Church and social problems

EXPLORING AND ADDRESSING THE INFLUENCE OF LOCAL AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION
ON SOUTH AFRICAN CHURCHES

Author
Tim Graham D.Min.
Abstract
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.

Know their suffering : facilitating a deeper understanding for the local church of the plight of the working poor

Author
Weatherly Overall Weatherly
Abstract
"Many middle-class church members are devoted to acts of mission. Despite good intentions they suffer from insufficient poverty intellect for understanding the circumstances of those they serve. This project encourages a deeper understanding of the working poor, thus increasing the practical and relational efficiency of outreach. A six-week small group experience combines biblical, theological, and Wesleyan foundations, with emerging trends and efforts to increase the awareness and knowledge necessary to have more authentic relationships with those in poverty. The results are that greater poverty intellect can reduce inaccurate assumptions and increase the depth of mutual understanding and engaged interaction between the classes." -- Leaf [2].

ArtReach : a creative spiritual exploration for queer Christians

Author
Mark E. Parsons II
Abstract
"For decades, the church has debated the issue of homosexuality. While the "who's in and who's out" battles continue, queer Christians find themselves with few resources that address their unique spiritual experiences. The author argues that through creativity, queer Christians can know and experience God and self more profoundly. After exploring the spiritual abuse of queer Christians, the significance of coming out, and the need for a queer Christian spirituality, the paper discusses the development, implementation, and evaluation of ArtReach, a four-week creative spiritual exploration for queer Christians that moves the conversation from apologetics to celebrating spirituality and sexuality." -- Leaf [2].

Connecting with our community : when service and discipleship go hand in hand

Author
Elizabeth A. LeMaster
Abstract
"This project was created to discover how the church can serve the people of its community while helping members live out their call to discipleship. Examination of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 31-46 through the lens of missional theology established that caring for our neighbors is vital to our faith and discipleship. To evaluate community needs, the author used qualitative research tools including data collection, independent experts, and purposive and snowball sampling. Demographic information and community needs were also assessed through data collection using MissionInsite. The congregation was educated on the needs of the community and their call, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to care for those needs through a sermon series. Analysis of the data suggests that a church-sponsored Family Resource Center to connect people with resources is important. However, the author concluded that this is not the sole focus for the church. Jesus' teachings, our Wesleyan heritage, and United Methodist theology suggest that the church is called to be in relationship with its community through which the hope and unconditional love of God is shared." -- Leaf [2].

Seek peace and pursue it : the church as a messenger in the public square : building interfaith bridges of peace and reconciliation

Author
Miriam Christina Gross
Abstract
"By building interfaith bridges of peace, a faith community becomes a vital actor in the public square. St. Paul's, New York, a German speaking congregation and representative of the German Protestant Churches set on an American-German horizon, is such a witness. By engaging in interfaith work it tries to counteract Antisemitism and racism, utilizing a public theology grounded in the imago Dei and the Golden Rule to form the Beloved Community. The author researched this work through the initiatives "Dove Power" and "Faith Journeys." The analysis shows a large impact on participants, even as the envisaged percentage of involved parishioners could not be met." -- Leaf [2].

Assisting the Black church in the task of child-making

Author
Kip Bernard Banks Sr.
Abstract
"The Black Church struggles to shape public policy to effectuate social change. It has limited its public policy witness to mostly racial justice and economic concerns, while devoting few resources to issues such as climate change, educational equity and child welfare. This project is an analysis of the critical importance of the Black church to engage in the imperative task of child-making and the need for training and resources at the denominational level. This writing provides a tool for Black church denominations to become effective at the task of child-making, including doing a strategic grant assessment and advocating for child welfare initiatives." -- Leaf [2].

Hollering Theology: Exploring liberation theology in Central Appalachia and its power to transform students at the University of Pikeville

Author
Robert Dale Musick D.Min.
Abstract
Central Appalachia is a complex and beautiful region that has been historically mislabeled, misrepresented, and shamed as the land of hillbillies. Suffering in this region is deep and broad as poverty, addiction, and disparities are statistically evident. Although the region is filled with churches, missionary endeavors, and government programs, places like Eastern Kentucky continue to struggle. As the Church seeks to address these diseases of despair, it is imperative for Christian universities to address this suffering through critical pedagogy and a contextualized theology. By the development of an Appalachian liberation theology known as hollering theology, this research project took this new theology and imbedded it in two different college classes at the University of Pikeville. Through this project, it was discovered that the fundamental source of oppression in Central Appalachia is the damning stereotype of the hillbilly. This stereotype has been internalized and is now killing Appalachian Americans. In this study, hollering theology will be offered as a way to challenge the stereotype, give a new vision for God’s work in the region, and make known a hillbilly Christ, which seeks to empower students at UPIKE to engage themselves and their community in a critical and engaged way.

Developing and implementing a public office ministry to grow a beloved community in Willingboro, New Jersey

Author
Carlos Sanchez Worthy
Abstract
As policies and decisions of elected and appointed officials within
governmental structures continue to negatively impact the lives of people for generations, it is important for disciples of Christ to actively engage with a theology that focuses on reforming these structures to serve as a conduit of God’s love, justice, and peace. As governmental, elected and appointed, officials at all levels fulfill their responsibilities through developing and passing policies, these documents serve as the moral thermometer that determine the well-being of a community in the present and for the future. This research examines how a local missional church developed and sustained a ministry of serving in public office with moral integrity that equipped missional leaders to participate in God’s mission through the redemption and restoration of their township into a beloved community.

Creator God, Humans, and Artificial Intelligence: Framework to Address Theological and Relational Issues

Author
Tinku Thompson D.Min.
Abstract
Technological advancements are happening at an accelerated phase. Five decades ago, no one even owned a personal computer. A decade ago, smartphones did not exist. Today there are 2.71 billion smartphone users in the world, which is more than thirty-five percent of the world’s population. Many developments have happened in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, and Mixed Reality. AI is the term used to describe a machine’s ability to simulate human intelligence. Characteristics once considered unique to humans like learning, logic, reasoning, perception, and creativity are now being replicated by technology and used in every industry. The problem this project addressed is the lack of a theological framework, and especially the absence of a framework highlighting the character of the biblical God, by which to analyze, interpret, and evaluate AI and its implications for human life in a theologically informed manner. In response to this problem, the researcher explored and identified biblical themes of eight attributes of God from the Bible and the relationality between the creator and creation. A study of current literature on the recent development of AI/robotic technology and the responses and concerns raised by Christian organizations or groups in the form of official statements related to AI, theology, and God were analyzed. The researcher collected data through a survey conducted among young Christian students and interviews conducted among pastors and Christian leaders, Christians, and non-Christians working in the technology industry. The researcher then developed a framework that addresses unique characteristics of God as the creator of all creation in comparison to humans as creators in light of technological advancements in AI/robotics.

"DOCTRINE DIVIDES, SERVICE UNITES": EFFECTIVE THEOLOGICAL METHODS OF INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE FOR ACHIEVING PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE IN MYANMAR CONTEXT

Author
Ar Naing D.Min.
Abstract
This thesis examines a practical application for effective interreligious dialogue in Myanmar. The country exists deeply rooted in religious tension and ethnic conflict. In these unstable times, some of the religious leaders and politicians are barriers to democratic transition and peaceful coexistence. In response, this thesis explores a prophetic witness of social justice in the light of the Praxis Model, a theological method of Professor Stephen B. Bevans. First, the conditions of social-religious-political injustices are examined to explain what led the country into chaos, corruption, and civil war. Then, this thesis proposes using effective, practical methods for moral and social transformation. Rather than promoting interreligious dialogue focused on doctrines that have divided people, this thesis recommends uniting people through involvement in social service activities that create common understanding and mutuality. A just and peaceful society can be created through the cooperation of Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu religious groups by cultivating the practice of prophetic interreligious dialogue.
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