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Title: Making ministers, making Methodism : an anthropological study of an English religious denomination
Author: Topham, Roberta Ruth
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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This study employs the methods of social anthropology to analyse the social and cultural dynamics of contemporary English Methodism. My initial premise is that a key aspect of Methodism is the holding together of the conflicting values of egalitarianism and hierarchy. By focusing on the making of Methodist ministers, I explore the different ways in which these values are held in creative tension across the institution. The thesis follows the life-cycle of the minister from the local Methodist church, through the ministerial selection procedures, training and probation and back into the local church. The national arena of the church is also examined. I draw specifically on fieldwork conducted in the Methodist churches of north Bedford, in two theological colleges in southern England and in the national church offices in London. Methodism is considered here in terms of practice. By employing Pierre Bourdieu's tool of habitus, I depict the core values which Methodists come to embody and outline how these values shape actions and attitudes across the institution. In addition, I argue that, through the ministerial selection and training processes, the Methodist habitus is modified in candidates into a distinct ministerial habitus. Another main focus is on the nature of power within Methodism. I analyse how ministers come to dominate at local and national levels, arguing that lay people collaborate in the creation of this domination and in turn are often benefited themselves. I also explore the way in which ministry is negotiated in relationships between lay and ordained people. In particular, I propose that the figure of the minister can helpfully be considered as a symbol, which is often differently understood by individuals, but which nonetheless plays an important part in uniting Methodist groups and thereby facilitating coherence and continuity. Thus it becomes evident that, in contributing to the making of ministers, Methodists are contributing to the making of Methodism, and engaging in a sometimes highly generative cycle of cultural reproduction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral