Suanna Haston Davis

A rhetorical analysis of the influence of official missionary correspondence on community identity in selected Churches of Christ

Suanna Haston Davis

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2000 pp: 209
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice M.
  • Source: DAI-A 62/06(E)
  • Subjects: Philosophy, religion and theology; Language, literature and linguistics; Churches of Christ; Community identity; Correspondence; Missionary; Rhetorical; Rhetoric; Composition; Religion; Clergy;
  • ProQuest Document Number: 276276981
  • ISBN: 9780493286679
  • UMI Number: AAT 3017794

Abstract:

This study involves a rhetorical analysis of the influence of official missionary correspondence that was directed to three individual congregations in the Church of Christ on those congregations’ sense of themselves. The examination was grounded in social epistemic rhetoric. In this paper, the Church of Christ is described both as a discourse community and as a community of faith. The correspondence for a one-year period from eight missionaries was collected and examined. In addition, members of all three congregations were asked to complete a questionnaire on missionary correspondence in their congregations. Then the correspondence was examined to determine ways in which the documents from eight missionaries help create and sustain the individual congregations’ views of themselves as community. This was accomplished through an examination of the community of the audience and their perception of the target audience of the newsletters and an examination of the authors’ roles and relationships with the audience as constructed in the correspondence. It was found that the target audience’s perceived relationship with the author did not consistently match the author’s perceived relational role in the text. Sometimes there was a closer match between the respondents’ relationship with the missionary and his relational role. An examination of topics and their coverage in the correspondence compared with the community expectations for their coverage pointed to the need for a certain balance between personal and authoritative discussions within the correspondence. This finding, from the topics and questionnaire responses on the topics, was supported by the formatting similarities that the correspondence shared with personal letters, newspapers, and magazines. The correspondence was finally described as belonging to the genre of newsletter. This was begun through an examination of the form, context, and content of the newsletters, specifying recurring features that were common to the eight sets of missionary correspondence. It continued through a comparison of the eight sets of text with the guidelines provided in various guides to newsletter writing. It ended with a comparison with the features discussed in two articles on newsletters.