Published by Jeremy Fagan on 12th September 2018

Peter Rudge: 1927-2017

by Tim Harle, former Vice-Chair of MODEM.Peter Rudge

On the title page of his 2015 memoir[i], Rudge describes himself as ‘Student, Hitchhiker, Anglican Priest, Management Consultant in Churches, Tax Agent, Book Reviewer, Garden Designer, Sportsman, Scholar, Author’.  Others can speak of his contribution to tax consultancy, garden design and croquet (on which he published several books); this appreciation focuses on his foundational contribution to the cross-disciplinary approach represented by MODEM[ii].

It is appropriate that I find myself writing this notice on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Rudge’s groundbreaking work, Ministry and Management. The 1968 book was a published version of his PhD thesis at Leeds University, which grew out of an earlier Diploma at St Augustine’s College, Canterbury (Rudge had left his native Australia to study in the UK). The examiner of the original Diploma wrote, ‘Mr Rudge took a considerable risk in settling on his subject. He was not making a new approach to an old subject but a new approach to a new subject’[iii]. Rudge brought his training in both theology and sociology to bear, as well as a practical, pastoral streak that would subsequently lead to the establishment of the consultancy, CORAT (Christian Organisations, Research and Advisory Trust).

CORAT operated internationally for some decades: a review of its UK activities in the early 1990s, and some widely attended meetings, led to the establishment of MODEM[iv]. It was appropriate that the title of MODEM’s first book, Management and Ministry[v], mirrored Rudge.

Peter was a long distance supporter of MODEM from his home in Australia, where he lived with his UK-born wife, Pat. As email communication grew, he was often more engaged than many more local, and younger, members. He was encouraging with his praise, when he saw something that he liked. Even in his ninth decade, he didn’t let his standards slip: when I was somewhat dilatory in supplying a chapter for his memoir, he sent me a draft of what he thought I should say, inviting (daring?) me to correct it! Which I duly did.

In many ways, Rudge was ahead of his time. He once told me that only one person had ‘got’ what he was striving for with academic rigour: Clare Watkins in a 1992 article in Theological Studies[vi]. His promotion of such concepts as management, administration, and bureaucracy were at risk of being crowded out by a headlong rush to leadership. I suspect Peter would have enjoyed the rehabilitation of Max Weber’s work in a recent contrarian history of management[vii].

I never met Peter in person, and was still at primary school while he was writing Ministry and Management. But I began to get to know him through a decade-and-a-half of antipodean emailing, and especially through revisiting his books. MODEM should be proud to represent the legacy of such a pivotal thinker.

[Editor’s note: Keith Elford has a paper discussing Peter Rudge’s legacy on his own website.]

[i]Rudge, Peter (2015) Small Steps: Remarkable Outcomes. Tweed Heads South, NSW: CORAT. A small number of copies of this memoir, believed to be the only ones for sale in the UK, are available from Sarum College Bookshop.

[ii]For a fuller obituary, see the website of the Australian Province of the Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM), http://sacredmission.org/peter-rudge-1927-2017/

[iii]Undated paper (c1964) in Rudge Archive at Sarum College (http://www.sarum.ac.uk/library).

[iv]These developments are described in a chapter by John Nelson, a former Hon. Secretary of Modem, in the Small Stepsmemoir.

[v]Nelson, John, ed. (1996) Management and Ministry: Appreciating Contemporary Issues. Norwich: Canterbury Press.

[vi]Watkins, Clare (1991) ‘Organizing the People of God: Social-Science Theories of Organization in Ecclesiology’, Theological Studies, 52(4), 689-711. Clare is now a valued colleague at Roehampton University.

[vii]Cummings, Stephen, Todd Bridgman, John Hassard & Michael Rowlinson (2017) A New History of Management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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