Social conflict and religious reform: a Protestant church in a Prairie Province mining town

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The purpose of this paper is to provide a descriptive analysis of a reform movement and conflict which developed within a church congregation. Conflict erupted between those who opposed changes in the organization and practices of the church and those who led the reform movement which instituted them. Both aspects of the study are examined against the backdrop of the community. Data were collected from interviews and questionnaires and from church records and documents. Statistics supplied by the mining company and town supplemented this information. Several differences were found between those who supported change and those who did not. Those who opposed change were more concerned with survival or maintenance of the institution in and for itself. The reformers showed greater interest in religious training, the promotion of the intended meaning of the Christian symbols and worship and for service or involvement in the larger community . The parties of the conflict also differed on such characteristics as age, education and occupational position. Those who supported change tended to be younger, more educated and did not occupy the highest positions in the mining company. Other aspects of the community such as the radio, the press and social and recreational organizations also became involved in or were affected by the conflict in the church. The reform movement was ultimately rejected by the church with the aid of church courts which sent representatives to investigate, make and implement recommendations designed to resolve the conflict and provide a basis for reconciliation . Reconciliation was only partly achieved but the conflict was resolved; some people quit , many were able to compromise and the remainder joined other churches. Generally , the United Church of Canada appears to be unsusceptible to a change in goal orientation if the courts alone are used. The diversified membership of such an organization makes conflict over reorientation of goals inevitable. If the conflict becomes organized it prohibits change. The model provided by Dahrendorf was particularly appropriate for examining a problem of this kind since it was suited to answering the question, how could change have been brought about, conflict withstanding? But it was difficult to apply the model to this situation where the authority structure was not clearly defined. In the United Church while constitutionally the authority was vested in the church courts, historically it has lain with the congregation. Consequently, to institute changes it is necessary to reach a high degree of consensus among the members of the whole church body.
Bibliography: p. 146-148.
Kinsley, B. L. (1968). Social conflict and religious reform: a Protestant church in a Prairie Province mining town (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/14469