A churchless faith : faith outside the evangelical Pentecostal/charismatic church of New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This research contributes to the growing literature on religious disaffiliation by considering the leaving process in one stream of the church which has not been the focus of previous qualitative studies - evangelical Pentecostal and charismatic churches in New Zealand. Contrary to expectation the findings show that long term, middle aged, key leadership people who were previously very committed to their churches are leaving such churches but not their faith. The research shows that such people leave due to fundamental transitions in the nature of their faith rather than because of a repudiation of that faith. Given the complex relationship that exists between individuals, their church and the wider society, it is suggested that it is the divergent changes within the wider society and the church that are encouraging increasing numbers of previously committed church participants and leaders to re-evaluate their faith. James Fowler's faith development model is used as a 'scaffold for insight' to explore these issues. Leavers are categorised into four groups displaying significantly different faith contents, understandings and operations. These groupings are not isolated faith positions but form way-points in discernible trajectories of faith. The formation of groups of church leavers are considered and an ongoing dialogue between them and the leaders of evangelical Pentecostal and charismatic churches proposed. Such a conversation is postulated as one way forward for the institutional churches and the isolated post-church groups in an increasinglypostmodem society. The research is based on interviews with ninety eight church leavers, ten marginal church attenders, fifty four church leaders and the participant observations of the researcher. Interviewees were located through a snowballing technique, a methodology that both shapes and limits the nature of the findings.