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A Practical Theology of Decision-making in the Context of Church Closures

DEIGH, RACHEL,DENISE (2024) A Practical Theology of Decision-making in the Context of Church Closures. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis explores the theology involved in decision-making in the context of church closures. It is essentially a conversation between three partners: two case studies of Methodist churches which were closing; a literature review of closing churches which identified death/dying as the predominant language; and a theological exploration of baptism.
I argue that using the language of death/dying in this context is a lazy metaphor. The language is often based more on secular understandings of death/dying than on theological ones, while the case studies highlight a dislike of the death/dying metaphor and an absence of articulated theology in the decision-making processes. Taking all this into consideration I argue that death/dying language is not helpful in this context unless it is used in relation to participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In light of the absence of articulated theology from the case studies, I explore Methodist approaches to theological reflection and what this might look like in order to help in decision-making. In response to the death/dying metaphor I suggest that renewed attention be paid to the sacraments of the church in order to reappropriate the language of death/dying, with particular attention being paid to Baptism as participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. I argue that this would improve theological decision-making specifically, and give a pattern for discipleship generally. The example that Christ sets is one of self-denial and self-emptying, of embodying the dynamic of dying and rising in the whole of life and therefore provides a basis on which to make decisions theologically and collectively about the church’s future. Thus, moving the conversation of church closure away from the usual factors of decision-making: finance, the condition of the building, people, and the lack of mission, in order to challenge the idea of what closing a church “well” might look like from a theological perspective which is embodied in the life of the church and is a lived expression of discipleship.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Theology and Ministry
Keywords:Methodist; Church; closure; decline; death; decision-making; Practical Theology; baptism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jun 2024 10:54

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