Theology, Practical

Competency-based assessment for ministerial authorization in the United Church of Christ : a model for implementation

Author
Nora Driver Foust
Abstract
Knowledge is readily available today with Google and other search engines designed to answer any question. However, the integration of knowledge into understanding and competency is not as straightforward. To address the challenge of integration of knowledge and competency for ministerial authorization, this project follows Richard Osmer’s four tasks of practical theology and looks at the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers alongside principles of competency-based assessment. The project presents a working model for UCC Committees on Ministry across the denomination for implementation of the new Manual on Ministry (MOM). The new MOM embraces a single form of authorized ministry and the use of the competency-based Marks with all ministerial candidates, seminarians, and those on alternative paths to authorization. Alongside a model for UCC Committees on Ministry, this project opens doors to further change in the UCC’s process and points to possible implementation of competency-based assessment programs in other denominations. This project opens with a glossary and the state of the field in Chapter 1 leading to the research question on how the UCC might move to embrace the Marks and develop an implementation strategy for using them in a true competency-based approach. Chapter 2 includes a literature review. Chapter 3 offers a glimpse at how the education world uses competency-based assessment and offers five principles for how their use might be carried over into the assessment work of UCC Committees on Ministry. Chapter 4 presents the model for how one UCC Conference implemented this use and Chapter 5 draws conclusions and points readers forward to possible application of a competency-based assessment model in their own setting.

I wonder : scientific exploration and experimentation as a practice of Christian faith

Author
Ruth E. Shaver
Abstract
“I Wonder…Gaining Wisdom and Growing Faith Through Scientific Exploration” is an intergenerational science curriculum designed to be used in congregations. The goal of this curriculum and the theoretical work underpinning it is to counter the perception that people of faith cannot also be people who possess a scientific understanding of creation from quarks to the farthest galaxies and everything in between. Deepening faith in God and growing scientific understanding of the world around us both begin with the statement, “I wonder…” With this phrase as the common ground between faith and science, Lady Wisdom (Sophia) serves as the guide for hands-on experiments as learners develop an understanding of scientific methods including observation, creating and testing hypotheses, and analyzing results. One original photograph of a fossilized dinosaur footprint is included in the curriculum with the express permission of the photographer, William D. Richards, who took it specifically to be used for this purpose. An analysis of the author’s contextual experience with the curriculum and similar programs, as well as the author’s personal understanding of what mature faith requires as a result of this work, follows the curriculum. There are two appendices: “Faith, Science and Technology Sunday Liturgy” for Sunday, February 7, 2016, produced by the author for “Worship Ways,” a supplemental service of Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ; and the author’s sermon for The United Church of Schellsburg United Church of Christ for the same Sunday, “Improbable But Not Impossible.”

Welcoming all : a comparison of church and familial expectations in disability ministry

Author
Amy E. Dows
Abstract
This project compares the expectations of churches providing intentional disability ministries with the expectations of members affected by disability. Questionnaires were developed for churches with disability ministries and for members or families affected by disability. The comparison of these questionnaires provides a glimpse into the expectations held by families and churches that provide disability ministry. According to the results of this survey, families tend to seek a faith community where their entire family is included and supported. They also believe that the church benefits by welcoming individuals with disabilities. Churches, in general, strive to provide a place that is welcoming to all but with little attention given to issues of assimilation, and churches tend to see little or no benefit to the congregation through including families affected by disability other than in ways that trivialize disability as charitable acts to those in need. Although these churches seek to meet the needs of families affected by disability, issues of assimilation to cultural norms and trivialization of disability continue to impact the practice of disability ministry.

Rest assured : God's gracious will for humankind! A compendium of reflections, recipes, and resources

Author
David Eastman Lovelace
Abstract
An ever-increasing level of busy-ness pervades the culture of this region of America, aggressively encroaching on the domains of the church, the family, and the individual. There not only seems to be less time for the service of God, but also insufficient time for the periods of personal restoration and the nurture of interpersonal relationships which permit us to be truly human.

This project seeks to explore "rest" as an essential aspect of God's gracious intention for humankind and - hence - as an integral part of an appropriate personal response to God's grace; i.e., a more enjoyable and effective life of discipleship. It will also consider the theological, practical and personal implications of this divine intention and, then, attempt to develop creative materials that may be used by the Holy Spirit to enlighten, entice and enable others to live into a more restful lifestyle as an aspect of their personal discipleship.

While the project will provide curricular materials for a five-session adult education experience, the final document may also be used for individual study and reflection.

Gender Dysphoria And The Question Of Membership In The Local Church

Author
Shane A. Patrick D.Min.
Abstract
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.

God’s Givers:
A Preaching/Teaching Curriculum Based on Old Testament Narratives
Drawn from the Pentateuch and Historical Books

Author
William Stevens D.Min.
Abstract
God’s Givers:
A Preaching/Teaching Curriculum Based on Old Testament Narratives
Drawn from the Pentateuch and Historical Books

This dissertation project focuses on the biblical theology of giving as expressed in the Old Testament. There are four main goals: content creation; publication of the content; distribution of content for teaching/preaching; and engagement with the content – presentations to targeted market segments. The application of the dissertation project is to communicate that the practice of giving in the church community today can be informed, enriched, and inspired by the biblical patterns and principles found in Old Testament narratives. The core of the dissertation project is the drafting of a preaching/teaching series on profiles of giving in the Old Testament based on a selection of historical narratives drawn from the Pentateuch and Historical Books. To complement the teaching series, the project will create ancillary educational resources: blogs, published articles, videos, and a book.

William J. Stevens, D. Min.
Matthew McKellar, Ph.D., Advisor
School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2022

"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.
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