Congregational study: Using an ethnographic methodology, the focus group, and a post-modern position for theological reflection after criticism of the critical correlation method

Barcroft, Ian David (2001) Congregational study: Using an ethnographic methodology, the focus group, and a post-modern position for theological reflection after criticism of the critical correlation method. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Describing a local congregational study, and placing it in context within the wider organisational framework of the larger institutional church, raises many issues about how the Church understands itself, and how it is viewed by the world around it. Studying a congregation also begins to question some of its basic assumptions; how it conditions the faith practice and experience of its members, as well as the ecclesiastical and theological tradition forming its sense of identity. A host of factors inter-relate. The religious experience, spirituality. etMcal considerations, sociological and psychological interactions of a geographical and historical group impact upon the gathering or congregation and form what is described by them as "church". This describes a fascinating and complex web of human interactions over a considerable time, which is worthy of study. It is made more fascinating by the knowledge that this group wish to practice and incorporate, within their own lives, a belief in the reality and coherent presence of a creative and redemptive God, historically incarnated through the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, fulfilling the idea of an eschatological community. A community convinced about living the life of the continuing Kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus' death and resurrection. They desire too. to continue a tradition and identity that has shaped the essence and form of this coirummity into an institution over a period of tvvo thousand years. It is an institution, wliich, in that period, has markedly affected the culture, behaviour, and endeavour of human thought and understanding, as well as defining the practice of Christian theology itself. Congregational study seeks to serve the direction of the rest of this thesis. Understanding the position of congregational study (Chapter 1) within the theological academic field, describes the engagement of the theological disciplines, with the social sciences and the actual situation, commonly termed the critical correlation method. It is a position that has many practitioners, and one exponent, Gerald A Arbuckle will be described (in Chapter 2). His writing offers a coherent strategy for examining the kind of changes congregations and organisational forms of churches are experiencing. However, the well documented and analysed condition of post- modernity (Chapter 3) may question the approach of critical correlation and suggest other methods of analysing the congregational situation using qualitative approaches (Chapter 4). Putting such a qualitative approach. Focus Groups, into practice (Chapter 5) offers a constructive way of developing congregational analysis and some reflection on the importance of the post-modern context, as well as introducing the idea of cultural specificity upon the ecclesiology and epistemology of what it is to be "church". In my final chapter (Chapter 6) I will offer a post-modern position for theological reflection. This approach, as conceived by congregational study, produces a local theology. It is a theology that embraces the local context. It engages with the well-documented condition of post-modernity, and suggests an inter-disciplinary approach for the congregation and its leadership, which is one of "reflexive praxis". Rather than producing a critical correlation methodology, coherent within its own structures of plausibility, I suggest an approach that is more fragile but recognizes ambivalences and contradictions within the historically situated, embodied and contingent congregation.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Advisers: William Storrar; David Jasper
Keywords: Religion
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-72203
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 15:11
Last Modified: 24 May 2019 15:11
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72203

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