Cameron Harder Research Project

Research Project Outline:

“Identifying Core Values of Under-represented Stakeholders

in Resource-based Industries and Communities”

Dr. Cam Harder




Ø  To identify some core values, language and metaphors used by people in resource-based economies whose voices are under-represented in the conversations that churches normally hold about these matters;

Ø  to reflect on those values and language forms theologically;

Ø  to create guidelines for more inclusive conversations in churches and communities.




Dr. Harder was born and spent most of his life in Alberta.  As a young adult he worked in the oil industry and has family and friends directly involved.  He was an Alberta parish pastor (Lutheran churches in Calgary and Camrose) for 16 years.  He is a seminary professor and the founder of CiRCLe M (“Centre for Rural Community Leadership and Ministry”), a charitable non-profit developed to help churches be more effective partners in community development.  His undergraduate training was in science and sociology. His interdisciplinary doctoral research (in sociology and theology) examined the social, economic and spiritual impacts of farm bankruptcy and the role of churches in the shame experience that often accompanies it.


Rationale for research:


Although most rural communities are resource-based, church conversations about ecology seem to rarely take into account the perspectives of the key players, those who have the most impact on and are most affected by these industries.  This project will focus particularly on company executives, workers and aboriginal and rural people whose land, economy and community life are deeply involved in resource extraction.  The primary focus will be on energy-related industries, oil and gas, but there may be some interviews with mining and/or forestry-based industry for comparison purposes.


Background conversations with industry executives and workers, and with rural people suggest that they use ethical frameworks, proverbs, stories and theological lenses that are somewhat different than those used in mainline church-related ecological conversation. 


Denominational and ecumenical written resources and training workshops seem to draw heavily on the theology and language of urban environmentalists.   Without disparaging that language it is important to note that it is often the product of those who consume resources, but may not be in touch with some realities of the industries and communities that provide them.  This research would help to bring closer to the heart of faith group conversations the perspectives of players most intimately affecting and affected by resource industries.  The hope is to better equip rural, aboriginal and urban church leaders to facilitate a broader-based, faith-framed conversation about these industries and their interaction with the communities they serve.


Research Strategy: 


            Research will involve a number of one-on-one and focus group conversations with rural and aboriginal people, and corporate executives in resource-based industries, primarily, though not exclusively in Alberta. 


Interviewees will be asked questions such as “Why do you value this industry?  What role does it play in making our communities stronger?  What challenges does it pose?  What is the relationship between urban markets and company decisions?  What core values affect the decisions you make about your work in the company/community you serve?   What have you observed about the effects of this industry on the non-human community where you live?  How does your faith/spiritual worldview connect with your work in this industry?  If that world view is theistic, what do you see God (as you understand God) doing here?” 


Desired Outcomes:


Ø  The data from these conversations will be analyzed using qualitative research tools.  

Ø  The core ideas, key metaphors that emerge will be framed theologically using a hermeneutic that sees God’s presence in all of creation and assuming that God works most redemptively in places that often seem broken or despised to the world.

Ø  The data will contribute to a course on Ministry in Resource-based communities.

Ø  The data will contribute to a course on science and theology in rural perspective.

Ø  The data will form the basis for published articles.

Ø  The data will be used to create a tool for leaders of faith-based groups in resource-based communities to use in helping their people think about their role in their industry, and its community impacts, in light of their faith/core values.


Ethical Framework:


Ø  Interviewees are assured complete confidentiality. 

Ø  The Canadian TriCouncil Guidelines on ethical research will be followed (see




Dr. Cam Harder

Executive Director, Centre for Rural Community Leadership and Ministry (“CiRCLe M”)

Professor of Systematic Theology

114 Seminary Cres, Saskatoon, SK S7N0X3

306-966-7867, 306-380-9531 (cell);