Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Congregational identity work through communicative texts: The Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church
by Smith, Gregoria Dumlao, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2014, 297; 3613255
Abstract (Summary)

Facing the threat of schism in a globalized church by a proposed ban on bishops in openly gay relationships, a parish rector turned to reconstructive rhetoric to promote a unified identity among members of his congregation. This case study uses a sampling of sermons delivered by the Reverend James Nutter, former rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, to examine how rhetoric was used to address his congregation, to promote and support collective identity in a potentially divisive atmosphere. The research asks, what was accomplished by the rhetoric and what resources did the congregants themselves bring into play in constructing and maintaining the collective identity of their community? The goal of this research was to find a resonant representative anecdote summing up the parish's organizational identity. The study uses Burke's theory of identification, which involves a systematic clustering of terms that denote association, disassociation, and transcendence. Data sources consist of 37 primary sample documents from sermons, personal interviews, and a focus group analyzed as a Hermeneutic Unit in the Social Scientific Program, ATLAS.ti. The multi-step qualitative research included close reading, content analysis, and coding of umbrella constructs, constructs, and coding themes, which were clustered into semantic maps of coding networks. The study also drew from discourse, church identity, and organizational theories. It contributes to rhetorical theory in the use of parables as analogical extensions that validate the Christian tenet of “families” gathering at the table despite diversity, and the resistance at Palmer to the actions of global church leaders that were perceived to marginalize gay members of the community. Congregants echoed the cognitive patterns embedded in the parables, connecting them to their own experience and practice of being members of the congregation. When identity work includes a seasoned preacher effectively addressing a competent audience in the pews, parish identity is found to be similar to, but not identical with the denominational identity. The result was an alignment of shared values in Palmer`s representative anecdote, In my Father's mansion, there is room for you.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Persons, Georgia A.
Commitee: Baca, Leonard M., Foss, Karen A., Gibson, Sara, Lopes, Milton E.
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: The School of Human and Organization Development
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religion, Organization Theory, Rhetoric
Keywords: Church conflict, Identification, Identity work, Kenneth burke, Representative anecdtote, Rhetorical criticism
Publication Number: 3613255
ISBN: 9781303755156
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