Spiritual/Theological Risk Management 

The Presbytery and Synod of SA has been working in the risk management policy. 

They’ve already developed a good theological basis for risk management but they came to the view that they needed a spiritual/theological category of risk and asked me if I had any comments. 

These were the comments I sent, and I haven’t had an opportunity to meet with the committee to explain my thoughts yet. But I’d be really interested in other people’s thoughts on how to frame a category of spiritual/theological risk for a church’s risk register. 

It would be appropriate to include “spiritual risk” in the church’s risk assessment processes. Spiritual risks are those related to sustaining the church’s authentic ecclesial identity as the body of Christ, the people of God, and a fellowship in the Holy Spirit.

Sustaining its ecclesial identity depends on all aspects of the church’s life being aligned to the ethos and values of the Uniting Church in Australia – including its identification as part of the one church of God and its participation in the mission of God. This is both the gift of God through the Holy Spirit and the faithful response of the church. The risk assessment process concerns the church’s response:

An assessment of the church’s ecclesial identity focusses on the health of local congregations – “the embodiment in one place of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” (Basis of Union paragraph 15 (a)). Risks to the health of local congregations include:

• A diminishing use of the means of grace (regularly reading the Bible, praying, participating in the fellowship of the church and in its celebrations of the sacraments)

An inability on the part of the Presbytery to reliably ensure that the Word and Sacraments is made available in every congregation

• Systemic conflict among the people of God, either in particular local congregations or across the Presbytery

Any thoughts?


  1. Perhaps a reluctance to recognize and encourage the gifts present in the body of Christ and a reluctance to work together for The sake of the gospel (every gift has its corresponding service)

  2. From: http://www.questcentre.ca/blogs/view/christian-atheism
    My concern is the lack of intellectual integrity by the leaders of the Church who operate more like Pharisees than followers of Jesus eg. From: http://www.questcentre.ca/blogs/view/christian-atheism we get the reality of

    “Atheism (Non-Realism) can mean many things, but largely it means not believing in an invisible man named God. It is easy to argue that practically no one, outside of extremists in religion, believes such anymore. Still, the Christian Church struggles with people who openly make this admission of unbelief. Why should so much trouble be built around admitting what most modern people generally know? My suspicion is that the Church remains a creedal community. The definition of Christianity remains in the confession of its Creed, which begins with “I believe in God.” The challenge Christian Atheists bring to the Church is the challenge to move Christianity to a post-creedal era. In such a Christianity — in a post-creedal Christianity — how you love is more important than what you believe.
    Until such a time that Christianity is able to change itself, my concern remains that Christians everywhere respect the courage of Christian Atheists. Those who so identify themselves often do so in the midst of isolation and suffering. Before isolation and suffering, the Christian act is to hold solidarity, express love, and seek justice.”

  3. hi andrew, I’m discovering I’ma ‘govenance’ geek and things like ‘risk management’ excite me as i see how they help. I think both your commissioning and responses are valuable and suspect – as a person who has actually read the UCSA risk management policies a few years back – that the spiritual perspective could be intertwined with other ones. eg think harassment/bullying policies which say ‘no’ to but they are a form of interpersonal conflict so your comments could be added in/interwoven rather than additional too.

  4. Giday Andrew, thanks for kicking this off: I think a risk we have to identify is about fruitfulness; – I’m thinking when Jesus cursed the fig tree – it seems important to me that we do discern what fruitfulness looks like and identify that the propensity for human organisations to become self-serving and self-protecting is profound; our greatest risk is that we serve ourselves and not our Lord; that we tell ourselves we’re serving our Lord when really we’re serving ourselves. I’d like that on the risk management register!

  5. I wonder if this whole risk focus that’s risen over the past decade or so has arisen because in the commercial world there was such a focus on profit and reward that risk was denied/ minimised. The GFC and other financial and economic crisis then made the commercial world, from a governance perspective, address risk seriously. So, risk management is the obverse side, the corrective to, the dash for profit. My concern about risk management in the church is that it’s not a corrective to a profound desire to be fruitful, it’s a way we could deepen our propensity to self-protect; how will risk management help us “deny ourselves and take up our cross?”

  6. I don’t normally comment, but I was just talking about ‘fruitfulness monitoring’ as the purpose of the upcoming NCLS when I read David Baker’s comment. As Jesus put it, the tree is known and evaluated by it’s fruit. (Vines as well…) It’s a somewhat reductionist metaphor I suppose, but for the steward left in charge of the garden, olive grove, or vineyard, that’s the measure of the plant. The tree focused on survival in bad times dumps it’s fruit – too risky. But if it doesn’t fruit sooner or later, it will be used for firewood or compost… The greatest risk to be managed is avoiding risk.

  7. Think the list of risks is exceedingly helpful… Perhaps send to PRCs to include in what are meant to be 5-year consultations? To which I would add something about being the ‘whole people of God’… How inclusive is the congregation of different ages and colours and cultures? If diversity is not present, is there a risk of a diminished approach to the Gospel?

  8. Thanks for giving this an open discussion for everyone Andrew.One of the risks that stands out to me is everyone in the local congregations not making visitors feel more welcome at the Church. There should be ways to make sure this is done.

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