Document Type

Honors Project


Insights from sociology of law have seldom informed sociology of religion, despite the ability of congregations to construct practical meaning and application with church doctrine. In August of 2009 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) lifted its ban on "active homosexuals," allowing for the ordination of homosexuals within committed same-sex relationships. How do individual congregations within the ELCA interpret and implement this new social statement? I have conducted semi-structured interviews with pastors from ELCA congregations concerning the social statement and homosexuality. Interviews demonstrate the ability of actors to construct compliance and to interpret ambiguous policies in a way beneficial to themselves and their congregation. Furthermore, results confirm that ambiguity in text itself is not necessary for the social construction of compliance but rather that actors actively create uncertainty in order to produce policies favorable to individual congregations. As demonstrated, the sociology of religion benefits from the application of legal theory in order to better understand the processes of interpretation and implementation of church doctrine.

Included in

Sociology Commons



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