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Ecclesial Practices Unit

Call for Proposals

Accountability at the Intersections of Theology and Ethnography
We invite papers addressing variations on the question: to what and to whom is a theological ethnographer accountable, and how should that accountability shape our research choices from field to text? Submissions that incorporate original fieldwork will be prioritized.

Papers addressing how the researcher’s religious, denominational or confessional identity and/or their faith and spiritual practices shape their ethnographic/theological convictions are especially welcome. Such papers might query what role faith should (or should not) play in theological ethnographic projects; how particular faith commitments shape a researcher’s accountability to their other communities of belonging and/or various ways of embodying identity and difference; what interpretive/analytic possibilities personal faith and theological commitments should (or should not) provide. Theological ethnographers often share more in common with their research subjects/partners than other ethnographers do – particularly because we often study ‘our own’. How, then, might such relationships shape theological ethnographies at both their fieldwork and writing stages?

Statement of Purpose

Ecclesial Practices provides a collaborative space at the intersection of ethnographic and other qualitative approaches and theological approaches to the study of ecclesial practices. This might include churches, other (new, emerging, para-church, and virtual) communities, and lived faith in daily life. International in scope, the unit encourages research contributing to a deeper understanding of “church in practice” in a global context, including decolonization and postcolonial theologies. The unit encourages ongoing research in the following areas:

• Empirical and theological approaches to the study of ecclesial communities (churches, congregations, and emerging communities), especially as interdisciplinary efforts to understand lived faith and practice extending from them
• Studies of specific ecclesial activities, e.g. music, liturgy, arts, social justice, youth work, preaching, pastoral care, rites of passage, community organizing
• Studies of global contexts of lived faith in relation to ecclesial communities, for example, decolonizing and postcolonial theory and theology
• Discussions of congregational growth and decline, new church movements, and ecclesial experiments connected to shared practices in a worldly church
• Explorations of Christian doctrine in relation to the potential implications of empirical and qualitative research on ecclesial communities and lived faith for discerning, defining, and challenging standard theological genres such as systematics and doctrine, as well as inviting new ways to understand normative logics
• Discussions of methodological issues with regard to qualitative research on theological topics, especially related to ecclesial communities and lived faith
• Discussions (both substantive and methodological) of the implications of new technologies and digital cultures for ecclesial communities and lived faith


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members

Review Process Comments

We have the committee do the rankings, and the chairs summarize and make suggestions based on the rankings to the committee.