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Just Friendship: The Political and Societal Implications of the Practice of Relocation

GRINNELL, ANDREW,DAVID (2019) Just Friendship: The Political and Societal Implications of the Practice of Relocation. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Throughout the world people motivated by their Christian faith are relocating into low-income neighbourhoods, slums and shanty towns as a response to poverty. These practitioners (I call them relocators) believe that close proximity with people who experience poverty enables missional, ecclesial and spiritual transformation. In Just Friendship I propose that there are also political and societal implications of this practice and construct a theological framework that challenges relocators to incorporate this into their practice.

Initially I survey the literature written by relocators in the United Kingdom. I argue that their use of incarnational living to describe their practice is unhelpful as it oversimplifies the context and produces a reductionist theology. From this, I explore how the sociological frameworks of social citizenship, vulnerability and resilience provide a way of understanding the complexity of low-income neighbourhoods that ensures the theological framework relocators operate within addresses neighbourhoods appropriately.

The main theological claim of my thesis is that Samuel Wells’ trope of ‘being with’ is orientating language for the relocators’ practice. However, I argue that it overlooks and over-rejects the structural deficits within a neighbourhood and, as such, could be considered passive in the face of dehumanising structures.

By drawing upon the public theology of Elaine Graham and Duncan Forrester I argue that ‘being with’ may be expanded to respond to this claim and in doing so, I propose ‘being with(in)’ as appropriate theological language to describe the practice. Through incorporating collective social rights into a theological account of justice, relocators might be attentive to the ‘cries’ of neighbours and seek opportunities for neighbours to engage in the public square. Through this practice, new forms of economic and political relationships are formed. My conclusion is that relocators become part of a new generation of practical public theologians who may help reduce the gap between the churches’ public pronouncements and the experience of local people.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Theology and Ministry
Keywords:Relocators, Public Theology, Practical Theology, Samuel Wells, Poverty,
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jun 2019 10:27

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