Decent and in Order

Decent and in Order : Conflict, Christianity, and Polity in a Presbyterian Congregation

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This is a systematic study of how a congregational conflict involving allegations of sexual harassment and power abuse against a minister was seriously mishandled by church authorities. The conflict escalated to entangle regional and national authorities and worked its way into the civil courts. Stockton focuses on the interaction of organizational dynamics and ill-defined Christian concepts (such as reconciliation and discipline), showing that in conflict situations the ideals of pastoral care are squeezed by an organizational mentality. Key themes involve the role of women in the church, the complex question of sexual harassment, and the interface between church law and civil law. The narrative, which is based on interviews and official documents, captures the human dimensions of the story while simultaneously giving unique insight into congregational disputes and organizational behavior.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 162.56 x 243.33 x 24.64mm | 566.99g
  • Praeger Publishers Inc
  • Westport, United States
  • English
  • 0275966682
  • 9780275966683

Table of contents

Institutional Theory Why Sexual Misconduct Investigations Go Wrong Beth-El: Early Problems The Congregational Setting Arrival at Beth-El Escalation Institutional Analysis The Calvinist Concept of Discipline The Special Case of Women in the Church Beth-El and the Presbyterian Legal Process Into the Breach Back in the Pulpit The Final Wave Picking Up the Pieces Institutional Process Presbyterian Polity and Function The Question of Due Process Some Reflections and Suggestions Lessons From This Case Epilogue Appendix Glossary Bibliography Index
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Review quote

"Decent and in Order is a valuable contribution to the growing research literature on clergy malfeasance.... We need more such case studies.... This volume deserves wide exposure."-Anson Shupe Professor Indiana University--Purdue University, Fort Wayne "This is a sobering, even riveting book for anyone who is struggling to understand the modern complexities of congregational life. The author was a key participant in events, so that while he is by no means an impartial observer, the devastating impact of painful and traumatic events on real people is compellingly revealed."-Nancy Myer Hopkins Consultant to Religious Traditions "At a time when people are rediscovering faith communities as sources of public good, Stockton provides an exemplary service by portraying the realities, joys and sorrows of a real community struggling to live up to its ideals.... Stockton writes with passion, reflection, and rigor about a vital topic for a society that is looking to faith and communities as a source of renewal. The book provides a compelling narrative built upon strong but unobtrusive analysis of the realities or organizational and bureaucratic life confronting the needs and desires of community and justice."-J. Patrick Dobel Associate Dean The Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs University of Washington, Seattle "Decent and in Order is a scary book, because it could happen in any congregation. This carefully researched study is more than another case of an abusive pastor. This is a story about typical church leaders who are simply trying to do their duty--and they get hurt emotionally, socially, and spiritually. To protect all of us who are vulnerable and to heal local congregations and the denominations that seek to serve them, this study should be mandatory for leaders throughout our churches."-Carl S. Dudley Co-Director of the Center for Social and Religious Research Professor of Church and Community Hartford Seminary
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About Ronald R. Stockton

RONALD R. STOCKTON is professor of political science who writes and teaches about the role of religion and religious values in the United States and overseas. He has published numerous scholarly articles as well as a book-A Time of Turmoil: Values and Voting in the 1970s (with Frank Wayman, 1983). He is also a university ombudsman.
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