Fortress Press

Unraveling Religious Leadership: Power, Authority, and Decoloniality

Unraveling Religious Leadership

Power, Authority, and Decoloniality

Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi (Author)


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Unraveling Religious Leadership considers various attributes related to the form and function of leadership within religious institutions in conversation with decolonial ideas and practices. Decoloniality, in negation of the ongoing legacies of colonialism, seeks ways of being and doing beyond white, eurowestern, modern ideals of who a leader is and what a leader does, especially in the context of Christianity and its entanglements with empire. In this book, Lizardy-Hajbi draws upon decolonial ideas, worldviews, and practices to question the current assumed understandings of religious leadership as individual, singular in role and structure, centralizing in power, possessing of expertise and select qualifications, production-oriented, and primarily change-inducing. Pulling on each of these threads invites a reconsideration of the epistemologies (knowledges) and ontologies (notions of being) that give shape to religious leadership in North American Christianity today.

Lizardy-Hajbi's innovative approach directly challenges popular leadership styles in wide use among leaders today, placing these styles in conversation with decolonial scholarship, diverse realities and worldviews, and practices that disrupt idealized norms. Popular styles such as authentic, charismatic, servant, executive, and transformational leadership are found wanting in terms of their substance and utility for meaningful leadership within religious institutions. Ultimately, Lizardy-Hajbi engages readers by presenting alternative constructions that consider the myriad complexities within both the role and function of leadership, offering new ways to frame the leadership identities the church needs for today's world.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506496542
  • eBook ISBN 9781506496559
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 237
  • Publication Date April 23, 2024


Regarding colonialism and decoloniality, historically perhaps one of the most ambiguous figures is the Christian religious leader. Like a skilled seamstress, Latina theologian Lizardy-Hajbi carefully examines this leadership function in terms of personhood, roles, authority, expertise, and change in the context of postcolonial North America, pulling out several threads of the fabric of colonialism and relinking strands into a quilt of many colors. Unraveling Religious Leadership is a must-read for all leaders in these politically and religiously turbulent times.

Emmanuel Y. Lartey, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Pastoral Theology and Spiritual Care, Emory University; bishop, North America Mission Diocese, Methodist Church, Ghana

Leadership formation in the West is a colonial enterprise, and Dr. Lizardy-Hajbi kept the receipts! Unraveling Religious Leadership provides a necessary decolonial intervention in the Christian leadership field, and one that pastors and religious leaders should pay attention to.

Patrick B. Reyes, dean, Auburn Theological Seminary

Whether or not readers entirely agree with the various approaches and challenges to colonial realities presented in this book, they will come away with a clearer sense of why faith communities will hardly make a difference without a thorough sense of their accommodation to the dominant status quo. One of the striking insights of this book is how even progressive efforts to promote social justice fail without a deeper understanding of our colonial-turned-capitalist predicament.

Joerg Rieger, distinguished professor of theology, Vanderbilt University Divinity School

Colonialism breeds a persistent sense of normativity and power dominance. As a result, topics like leadership always tend to be framed around the colonial center. Whether leadership is configured around business, politics, church, or nonprofit enterprises, leadership is culturally bounded and limited in its creative scope. In Unraveling Religious Leadership: Power, Authority, and Decoloniality, Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi has given us new ways of imagining the topic, built around a decolonizing vision.

Tink Tinker, professor emeritus of Indian Studies, Iliff School of Theology