• Tensions in charismatic-evangelical urban practice: Towards a practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic

      Baker, Christopher; Wier, Andrew P. (University of Chester, 2013-03)
      The past fifteen years have witnessed a growing engagement with disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods on the part of UK charismatic-evangelical churches. Yet this has received little attention within previous academic studies across a variety of disciplines (voluntary sector studies; the sociology of religion; Christian social ethics; and evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal theology). In addressing these gaps, this study achieves two main purposes. Firstly, it enables greater understanding of charismatic-evangelical motivation and urban practice. Secondly, it reflects theologically on such motivation and practice, and articulates a distinctive practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic. To do this, the study drew on models of practical theology to integrate qualitative research with theological reflection. Given the under-researched nature of the subject area, an exploratory, inductive, and multi-method research approach was chosen. This combined an ethnographic study of a charismatic-evangelical urban church with focus groups in a further three charismatic-evangelical churches. Analysis of the qualitative data gathered led to the identification of six tensions that characterise contemporary charismatic-evangelical urban practice. An engagement with other bodies of literature then found that all six tensions have some resonance with the findings of previous research in voluntary sector studies and the sociology of religion. However, it also revealed that the experience of UK charismatic-evangelical urban churches challenges certain established understandings in these disciplines. The task of (more explicit) theological reflection involved a series of facilitated dialogues between charismatic-evangelical urban practice and theoretical approaches to Christian social ethics. These dialogues then led on to an attempt to construct a distinctive practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic. This is presented as a creative response to the tensions encountered in charismatic-evangelical urban practice that is both consistent with charismatic-evangelical convictions and open to insights from other traditions. The thesis makes two main contributions to academic knowledge. Firstly, it brings a greater understanding of charismatic-evangelical urban practice to the disciplines of voluntary sector studies and the sociology of religion. Secondly, it represents both a contribution and a challenge to established theoretical perspectives in Christian social ethics and evangelical theology. Contributing as it does to a variety of academic disciplines, as well as enhancing institutional and professional knowledge, this is a not a prepositional thesis, but a foundational one. As such, it opens up a new field of enquiry and sets out theoretical conceptions intended to provoke further scholarly enquiry and reflective practice.