Congregations, Local Knowledge, and Devolution

Farnsley, Arthur Emery, II. “Congregations, Local Knowledge, and Devolution.” Review of Religious Research 42(1):96-110, September 2000.

In “Congregations, Local Knowledge, and Devolution,” Arthur Farnsley traces the different urban ecologies of two apparently similar Indianapolis neighborhoods to stress the importance of socio-religious variables to the role congregations play in community development and welfare reform. In light of the movement toward the devolution of social welfare services from the federal to the state and local levels, welfare reformers increasingly see congregations and other faith communities as important partners in community development and deliverers of value-oriented services. However, government, secular service providers and congregations themselves often do not adequately understand that the differing social ecologies in which congregations are engaged determine how congregations are able to provide such services. Farnsley demonstrates his thesis by examining the two Indianapolis neighborhoods of Mapleton-Creek and Martindale-Brightwood. He believes that sociologists of religion and other religious researchers must help political, civic and religious leaders gain a better understanding of the organizational and environmental variables of differing urban contexts if congregations are to contribute effectively to the welfare of their communities.

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