. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The Anglican Church of England has experienced change, within itself as an institution and without in the national perception of its credibility. These changes have taken place especially during the latter part of the 19th Century right up to the 21st Century. This research will offer some understanding of the changes that have taken place. However, the bulk of the research will be concerned with the effect that these changes have wrought on the Church of England’s workforce - that is, the ordained clergy.


The aim of the research is to explore the dynamic relationship between the institution of the Church of England and the life of its ordained clergy. This is accomplished by investigating six pertinent areas of their lives:

■ Why they were ordained
■ Their view of authority
■ What it means to be a priest
■ Personal relationships
■ Working within the parish
■ Emotional and spiritual health

Hypotheses to be Investigated:

1. “The lack of respect for the Christian Gospel and the more constraining conditions of service within the modern culture, as well as the fact that the media and the greater freedom of the wider society often seek to denigrate traditional values, may be seen to cause the Anglican parochial clergy a loss of confidence and may have an adverse effect on their psychological health.”

2. “The dis-ease within affects not just the clergyperson’s work and his/her own spiritual journey but also has an effect on every aspect of his/her life” and

3. “The reaction of the clergyperson to the modern-day culture depends more on their own internal emotional strength, or ego identity, than on the changing cultural values.”


The research has been carried out using mainly a qualitative approach. This has been important, for it has allowed the clergy themselves to give voice to their perception of their lives. Though being aware of some of the inherent problems with a largely qualitative research methodology, the data collected during the semi-structured interviews have provided rich material to give insight into the problems being considered.


As a result of the data collected, it has been highlighted that many of the clergy struggle in the positions in which they find themselves. Even if they have experienced a clear call from God to offer themselves for the ordained ministry, they have many grievances. Several of the clergy spoke of the authority of the Church, as represented by the Bishops, having neither the time nor the interest in having a caring pastoral role with the clergy. Clergy are often unsure what it means to be a priest and it appears in the data that the more insecure the clergy feel, the greater the need to occupy an authoritarian stance themselves. The married clergy experience at least as much; if not considerably more, stress than single clergy, for they have to balance the needs of their spouse and children as well as the parishes.

It was not easy for many of the clergy to speak of their leadership styles within the parish. Several of them felt insecure and unsure of themselves in such exposed roles. Exploring their sense of spiritual and emotional health at the end of the interviews highlighted the fact that if they felt unsure of their roles, unsupported by families and the Church hierarchy, uncared for in their parishes, then they would experience both emotional and spiritual disturbance.


The research concluded that the hypotheses suggested at the beginning had a basis of reality. The fact that the media and the national culture are largely anti Church establishment does have an effect on the clergy. They feel a sense of dislocation from the rest of the nation and wonder if their identity has any credence within the culture they live and work in. Those clergy who were able to survive, and appeared to do so with seeming success, also exhibited a greater sense of ego integration. As will be seen, this has implications for the selection of those for training for ordained ministry.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Warren thesis 2000 PDF-A.pdf]
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