Pastor, prophet, priest, and evangelist: a study of clergy leadership roles

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Virginia Tech

This study evaluates the efficacy of Earle, Knudsen and Shriver's (1975) typology of clergy community leadership roles when the level of analysis is extended from the community to the parish. Earle, et al. (1975) developed an analytical fourfold leadership typology identifying the roles of pastor, prophet, priest, and evangelist. Earle, et al. (1975) used the typology to conduct survey research on clergy identities in the community of Gastonia, North Carolina. This study utilizes qualitative field research within parishes of the Episcopal Church to examine the utility of the leadership typology when it is extended from a community to a parish level of analysis.

The results of this study show that the utility of the role typology of Earle, et al. (1975) is limited at the parish level of analysis by three problems. These are identified as the problems of clergy neutrality, orchestrated leadership and clergy freewheeling. Each of these problems is discussed utilizing examples from the field research. The problems reveal weaknesses in the analytical foundation of the typology of Earle, et al. (1975) and demonstrate that the typology is not exhaustive in nature. This study concludes that Earle, et al.'s fourfold typology has some utility but that additional research into the roles of parish clergy is necessary to establish a sound analytical typology for the sociological exploration of clergy leadership roles.