Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Craig Van Gelder


A system-wide, action-research intervention into a mainline church judicatory sought to empower its members to respond to the adaptive challenges facing them through reframing their understanding of mission in light of their changing context and theological tradition, and through actively discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit. Recognizing that the problems facing mainline denominational systems in 21st century America require attention to foundational questions of identity and purpose in a post-Christendom era, this study utilized a multi-layered, participatory process that encouraged grass-roots transformation.

Over the course of one year, approximately 2,000 members of a diocese of the Episcopal Church participated in a mission strategy process that included baseline and follow-up surveys, congregational visits, the development of a theological position paper on mission, and the creation and formal endorsement of new identity and purpose statements, mission and ministry priorities, and an organizational redesign. The renewed missional identity that emerged in the process focused on the theme of communion, integrating the sending emphasis characteristic of the western conception of the Trinity and missional ecclesiology, with the social emphasis of the eastern view of the Trinity and koinonia ecclesiology. A vision for the organizational redesign of the judicatory utilizing network theory was also developed.