Espoused voices in creative tension : what case studies of Christian congregations in Scotland and Germany reveal about mission as fresh expressing church
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This research examines the mission definitions of church members and church leaders of four local congregations in Scotland and Germany. Of particular interest is what tensions arise when one engages with these different and diverting mission understandings, sometimes publicly communicated in a church’s mission statement. The underlying research question addresses the suitability of the fresh expressions of Church concept for the local church context from both perspectives, the denominational and the local church mission strategies. Methodologically, this research presents an exercise in theological action research in the context of two Church of Scotland congregations and two United churches in Germany. Through the triangulation process, theological reflections on a local mission initiative are considered in the different settings of the insider team, a focus group, and in two interviews with the minister. By working with the four voices method in a cyclical process (including a stage of data-coding) an increasing inquiry into the espoused theological voice emerged, resulting in the key finding of this research, which alters the theological action research methodology: focusing on participant’s statements about what they believe and regarding their mission results in a choir of espoused voices that exist in harmony and (creative) tension. Consequently, when working with theological action research and the four voices method, one hears ‘a choir within a choir’, i.e., one engages with espoused theological voices amongst the four theological voices. These espoused theological voices are spoken in accents of the normative and formal voice and present an epistemic event, in which theory and praxis meet. This dissertation contributes to the international discourse of practical theology and to the methodological discourse held within the British practical theology. Tapping into the contemporary international discourses of missiology and congregational studies, a broad engagement with the context of the local church is provided.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2028-05-12
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 12th May 2028
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