This thesis is situated in the literature of the history and sociology of Christian sects. It examines the history of the leadership system of a small Australian sect, the Apostolic Church of Queensland (ACQ). It will demonstrate its unorthodox leadership system, and it aims to gain an understanding of how the ACQ has sustained its sectarian character for over a century in an increasingly pluralist society. The ACQ has 27 houses of worship, all of which are in Queensland. The current estimate of membership is approximately 4,000 adherents. The principal markers of sectarian character for the ACQ in the terminology of scholarship are its practice of ‘exclusivity’ and its claim to be an ‘elite in the sole possession of the truth’. The thesis argues that the endurance of the ACQ’s sectarian character is due to the preservation of a leader-centric worldview. A core element of this worldview is the belief that the gift of the ‘Holy Ghost’ (the ACQ continues to use this terminology) is only available through the laying on of hands by the restored apostolate of the Early Church. Accordingly, the ACQ claims that the restored apostolate is indispensable to salvation.
The history of the ACQ’s leader-centric worldview is analysed using sociological tools, specifically, Max Weber’s Ideal Type theory, Richard Hutch’s (1991) leadership theory interpreted sociologically rather than psychologically, and Edward Shils’ (1965) neo-Weberian expanded concept of charisma. Such analysis has revealed that the sect’s (apostle office) leader-centric worldview and attendant sectarian character are best preserved by Ideal Type leaders who engage effective neo-Hutchian leadership styles of Self-Encountering, Group-Containing, and Tradition-Managing. This outcome has been particularly so for the traditionalist faction of the sect. However, the sectarian character in the liberal faction of the sect has not fared so well because this faction has relinquished its traditional claim that the apostle office is indispensable to salvation.