Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Sociology


This is a thesis in the sociology of knowledge that examines the social constructions of reality which Australian Christian communitarians engage in to sustain a Christian worldview. From a phenomenological viewpoint it investigates the motivations of four thousand Australian Christians who have formed intentional communities to reverse the cognitive secularisation of faith and practice within the institutional church and wider society. It is argued that Christian community represents an intentional attempt to desecularise the communitarians worldview by providing an alternative site, the communal, in which 'appropriate' Christianity may be practised. As such these communitarians are using the communal form as one possible alternative social construction. Other mechanisms are postulated and the choice of the communal by an otherwise conservative social group is discussed.

As a first work in the area the discussion traces the rise of this communal form historically and distinguishes it from other Australian Communal ventures. The study is seen as a complementary work to Peter Cock's 1977 study of Bourgeois and Countercultural communities, rounding out the major forms of communal expression in Australia. It argues that the Christian communal should not be equated with the larger countercultural movement, being essentially socially conservative.

The thesis identifies five subgroupings of Christian Communitarians:- the leadership, the aspirant leadership, the undecided crytocore, the needy or welfare recipients and the committed core. This last group is found to be the dominant force expressing and maintaining community purposes and structures. Numerically and financially they dominate virtually every area of community life, in effect becoming the arbiters of community meanings.

In recognition of the committed core's dominance, the thesis examines the paths-to-community process by which the core make the transition from committed church adherents to committed communitarians. An ideal-type continuum is proposed to account for this shift involving seven stages:- The Engagement phase, Disillusionment, Disengagement, Disbelief, Privatisation, Dissonance and finally the Community phase. This process illustrates the impact of cognitive secularisation, as well as the responses of community building as a desecularisation device.

A closer examination of the committed core's motivation towards community reveals a number of interrelated themes which in combination make up the communal worldview. These themes define the communitarians'reaction to the institutional church:- The Church Universal, Secularisation and Authority-Leadership-Clergy, the because motivations towards community. Another cluster:- Acts 2, Renewal and Community and Family, are essentially prescriptions for change within the Christian confraternity. Two other themes: Simplicity and Social Action/Social Justice, relate the communitarians efforts to the wider society.

The study concludes with a discussion of Relevance, a sociol construct of some concern to this and other social groups experiencing fundamental shifts in worldview.