Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Gary M. Simpson


This ethnographic phenomenology explores the lived theology of an urban congregation as it engages with civil society. Drawing methodological considerations from Jen-Luc Marion, Paul Ricoeur, and James Clifford, the research journey attends theologically to the sociality embodied both within the congregation and with its neighborhood for the sake of participating with this congregation in bringing to discourse its lived evangelical, public, and missional theological strands.

Drawing upon Charles Taylor's use of moral frameworks in relationship to narratives, practices, and goods, the evangelical strand explores intimacy as a strongly valued good. Theologically, such a good makes possible James McClendon's vision of a community of watch-care that bodies-forth a politics of forgiveness rooted in the Gospel. The evangelical narrative names intimate, authentic, and face-to-face relationships as participating in the Gospel of reconciled relationships. But such a narrative also excludes, for it understands Christian identity in relationship to firm boundaries.

The public strand narrates the congregation's perduring presence in and with the public life at its margins. Drawing upon McClendon and Miroslav Volf, the researcher shows how the congregation innovates with the theme of embodied witness to demonstrate generative reciprocality in the congregation's public life. Its public life at the margins both bears witness-to and bears witness-with its neighbors in the generation of a common life Innovating with David Tracy's 'mutually critical correlation,' the congregation's embodied witness is a 'mutually critical participation' in and with public life. But such reciprocal witnessing is experienced by the congregation as a loss of its evangelical-intimacy narratives and thus its public life is often considered non-theologically.

The missional strand disclosed to the congregation both this lack of theological attention and an emergent metaphor of 'sowing' by which the congregation articulated its trust in God's faithfulness in its present liminality created by the public strand. As such, the missional strand demonstrates the possibility of genuine theological innovation on the part of the congregation to recognizing the gift of the 'other' and stranger in its midst, the gift of a public life on the way to God's future in Christ.