Theology, Practical

"Doing Theology”: A Phenomenological Exploration of Knitting in the Lives of Contemporary Mennonite Women

Author
Gwen Ann Gustafson-Zook
Abstract
This research project explores the theological meaning in knitting for a small group of contemporary Mennonite women. Using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis, including a five-week focus group (Knitting Circle) and intensive interviews, the study validates knitting as embodied theological practice. This research expands understanding of “doing theology” to include making things as a means of embodied theology, thus adding breadth, balance, and substance to the experience of doing theology. The results of this study promote an understanding of lived theology that celebrates creativity and embodied practice as significant and realistic expressions of faith as well as a means of doing theology.

Advancing Social Justice: Claiming the Voice of the United Methodist Deacon as Preacher

Author
Eric Pugh
Abstract
In the United Methodist Church, the preaching of the deacon is an underdeveloped voice that should be included among all the other preaching voices in the church. The preaching voice of the deacon is grounded in their call to compassion, justice, reconciliation, and restoration, and is informed by biblical and historical contexts that affirm and confirm the value and necessity of such preaching. Naming and claiming the voice of the deacon as preacher requires deacons to understand themselves, their call to ministry, and the relevance and importance of their voice that calls attention to the need for justice in action as valid and necessary in our world today. The voice of the United Methodist deacon as preacher is a necessary voice in the local church and beyond for the advancement of social justice. This project thesis rests on the belief that for the United Methodist deacon, claiming their voice as preacher helps them more fully fulfill their call to ministry and live into their baptismal and ordination vows.

Asian Immigrant Women Building Spiritual Resilience Amidst Cultural Loss

Author
Eugenia Wei-Kuen Lai D.Min.
Abstract
In Asian cultural contexts, women's voices are often neglected, unnoticed, or actively suppressed in church and society. This thesis-project aims to examine the relationship between the spiritual well-being and the praxes of resilience engaged in by Asian immigrant women to the United States in the context of cultural loss. The interview outcome revealed the praxes of spiritual resilience of Asian immigrant women through their integration of faith and culture. Spiritual resilience is an ongoing living praxis that calls men and women to their prophetic calling in building up the kingdom of God, in whom Jesus is the Triumphant Living Praxis.

Talking to Victims of Trauma Through the Lens of Atonement Theology

Author
Ron Wymer D.Min.
Abstract
Metaphors concerning atonement theology that are misunderstood, poorly defined, and clumsily communicated often lead to a mischaracterization of God to those who have experienced trauma or abuse. Theological scholars, local church leaders, and pulpit preachers have discussed and debated the correct way to describe Christ’s work of atonement. However, little concern has been shown when communicating atonement theology toward those who have been injured by trauma and abuse. This study aims to provide a platform for the abused to share their stories concerning their spiritual formation through the lens of their experience both with trauma and theological teaching by church leaders. The use of terms trauma and abuse are defined by the participants in the study albeit as broad or narrow as the participant determines by their own definition.

To test this hypothesis, a survey was distributed to the entire congregation of a medium-sized Mid-Western Evangelical congregation concerning their grasp of atonement theological terms as well as their perceived characterization of the God of their understanding, connectedness with others in the congregation, and grasp of theological terms relating to atonement theology. Following a four-week teaching series, a second similar survey was conducted to gauge movement in the areas of study. Additionally, all survey respondents were given the opportunity to privately schedule individual interviews with the researcher to share their insights and experiences with trauma and the church teaching on atonement theology. Church survey responses were scored by numerical averages.

The results showed a significant increase in knowledge of atonement theology and small increases in correcting characterization of God and connectedness with fellow believers in the congregation. The interviews reported a lack of meaningful interaction with most of the subjects instead it was reported creating their own view of God’s care, comfort, and leading through the traumatic experiences.

Strangers and foreigners : developing a balanced Biblical perspective on immigration

Author
Katherine P Osborn
Abstract
We live in a nation that has been marked by much disunity in recent years. One of the issues contributing to the dilemmas we face is what to do about immigration. Society is torn between polarized views coming from both sides of the political spectrum, which has affected the Christian community as well. Initial research showed that the Church of God of Prophecy issued a short but biblically sound resolution on this subject in 2008, but little, if anything, has been published since then. Our silence as a denomination leaves us looking like we are hiding our heads in the sand. This thesis seeks to address this issue by correcting some of the misinformation circulating in the media while answering the question, “Who is my neighbor, and what constitutes authentic expressions of Christlike love and hospitality when it comes to welcoming and ministering to ‘strangers and foreigners’ who live in our midst?” The methodology is based on Richard Osmer’s four tasks of practical theology and includes both a survey of church leaders and interviews with immigrants. The research draws from history, political and social sciences, and theology to guide the church in shaping an accurate view of the immigration crisis while developing a biblically sound response to the issue. The goal is to open the door for honest conversation on the issue, develop a plan of action for ministering to the “strangers” in our midst, and ensure that our ministerial praxis is marked by authentic love for all people.

Five characteristics that make discipleship relevant and contextual

Author
Pedro Agudelo
Abstract
This thesis called “Five Characteristics that Make Discipleship Relevant and Contextual” looks at the discipleship conundrum, which has become more complex with the challenging new realities of the twentieth-first century. Covid-19, global migration, urbanization, secularization, postmodernism, plus social and political uncertainty require relevant and contextual discipleship. This academic exercise uses the participant observation method as a tool to examine current discipleship realities through analyzing scholarly work on the topic and by exploring four discipleship practices in four pastoral networks. This thesis argues that relevant discipleship requires the presence of five characteristics: intimacy, purpose, value, security, and vulnerability.

Chapter one explores the problem of irrelevant discipleship and defines discipleship as a relational process instead of as a program or method to be used in churches and denominations. Discipleship is defined as enjoying God’s quality of life beyond doctrinal knowledge as individuals growth in Christ’s character and engage in making disciples. Chapter two explores the biblical framework of discipleship by identifying discipleship in the Old and New Testaments. It also looks at historical expressions of discipleship and theological discipleship models through history. Chapter three reviews discipleship literature, focusing on the work of nine authors across different contexts. Chapter four describes how the participant observant method is applied in this academic exercise among selected literature consulted and pastoral networks observed. Chosen literature fitted the twofold criteria used to select authors: scholarly authors who are pastors and who are involved in discipleship networks. Chapter five presents conclusions produced by this academic exercise; it also provides recommendations offered by the author on how to implement the five discipleships elements presented in this thesis.

Standing in grace : a relational overview of Christian life

Author
Benjamin Zandstra
Abstract
This project is designed to provide average readers with a relational overview of Christian life. it reflects a Reformation perspective or the centrality of grace and is presented with the hope of increasing the reader's clarity in understanding and living a complete Christian life. The Context is described by means of a summary of selected aspects of the research done by the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and the Search institute. The contents were used in the adult education program of the Surprise Valley Parish, United Church of Christ, in rural, northeastern California.

The introduction is intended as an invitation, to pull the reader into considering a comprehensive view of their faith. The Conclusion provides the reader with a summary along with a sense of commission that suggests directions for further exploration and implementation.

The four Chapters describe standing in grace with ourselves, others, the world, and God. The approach begins with the reflexive relatlonship and moves continuously outward until it culminates with one's ultimate relationship. Throughout, God's grace in Jesus of Nazareth is the point of reference for understanding the nature of these relationships. This is done with a view toward describing how a maturing Christian faith might manifest itself in these relationships in the ever-changing temporal context. Also, basic resources for growth are suggested along with questions for reflection and discussion.

A Light Shines in the Darkness: Preaching the Logos for an Anxious World

Author
Michael Andrew Meyer D.Min.
Abstract
The world is experiencing a dramatic increase in the incidence of anxiety; yet, preaching is largely silent. Drawing upon the Psychology of Meaning and the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel, this thesis project developed and tested a preaching methodology to respond to the significant increase in anxiety in the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, by addressing the sense of meaninglessness that often causes or aggravates anxiety.

Chapter 1 presents the project’s genesis, its ministerial context, and the magnitude of the problem it seeks to address. An interdisciplinary framework built upon the Psychology of Meaning and Dr. Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy in Chapter 2 lays the groundwork for the highly sacramental christology of meaning rooted in Jesus Christ as Logos that emerges as the project’s theological framework in Chapter 3. These concepts find natural allies in the dialectical and sacramental theological imaginations and the undeniably Scriptural genre of testimony, the project’s homiletic foundations presented in Chapter 4.

A preached retreat, held on November 13, 2021, served as the project’s ministerial intervention and tested its hypothesis before twenty-one adults living in the Diocese of Metuchen who experience anxiety. Chapter 5 discusses the retreat in detail and the qualitative and quantitative data obtained through the insider, outsider, researcher multiple data-collection technique used in the intervention. These data, discussed in Chapter 6, support the hypothesis that preaching meaning in Jesus Christ, the Logos, offers a pastoral response to the significant increase in anxiety by countering the sense of meaninglessness often associated with this condition. They also provide fertile ground for further research and inspire the future uses of the findings and observations that conclude this work.

A case study in call : character and competency for effective ministry leadership relative to urban cohorts in graduate theological education

Author
Royce A Evans
Abstract
This D. Min. project focuses on perceptions relative to what constitutes the most effective expression of ministry leadership within the African-American community located in a major Midwest City. After a biblical examination of call, character and competency, the project examines ministry leadership effectiveness prior to and as the result of exposure to theological education. This is particular to the Urban Cohort Program of a graduate level theological seminary offering the degree in Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership. Attention was given to observations made by participants (ministry leaders), those who are served in the ministries where they lead (congregants, other ministry leaders, board members and church officers), as well as what the academic institution learned relative to faculty, staff, and governance.

Idolatry, the powers, and cultural formation

Author
Travis D. Else
Abstract


My ministry project is comprised of a literature review and Appreciative Inquiry qualitative study at First Reformed Church to explore the practices and skills needed to live against idolatry and toward faithfulness.

The thesis of my ministry project is that we are surrounded by idols in our communities and in the local church, and must find ways of developing patterns of resistance against the powers that entice us into idolatry. The purpose of my project is to identify practices that will equip and empower the church to resist idolatry and live in faithfulness toward God. The findings of my project will amplify how Christian worship and mission, fueled by Holy Spirit power, are a vital means by which patterns of faithfulness are cultivated and resistance to idolatry and the powers are developed.
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