Sociology ETDs

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The social norms and values of a church are often in conflict with the norms and values of the wider society. This study examines the processes of tension management and change within the Christian Reformed Church in response to its home mission activity.

The Christian Reformed Church is a confessional church highly resistant to change. In the past the church has minimized conflict through a pattern of geographical, social, and intellectual isolation. Since World War II, however, home mission activity has become insti­tutionalized within the church and assumes increasing importance as a means for growth.

To assess the effect of home mission activity upon the church, this study examines the ways in which the church manages tension in relation to eight selected church rules which are in conflict with the social norms of the wider society. Data are derived from denomin­ational literature and reports and from a questionnaire sent to all denominational home missionaries and to a modified random sample of ministers in regular churches.

Findings suggest that home mission activity induces tension primarily in three areas: between the church and society, between the church and partially socialized prospects and adherents, and within the church. The ways in which this tension is managed locally are determined largely by the degree of involvement of ministers and churches with the wider social system. More isolated churches tend toward traditionalism and exhibit a high resistance to change. Thus the Christian Reformed Church finds itself in a situation where its commitment to home missions produces a conflict with the goal of maintaining traditional norms, values, and behavior patterns.

Increased interaction with the wider social system through home mission activity results in a greater degree of adaptation, tension-management, and change in the direction of accommodation and openness.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Joseph Fashing

Second Committee Member

Richard F. Tomasson

Third Committee Member

Charles Woodhouse



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Sociology Commons