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Emerging church or re-emerging church: Fresh Expressions of Church in The Methodist Church in Great Britain

posted on 2023-08-30, 19:39 authored by Simon C. Edwards
This thesis argues that Fresh Expressions of Church challenge the ecclesiology of The Methodist Church in Britain, and addresses the question ‘in what sense are fresh expressions within the Connexion discernibly Methodist expressions of church?’ This research identifies ecclesiological challenges and articulates ways that they might be overcome. Fresh Expressions of Church is a relatively new concept which has become popular amongst Methodist churches and circuits. There is little academic literature available on fresh expressions in a Methodist context; in this thesis I address this lack of attention. The research design employed qualitative methods. Four Methodist fresh expressions are examined as case studies, using non-participatory observation and interviews with participants. This data is analysed using a thematic analysis. The elements which form an emerging fresh expressions ecclesiology were revealed through the examination of Fresh Expressions literature and the case studies. This thesis argues that the emerging ecclesiology of fresh expressions of church brings with it challenges to Methodist ecclesiology relating to three themes: the ecclesial identity of fresh expressions, the nature of authority and leadership, and the relationship to the Connexion. The thesis explores these challenges in relation to the Methodist Church’s self-understanding as a Connexion. This thesis argues that fresh expressions struggle to be discernibly Methodist expressions of church, but reimagining the pragmatic and evolutionary nature of contemporary Methodist ecclesiology will ensure that ecclesiology evolves and that the Connexion can be maintained. This research proposes forms of new, or reaffirmed, practice to address the challenges which fresh expressions pose to The Methodist Church in Britain.



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