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Title: Widening participation in the church : an ethnographic case study of two Evangelical Churches in relation to inclusion of believers with intellectual impairments
Author: MacKenney-Jeffs, Frances
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores the relationship between the Church and disabled believers and thus locates itself within the debate surrounding the Disability Movement and the institutional Christian Church. In particular, it examines the validity of claims that the Church constitutes a further form of oppression for persons with disabilities: at the theoretical level by constructing disability negatively, and at the practical level by being exclusive of disabled people. Part One aims to locate Christian theology and praxis in the context of the emergent and broadly secular debate on disability and emancipatory practice with the Disability Movement. It explores the secular discourse of disability in society in general and in the Judaeo-Christian faith across time. Part Two aims to explore Christian praxis and applied theology in relation to the issues raised by the Disability Movement, focusing especially on the issue of widening participation for persons with disabilities, and in particular those with intellectual impairments, within the Evangelical Church. It presents the results of a pioneering empirical case study, conducted at two Evangelical sites over a one-year period, that combines the sociological method of participant observation and interviewing with an ethnographic case study approach. Part Three aims to develop Christian theological perspectives by offering an explicit theological rationale for reflexive practice with regard to disability, in the light of insights gleaned from the previous two sections. It is designed both to enhance theory and practice within the Church and to enrich the secular debate on disability. Both disablist and feminist ecclesiologies are engaged with, and the work of Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox theologians is drawn upon. The major findings of the thesis are threefold: First, contrary to charges made by some secularists, among others within the Disability Movement, the practice of the Christian communities observed during the empirical research reveals patterns of good practice, with significantly high levels of social inclusion. Second, the ability of helpers and leaders within these communities to articulate their understanding of disability was limited and fragmented: they frequently oscillated between theological and secular perspectives and struggled to conceptualise their practice in a theologically coherent and holistic way. Third, the theological resources available to the Church, especially in relation to issues of suffering, personhood and emancipation have the potential to further the reflexive practice of the Church and to make a substantial contribution to the discourse and praxis of the secular Disability Movement.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available