Church and social problems

Coming home : inward discovery for outward living after long-term incarceration; Howard Thurman's notion of community, religious experience, and the inner-life as tools for freedom and wholeness

James L. Mills Sr.
The purpose of the research is to examine how Dr. Howard Washington Thurman’s notions of community, religious experience, and an inward journey are potentially helpful tools for reentry from long-term incarceration. The project looks at the origin of the American prison-industrial complex through the twenty-first century and its impact on marginalized people of color. There is robust research on programmatic needs coming out of prisons, such as financial and housing assistance and vocational training. Returning citizens also need help to deal with inward wounds and traumas of life and incarceration. Howard Thurman’s notion of community, religious experience, and the inner-life offer a pathway to wholeness to those regaining their footing in society.

Gender Dysphoria And The Question Of Membership In The Local Church

Shane A. Patrick D.Min.
The past decade in American culture has increasingly become an exercise in deconstructionism in almost every way imaginable. The cultural touchstones of recent years include racially motivated protesting and rioting, claims of systematic racism and white supremacy, climate crisis, record-level inflation, a rise in cultural interest in neo-Marxist and socialist ideas, supply-chain gridlock, claims of election fraud, and record-high crime rates throughout the country. Another of these cultural touchstones, and the contextual focus of this project, is the active attempt of America’s increasingly secular culture to deconstruct and redefine sex, gender, and other sexual norms. The zeitgeist of this cultural moment includes a decoupling of sex and gender, and an attempt to encourage and normalize transgender identities and/or gender fluidity. This cultural deconstructionism also runs contra to the Christian worldview and Judeo-Christian values which introduces unique theological and ecclesiological challenges within the local church context. Among these challenges is the question of how to faithfully approach local church membership decisions with candidates who personally experience the burdens of gender ideology—which is the focus of this project.


Jon Derek Fortenberry D.Min.
This project aims to equip Longview Point Baptist Church members to be involved in orphan care. The project coordinator argues that as the congregation has a greater understanding of the theology of adoption, the love of Christ for the fatherless, his commands for his people to care for the fatherless, and the great need for orphan care, that more people will be involved in orphan care at all levels of engagement. Chapter 1 lays the theological foundation for the project, an overview of the project, and its goals. Chapter 2 delves into the project’s specifics at Longview Point Baptist Church in Hernando, Mississippi. Chapter 3 details the rest of the sessions and how the project coordinator challenged the participants to further action. Chapter 4 evaluates the effectiveness of the project and how the church will continue to encourage and equip members to be involved in orphan care. It also examines ways to improve the project if duplicated in another context.

La educación teológica ante las nuevas tecnologías y su enfoque pertinente en las nuevas generaciones

Roy Rodríguez
This present research project carried out through the bibliographic modality and with a field research complement through the application of a research instrument called a questionnaire has as its essential purpose to make known the importance of the need to use social networks as an instrument of evangelization in this time of isolation and restrictions regarding personal social interactions. In the same way, to know the point of view of some ecclesiastical leaders concerning their points of view of the use of social networks as an instrument or transversal axis in the modalities of evangelization. Similarly, recognize that this research arises from the need that has led to isolation and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the limitations that being able to carry out cults and other ecclesiastical activities with the usual openings have brought with it. As a result of this effect, it was necessary to investigate the level of understanding in the management of technological tools and social networks by the leaders and ministers of the congregations and thus know for sure if there was a ministerial body in the congregations conditions to carry out a task of evangelization through social networks and thus reach the largest possible number of new generations, which are very active in the use of new technologies as their preferred means of communication.

Bicultural liberative education : educating the non-poor in an urban work-study program

George D Beukema
Bicultural Liberative Education (BLE), developed primarily for college students in an urban work-study program, seeks to empower the non-poor to liberate themselves from the ways their culture is oppressive both to them and the poor.

Chapter One presents a description of, and a biblical foundation for, liberative education of which BLE is a part.

Chapter Two provides a description of the development of BLE and its pedagogical components: 1) "cultural awakening" which "conscientizes" the learners to their "myths" concerning the poor, ideologies, and worldview through engaging the culture of the poor, 2) "reflexive examination" which examines their "myths," ideologies, and worldview through engaging the culture of the non-poor, and 3) "bicultural reconstruction" which facilitates a response to more just ways of living. These components are rendered most effective as the educator creates a trusting atmosphere of "safe containment" which enables the learner to engage more deeply in cultural critique.

Chapter Three describes how an "experiential" seminar with the urban poor and a course on modern work combine to provide a specific context for BLE within a work-study program in Chicago.

Chapter Four concludes the project by providing suggestive hints toward applications of BLE for the non-poor congregation, the seminary, and the poor congregation.

A paradigm for preaching personal and social transformation

Gregory Heille
Preaching, in this paper, is broadly presented as the oral midrash by which individuals and communities reappropriate the past and, in the midst of present struggle, step forward into a transformed future. This is personal and communal struggle, made possible by the unfolding miracle of language, regulated by Scripture, and served by the preaching ministry of transformative leaders.

Chapter 1 presents Christian life as an open system, oriented toward transformation. Chapter 2 examines paradigm change in theology and presents preaching as a hermeneutical act in which the believing Assembly seeks historical consciousness by reappropriating tradition in the light of a new paradigm. Chapter 3 compares a methodological shift toward historical consciousness and personal responsibility in Roman Catholic social teaching to a more classical emphasis on law in catholic sexual teaching. Catholics approach the preaching act searching for meaning in this incoherent experience of differing methodologies and paradigms.

Chapter 4 studies language as an agent of paradigm change, first by setting preaching in the context of oral, written, and electronic culture.

Chapter 5 integrates discussion of the ideas of this paper by ten preachers and reflects on the preaching act as an act of choral listening, the importance of the self-definition of the preacher, and the implications of differing paradigms of authority for Christian life and preaching. Chapter 6 concludes the paper by exploring the gifts of insight and imagination by which Christians, in an act of conversion, turn toward God in the sacrament of preaching.

Welcoming People With Serious Mental Illness Into the Body of Christ

Robert Alan Renix D.Min.
This project’s purpose was to enhance clergy and the church’s ability to welcome people with serious mental illness into the body of Christ. My contexts were Saint Elizabeths Hospital and Inner Light Ministries UCC. I developed a seminar to teach Inner Light clergy about mental illness through a seminar. I explored how to merge their clerical skills as resources for welcoming people with serious mental illness into the church. A project goal was also to increase their confident competence in assisting people with serious mental illness.

Clergy are, most often, the first people sought out, by the churched and not so churched, for support and guidance when mental illness inserts itself into their lives. Clergy are called upon to help make meaning of the uncertainties surrounding mental illness disorders. Because others look to clergy for understanding, clergy have to become aware and confident with applying their skills to care for people with serious mental illness. Clergy do not need to attain a clinical level of confidence; instead, they must achieve the confident competence in their gifts as pastors, priest, chaplains, pastoral counselors, and leaders of faith.

What we can do as clergy and the church is reexamine our skills. We have been trained to care for parishioners through biblical interpretation, bible study, and the sacraments. Clergy and the church value hospitality and meals. Observing who is not at Christ’s table and inviting them back home to God’s community will ensure the feast includes people living with serious mental illness.

Storyliving : a faith-in-action experiment in cultivating a community's missional imagination

Kurt Andrew Jensen

This project explores a process for cultivating a community’s missional imagination, using an adaptation of the Circle of Faith-in-Action by Jerry Windley-Daoust and Lorraine Kilmartin.1 God chooses to use us as part of the divine mission to restore the world to what it was created to be. Local community leaders who meet regularly to discern what God is already doing in their community and world can find creative and faithful ways of participating in God’s redemptive mission. Moving repeatedly through the Circle of Faith-in-Action can help leaders develop greater Awareness of the people and situations around them, do practical and theological Analysis of what is happening, and respond through Action that not only meets short-term needs but addresses long-term development of health and flourishing in their communities. By the work of the Holy Spirit, their actions result in a new situation that bears developing new awareness and analysis, leading to further action for the sake of God’s reign. The Circle of Faith-in-Action becomes an upward spiral. As people are seized by the power of the gospel, they discover imaginative ways to engage with the reign of God which is already renewing our broken world, through Jesus Christ. They develop the ability to see the world not only as it is but as God is shaping it to become.

Outreach to embracing : a Johannine model for community engagement

Denise Kingdom Grier
Outreach ministries often perpetuate systems of apartheid. Embracing is an alternative model inviting vulnerability and mutual sharing. John’s gospel is concerned for the faith of the one reaching out. John 4 will yield the four congruent steps from outreach to embracing. This project employs a mixed methodology drawn from Richard Osmer’s 4- step Consensus Model for Practical Theology and Robert O. Brinkerhoff’s Success Case research method. The success case method brings stories from three actual congregations who exercise embracing practices. The stories are accompanied by song lyrics that harken from the receiving end of the apartheid.
Outreach programs have been established by evangelical Christian churches in
America to respond to the needs of impoverished communities, to evangelize non-
professing citizens, and to attend to systems of injustice.1 These programs have
successfully led to the physical growth of the Christian church in America. The church
can celebrate the countless children fed, numerous communities resourced, and all the
followers of Christ who have actively complied with the teachings of Jesus in the Bible
because of its efforts. Christian outreach programs in America have done a great deal to
help less fortunate people, but they have also done a fair amount of harm to those they
endeavor to aid.


Tim Graham D.Min.
This project seeks an understanding of issues related to African Traditional Religion (ATR) that bear upon the churches of the pastors attending a biannual conference on preparing exegetical sermons and to develop a theological statement to be used to discourage ATR from further infiltrating the local churches represented at the conference. The pastors, mostly from South Africa, participated in a Delphi research process that promoted individual input about each person’s encounter with ATR issues in the first round. This input was reviewed and prioritized by the participants in the second two rounds identifying the five most significant challenges of ATR to their local churches. The study concluded with a roundtable discussion intending to address the influence of ATR and whether a theological statement would be helpful in that endeavor. Because the environment being addressed was a pastors’ conference on exegesis, the goal was to influence the preaching of these pastors in a way that would address the influence of ATR. This final project goal found a low level of support and met with some resistance.
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