English Baptist Denominational History as a Resource for Theological Reflection on Church Health

  • Catriona Gorton

Student thesis: Unknown


The University of ManchesterCatriona Julie Mae GortonMaster of PhilosophyDenominational History as a Resource for Theological Reflection on Church HealthYear of Submission: 2011'Knowledge of their past will inform the decisions [Baptists] take today which will shape their tomorrow.' These words of Baptist historian Barrie White along with some from Archbishop Rowan Williams, that to 'engage with the Church's past is to see something of the Church's future' which 'makes for the health of the church...' lie at the heart of my thesis that denominational history has the potential to form a valuable and engaging resource for theological reflection within the field usually termed church health, and specifically in the consideration of change, actual or potential, in pastoral practice. As a Practical Theologian, central to my approach is a belief that such reflection should be undertaken by and for the people who make up local congregations. My particular interest is in assisting local churches (congregations) to approach and manage change in ways that avoid the potential for destructive conflict: might it be that examples from denominational history form a valuable resource for reflection on processes that might be employed to approach contemporary issues? An initial survey of materials suggests that it might, but that in its current form it is largely inaccessible (literally and in relation to how it is presented). This submission presents a portfolio of work, based on the popular 'pastoral cycle' approach, exploring this possibility and establishing a way forward for developing a more accessible and engaging method to 'tell the story'.After a thorough literature, which presents an overview of developments in the disciplines of church health and history alongside an outline of readily available Baptist history, my publishable article develops a renewed vision for the Baptist Historical Society, the voluntary body which produces the majority of UK Baptist historical writing, taking account of insights gained. Specifically, the potential for a more narrative/literary approach with a recovery of theological/spiritual language is identified as a way forward in increasing accessibility and usability of this rich resource in the way I advocate. Three possible approaches to developing resources are identified and explored in the research proposal, ranging from almost entirely empirical to totally theoretical, with justification of why each constitutes Practical Theology. Emphasis shifts away from the central thesis in the reflective paper which explores questions of 'readers' and 'writers' in relation to my own work as a researcher and a practical theologian. A final reflection, in lieu of a conclusion, draws threads together and affirms my conviction that denominational history has the potential to provide a rich and fruitful resource for theological reflection in the area of church health.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorElaine Graham (Supervisor) & Peter Scott (Supervisor)


  • Church Health
  • Denominational History
  • Baptist
  • Practical Theology
  • Church History

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