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Theological perspectives on accounting: worldviews don’t change overnight

Ken McPhail (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Carolyn J. Cordery (Department of Accounting, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 8 August 2019

Issue publication date: 19 November 2019




The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the 2004 AAAJ special issue (SI): “Accounting and theology, an introduction: Initiating a dialogue between immediacy and eternity,” the relative immediate impact of the call for papers and the relevance of the theme to address issues in accounting today and in the future.


The paper is a reflection and is framed around three different modes of engagement with new perspectives as identified by Orlikowski (2015). These are religion as phenomenon, as perspective and as a worldview. The authors draw on Burrell and Morgan’s (1979) framework in order to explore the ontological and epistemological blinkers that have limited the attempts to explore accounting from a theological perspective.


The paper argues that historical and current structures can limit the manner in which accounting research uses theological perspectives. Indeed, the concerns of the initial SI remain – that the contemporary economic and knowledge system is in crisis and alternative ways of questioning are required to understand and respond to this system.

Research limitations/implications

As a reflection, this paper is subject to limitations of author bias relating to our beliefs, ethnicities and culture. The authors have sought to reduce these by drawing on a wide range of sources, critical analysis and the input of feedback from other scholars. Nevertheless, the narrative of impact remains a continuing story.


In drawing on both an original SI guest editor and a scholar for whom the 2004 SI has become a touchstone and springboard, this paper provides multiple viewpoints on the issue of accounting and theology.



Dedication: The authors dedicate this paper to Kerry Jacobs, New Zealand born, he was most recently Professor at University of New South Wales, Canberra. Kerry was a strong supporter of colleagues whether they were new or established researchers. His interests were wide, having completed his PhD during the NPM reforms, he continued a strong interest in public sector accountability and governance and also became an acknowledged expert in Bourdieusian theory and accounting. Kerry also had a strong faith and contributed toward the development of religious perspectives on accounting. He was a contributor to the 2004 special issue on Accounting and Theology. The authors are grateful to Garry Carnegie for the opportunity to write this paper and reflect on the impact of the 20004 AAAJ special issue. The authors also appreciate the feedback from colleagues in a seminar presented at Aston University.

This paper forms part of a special section “Special issue: AAAJ and research innovation - the next decade 1998 to 2007”.


McPhail, K. and Cordery, C.J. (2019), "Theological perspectives on accounting: worldviews don’t change overnight", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 8, pp. 2330-2352.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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