First Advisor

Jan Hajda

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sociology






Greater Portland Council of Churches, Church and social problems -- Oregon -- Portland, Social action



Physical Description

1 online resource (242 pages)


This study has attempted to investigate the radical change in the Greater Portland Council of Churches’ (GPCC’s) organizational goals and actions--from its relative uninvolvement over to its preoccupation with local social, political and economic issues. In the past, classical sociological theory of religion has placed great emphasis on religion’s integrative, or conservative functions in society. Empirical studies have documented the conservative socio-political views of the majority of Protestant parishioners. Knowing this, I expected to find a significant conservative reaction swelling up from the lay parishioners of the GPCC's member congregations. A preliminary investigation revealed this assumption to be invalid. The study's sociological problem then became: (1) What was the true character of the GPCC’s member reaction to the organization's abrupt change to liberal action goals? (2) If there was a minimum of conservative reaction, as indicated, what are the sociological reasons 'for this unexpected condition?

Further investigation showed that in the later 1960’s, as the GPCC’s social action involvements reached a climax, the GPCC also publicly reinstituted older, congregational-centered programs that have been neglected for several years. This dual action suggested the study's hypothesis: An investigation of the relationship between the GPCC's change to liberal action involvements and its attempts to neutralize lay members' conservative reactions would shed light upon the GPCC’s self-insulation from conservative opposition.

Three basic strategies were used to gather data: (1) organizational records, (2) observation, and (3) personal, in-depth interviews. Files and records were used largely to confirm and amplify interview data. I observed the GPCC and three of the church Community Action Programs by regularly attending their meetings for approximately two years, 1969-1971. The largest amount of data was secured from interviewing, conducted on a representative sample of 20 active participants in the GPCC. Since the sample was not to be a random one, it was carefully pre-constructed to be representative of the organization's informal structure, i.e., active participants and leadership. When the data revealed the interviewees' unexpectedly mild negative reaction to the GPCC's deep involvement in very controversial socio-political issues, the sample was doubled to a total of 41 actual-interviews for the purpose of checking the original results. A content analysis was used to analyze the data.


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