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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Special diplomatics and the study of authority in the United Church of Canada Turner, Janet Elizabeth


This thesis conducts an experiment with special diplomatics, applying its techniques to the study of selected documents of the United Church of Canada. The results of the experiment are analysed to answer two questions. Does diplomatics make a unique contribution to the archival tasks of appraisal, arrangement, and description? Is the original purpose to which diplomatics was directed, that is, the identification of authentic documents, relevant for modern records? Study of the juridical system of the Church, based on the United Church Manual, demonstrates that diplomatics requires an understanding of the sources and instruments of authority, because they determine how acts and documents can be recognized as authentic. Agendas, reports and minutes of B.C. Conference are then examined from the diplomatic perspective, to identify the juridical persons of the Conference, their competences, and the acts and documents typical of each. The result is a detailed description of the administration of Conference. These studies complement, but do not duplicate, the administrative history typical of archival science. Diplomatic methods are used to identify the procedures and formal elements of the “Call to a Minister.” Extrapolation from resulting data demonstrates that diplomatics rediscovers the Church in the single set of documents. The thesis concludes that diplomatics does make a useful contribution to the methods of archival science, because it studies records and records creators from a distinct perspective. It also concludes that since modern society continues to attach great importance to due process and proper form, as means of protecting the authenticity of acts, the understanding of authority and authenticity provided by diplomatics is relevant to the study of modern administration.

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