Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor Theologie en Religiewetenschap
Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion

Get New Password

Go back to login

The future of religious leadership in a post-Christendom culture

Looptijd: 2013-2015
Coördinator: Prof.dr. E.A.J.G. van der Borght (VU)
Verslag RCG the future of religious leadership, april 2016
Update RCG The future of religious leadersip, maart 2015

Update RCG The future of religious leadership, januari 2015

Update RCG The future of religious leadership, mei 2014

Update RCG The future of religious leadership, okt. 2013

This theme group wants to explore the future of religious leadership in Christian communities in the current secular Netherlands. The understanding and the practice of leadership in religious communities depends both on the theology of the specific religious traditions to which they belong and the context in which they exist.

In Europe in general, and in the Netherlands more specifically the current secular culture has had a major impact on the praxis and the interpretation of leadership during the last fifty years. These cultural evolutions are a challenge to faith communities on at least three levels. On a personal level, there is uncertainty about the role of religious leaders in a secularized culture. Next, religious communities in the Netherlands are challenged to re-interpret religious leadership within the context of their broader religious tradition that surpasses the border of the Netherlands.
Finally, theological faculties and seminaries are challenged to come up with new concepts and programs for the training of ministers, priests and other leaders in this changing culture.

However, the religious self-understanding of these traditions is primarily based on sacred writings, confessional statements, and the historical practice of leadership in specific historical contexts. The theory and praxis of leadership is often a sensitive issue since in many cases they function as an identity marker for that religious tradition. In the Netherlands, the long reciprocal influence between culture and leadership in Christian denominations enables introducing a historical perspective into this research.

The ultimate goal of this research group is to contribute to the construction of a new profile for leadership of Christian faith communities in a post-Christendom culture. Because of the complexity of the issues involved and the observation that the evolution and challenges are comparable in many other European countries, we intend to submit a common European research proposal together with other viable European partners within a few years. We will map challenges for leaders, for Christian denominations as organizational l and theologically defined frames in which the leaders operate, and for theological faculties and seminaries in the Netherlands that are responsible for the training of the ministers and priests.

During the first year (2013) we will describe what has been researched over the last decades and what is still unanswered in relation to the functional well-being of ministers and ex-ministers, and the perception of their leadership within faith communities. During the second year (2014), we will analyze how Christian denominations have reacted to the shift in leadership style and roles over the last decades, and to the change in understanding of leadership in a secular age, against the background of their theologically defined normative interpretation of leadership.
During the third year (2015), we will map the way faculties of theology and seminars in recent decades have adapted their mission and curricula according to the changing number of candidates for ministry, the changing profile of the candidates and the shift in understanding of leadership in a secular age against the background of their theologically defined normative interpretation of leadership.

This program is executed in an interdisciplinary way mainly by systematic theologians and practical theologians, and by canonists/experts in church polity, but also being informed by historians, sociologists of religion, psychologists of religion, and cultural anthropologists. We organize three consultations each year at which we invite each time one or two researchers to update us in relation to our research theme in the Netherlands. Currently participating researchers belong to VU University Amsterdam, PThU, FKT, ThUKampen, the Baptist Seminary, the Old Catholic Seminary.

Next meeting: 7 October 2013 at 16.00-20.00

VU University Amsterdam

For more information, contact dr. Eddy Van der Borght (