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Joining New Congregations – Motives, Ways and Consequences

A Comparative Study of New Congregations in a Norwegian Folk Church Context and a Thai Minority Context


Morten Sandland

Why do people join new congregations? How does this happen? And which consequences does this have for people’s belief and behavior? These are the main questions addressed in this comparative case study from the distinctively different contexts of Norway and Thailand. While joining a new congregation in Thailand in most cases is understood in terms of conversion, what happens in the Norwegian context is mainly referred to as a process of revitalized commitment. However, common in both contexts was that joining a new congregation implied an aspect of religious change. In order to understand this change, the author applies perspectives from contemporal conversion studies, such as Lewis R. Rambo’s typology of conversion, and from anthropological studies of change.
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This book is a revision of my dissertation, presented to the School of Mission and Theology in Stavanger, Norway, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in theology. The dissertation was successfully defended October 2011, and I am happy that the editor, Prof. Frieder Ludwig, University of Applied Sciences for Intercultural Theology, Hermannsburg, has accepted publication of this revised edition in the “Studies in the Intercultural History of Christianity” series.

For a research project to be fruitful it requires supportive partners. First of all I am very grateful to the School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, for granting me a four-year Ph.D. student grant and the facilities needed to do my research. I would like to thank my two supervisors, Prof. Knut Alfsvåg, School of Mission and Theology, and Prof. Harald Hegstad, MF Norwegian School of Theology, for their comments during the different phases of the research. Thanks also to all my colleagues who in various ways have given valuable comments, in particular to Associate Prof. Kari Storstein Haug for support and comments at various stages of the process.

I wish to thank also my respondents in Fahoan and Bærland congregations, who shared their time and stories with me. Thanks also to the staffs of the two congregations for their including attitude and for their support during my fieldwork. Thanks to my dear friend Subin Wangdee and his family for taking care of me and supporting me during my two periods...

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