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Durham e-Theses
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Urban Saints: An Interweaving Ecclesiology as a
Contribution to the Fresh Expressions Debate

SCANLAN, MARK,CHRISTOPHER (2017) Urban Saints: An Interweaving Ecclesiology as a
Contribution to the Fresh Expressions Debate.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis is a work of practical theology that offers a contribution to contemporary conversations about church and mission in the UK. It does this by exploring the underlying ecclesiology of Urban Saints (formerly known as The Crusaders’ Union of Bible Classes) before placing this in dialogue with Fresh Expressions. Taking an approach that uses the framework of the Four Voices of Theology developed by the Action Research Church and Society project to set up an open-ended dialogue between theological theory and practice a two-step methodology is employed. The first step draws on an historical review of Urban Saints’ practice to uncover an inherent ecclesial imagination in their work, alongside extended ethnographic case studies of two current Urban Saints groups that explore their operant ecclesiological approach. Taken together these highlight contradictions and ambiguity regarding the church. Participants however are able to appropriate the groups as part of their ecclesial life. As such the groups operate as potential ecclesial spaces. These spaces can then become part of a flexible form of church through what is interpreted as an interweaving ecclesiological approach. This reflects how the groups are used alongside various other communal Christian experiences and relationships to stimulate and support Christian faith. The second methodological step places this interweaving ecclesiology into conversation with Fresh Expressions to challenge and critique its church focused approach to mission. The argument is made that an interweaving ecclesiology utilizing potential ecclesial spaces, such as those of the Urban Saints groups, nuances the Fresh Expressions debate by resisting the drive to form mature churches as a necessary missional step. This moves the Fresh Expressions conversation on from discussions about what defines a church to allow for a focus on mission with a flexible ecclesiology not designed for stability but that can handle change.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:practical theology, youth ministry, fresh expressions, ecclesiology, mission, Urban Saints, evangelical
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Feb 2018 12:11

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