When theologians, who care about church, spirituality, and theology, conduct empirical, ecclesiological studies, our underlying normative values impact the entire research process and results in unhelpful or helpful ways. In this article I propose that attending to precisely reflexivity might change our initial, naïve normativity from an implicit to an explicit normativity. I suggest that if these normative values are brought to the table, and self-critically and honestly reflected on, the initially naïve normativity can prove to be an interpretive key in unlocking the data, thus helping us understand the phenomenon under investigation in a more nuanced way. When making this claim, I mainly draw on my own empirical study on clergy spirituality in the Church of Norway (CofN), but also bring in the work of other scholars, and in particular Mary McClintock Fulkerson’s ethnographic work and “theology in four voices” proposed by the arcs team.
Jan-Olav (ed.) Henriksen“Normative Dimensions in Empirical Research on Religion, Values, and Society,” in Difficult Normativity: Normative Dimensions in Research on Religion and Theologyed. Jan-Olav (ed.) Henriksen (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang 2011). p. 17.
Mary McClintock FulkersonPlaces of Redemption (Oxford: Oxford University Press2007).; Mary McClintock Fulkerson “Interpreting a Situation: When Is “Empirical” Also “Theological”?” in Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Ethnography ed. Pete Ward Studies in Ecclesiology and Ethnography (Grand Rapids mi: Eerdmans Publishing Company 2012). p. 124.; Clare et al Watkins “Practical Ecclesiology: What Counts as Theology in Studying the Church?” ibid. p. 176–178.
See Richard R. Osmer“The United States,” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Practical Theologyed. Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore (Malden ma: Wiley Blackwell 2014 ); Gordon S. Mikoski “Mainline Protestantism” ibid.
Pete Ward“Attention and Conversation,” in Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Ethnographyed. Pete Ward Studies in Ecclesiology and Ethnography (Grand Rapids mi: Eerdmans Publishing Company 2012). p. 37 italics mine.
Paul Heelas and Linda WoodheadReligion in Modern Times: An Interpretive Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell2000); The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion Is Giving Way to Spirituality Religion and Spirituality in the Modern World (Malden Mass.: Blackwell Publ. 2005).
Elizabeth DreyerEarth Crammed with Heaven: A Spirituality of Everyday Life (New York: Paulist Pr1994); Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore In the Midst of Chaos : Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice The Practices of Faith Series (San Francisco Calif.: Wiley 2007).
Todd Whitmore“Whiteness Made Visible: A Theo-Critical Ethnography in Acoliland,” in Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethicsed. Christian B. and Vigen Scharen Aana Marie (New York: Continuum 2011). p. 185.
AfdalResearching Religious Education as Social Practice20. p 74–75. See also Ideström “‘It is that Loving Gaze’ Expressive Ecclesiologies in a Structured Group Conversation” Ecclesial Practices 2.1 pp. 108–120.