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Covenant, constitution and contract: control and accountability in the cat's cradle (part 1 of 2)

Berry, Anthony J. (2003) Covenant, constitution and contract: control and accountability in the cat's cradle (part 1 of 2). UNSPECIFIED. Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The contribution of theology to control and accounting has been traced through the monastic tradition demonstrating how the Cistercians used decentralized control of their extensive farms in contrast to the centralized control of the Benedictines (Knowles,1948). The contribution of theology to political economy was traced by Weber and Tawney in their analysis of the Calvinist roots of liberal market capitalism and more subtly by Adam Smith in his ironic use of a phrase from Isaiah Ch 60 as the title for his seminal work on markets. This paper reports upon a case of the interplay of theology and control and accountability which occurred as the Church of England set out to respond to a financial crisis. Accountability was theorized as stemming from the three elements of covenant, constitution and contract all of which were contested in the ground metaphor of autonomy. It demonstrates how a group of financiers from within the evangelical tradition (which places stress on headship and control) led an attempt to create a new church governance body (a national council) with strongly integrated central control and diminished democratic and conciliar participation. They had described the church as 'a cats cradle of autonomous and semi autonomous organizations'. The case then demonstrates how the other theological traditions (anglo-catholic and liberal) were mobilized , over a period of several years, to permit the new body to come into life but to unravel the proposed centralised control and to maintain the existing nature of governance and to enrich the complexity of the 'cat's cradle'. The case analysis is based upon the theory of eco-systems (as a more formal view of the cat's cradle) to show how the loosely coupled nature of eco systems with their multiple theological stances and their multi layered processes of relationships and accountabilities were almost impervious to the attempt to shift them into an ordered and controlled hierarchy.

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