SWF 2017 Overview of Theological Action Research by Susy Brouard
I used a research method called Theological Action Research and I’m not going to go into great detail about that, but just a few things might be helpful. Theological Action Research – one of its aims – is to enhance the faith community’s theological capacity both in terms of words and action. The authors of Talking about God in Practice – Theological Action Research and Practical Theology have this one sentence definition: “Theological Action Research is a partnership between an insider and outsider team… …to undertake research and conversations answering theological questions about faithful practice… …in order to renew both theology and practice… …in the service of God’s mission.” So, for an organisation like CAFOD this is ideal because it’s about action research but it’s also theological. One of the characteristics of Theological Action Research which you might find helpful to think about in your own context is that is says it brings together different theological voices. They call them the ‘normative’ theological voice which for CAFOD would be scripture and official Catholic social teaching. For those of you from different denominations, it would be something else The Bible, scripture, would definitely be much more prominent in some congregations The “formal” theology, the theology of theologians So again for CAFOD, the theologians we might look to would be the liberation theologians, for example. Then the “espoused” theology, so the theology embedded within a group’s articulation of its beliefs. That’s what I started with; this is the ‘shop window’, this is what we espouse, this is what we say about ourselves. But it also brings together the “operant” theology, the theology embedded within the actual practices of the group So this is what we say about ourselves, the espoused theology, and our operant theology is actually what goes on. And if you bring those voices of theology together, the theological action research authors would say that you get a theology of disclosure, that something is uncovered. And obviously for some churches and some church organisations, That can be quite, well, you don’t know what’s going to come up! Myself, as an insider researcher, I was a bit nervous because obviously I didn’t know what was going to come up, whether I was going to lose my job at CAFOD because all sorts of things were going to come up that were critiquing the organisation.