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Title: A socio-theological critique of fresh expressions in the Diocese of Canterbury
Author: Walker , John
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2012
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which the innovative theological praxis of 'Fresh Expressions of Church' can help reverse attendance decline. A combination of mixed-methods research and correlative theological analysis was used to evaluate fresh expressions praxis . . Existing quantitative data were used to illustrate a general reliance by churches on an experience of church attendance as a child for recruiting new adult churchgoers. However, recent trends of child attendance decline were shown to be increasing the proportion of adults with no child churchgoing experience (hereafter, 'unchurched adults') in the British population, thus threatening this strategy and implying an accelerated general decline. A study of fresh expressions and parish churches in the Diocese of Canterbury used quantitative and qualitative methods. Percentages of attendance by children were calculated from attendance records. Percentages of attendance by unchurched adults were calculated from 535 out of 607 questionnaires issued, a response rate of eighty-eight per cent. The processes by which newcomers are socialized into faith communities were investigated. through semistructured interviews with 103 participants. Two differences were found between fresh expressions and parish churches. Some fresh expressions, the 'Messy Churches', demonstrated a higher percentage of child attendance but a reduced ability to socialize adult newcomers. Fresh expressions were also better able to focus on specific social contexts. The socialization of newcomers was explained by a theory of cyclical reinforcement of changes to self-perception, integration into community and internalization of tradition. After applying a critical theological analysis using the typologies of Maurice, Troeltsch and Niebuhr, this study concludes that the major contribution of the fresh expressions movement is its capacity to reinvigorate the mission of all churches, but that Messy Churches, whether as fresh expressions or as an element of parish mission, may be particularly effective in helping reverse long-term decline.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available