Lancaster Theological Seminary

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.

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

Author
James L. Mills Sr.
Abstract
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.

Grappling with grace : an illumination of the degree to which theory and praxis agree in the matter of grace in the African American Pentecostal Holiness tradition

Author
Wendell C. Yorkman
Abstract
There seems to be a gap between church doctrine and praxis as far as matters of grace is concerned, particularly grace understood as forgiveness and reconciliation. Because of the lack of clear, theologically coherent doctrine, church leaders and their members are left to decide for themselves how to practice grace toward themselves and one another. Through a process of examining doctrines, analyzing sermons, reviewing literature, and conducting personal interviews with church leaders from African American Pentecostal Holiness churches the researcher’s intent is to determine how closely aligned doctrine and praxis are. Since a large percentage of the church doctrines examined include no specific guidelines or directions as to matters of grace beyond being the power of God in bringing salvation (Eph. 2:8-9), the lack of understanding often causes un-graceful responses by leaders and members alike. It is hoped that this work will be read by Christian leaders as they gain insight as to how grace is to be understood and practiced.

Are we there? : journeys of faith and the role of racialized trauma in individuals who identify as religiously unaffiliated

Author
Richelle Foreman Gunter
Abstract
This project explores the intersections of racialized trauma and faith development in individuals who have sometime during their life identified as religiously unaffiliated or “nones.” Through the lens of life stories, nine individuals describe their faith journeys from their earliest memories of life to their most recent adult experiences. Their courageous sharing sheds light on the connections between racism and racialized trauma and the precious moments when faith in God moved them forward on their journey of faith. Their stories highlight the experience of 250 plus years historical trauma from slavery and its intergenerational influence, alongside the instances of racism members of the black community continued to experience. The stories that they shared also help us to understand that God inserts himself into the lives of His people in ways that are unexpected, not written about or understood. Like life, faith development is a journey not a destination.

Paying attention : comparison of desired characteristics of ministerial leadership in the United Church of Christ

Author
Kay S. Rader
Abstract
Meeting leadership needs of the United Church of Christ, which includes finding the best ways to prepare new leaders for authorization, has been a lively conversation in the denomination in recent years. A decade of study led to a national Pronouncement on ministry issues in 2005 which suggested ways to move into the future while taking into account the remarkable diversity of faith communities within the denomination.

The broad range of ecclesiologies, with their corresponding theologies of ministry, has made the denominational conversation rich, but it has also made the task of coming to consensus on ministry issues challenging. In order to gain a better understanding of our practices in preparation for creating new guidelines for authorization, one directive of the Pronouncement was to “pay attention to our theologies of ministry in the UCC, especially ordained ministry.”

This project applies an ecclesiological typology to the descriptive language in current local and national denominational guidelines for identifying, preparing, and authorizing candidates for ministry, for the purpose of comparing the preferences which are revealed in them. Preferences are arrayed, and similarities and discrepancies between local and national materials are noted. In particular, this project observes whether or not the full range of ecclesiological diversity of the United Church of Christ is reflected in the guidelines for authorization, what differences exist between the sets of guidelines in this respect, and what the significance of those differences may be. The intent of this project is to contribute to the ongoing denominational conversation.

The constructing of a contemporary corrections ethic in the tradition of social contract theory : an extrapolation from the work of political philosopher John Rawls

Author
Larry D. Covin
Abstract
The conditions of jails and prisons in the United States are more often than not deplorable and hidden from public view. The inhumane treatment of prisoners and their appalling living conditions are untenable and require justice.

This project will explore the ways in which John Rawl's theory of justice may be used to construct a corrections ethic in the context of jail and prison culture for correctional facilities in the United States. It considers the varied and complex challenges faced while attempting the humane treatment of those incarcerated. The tradition of social contract theory espoused in the writings of such political philosophers as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and more recently amplified in the work of the late Harvard political philosopher John Rawls will be explored and interpreted. This project creates a foundation for the creation of a corrections ethic grounded in social contract theory.

In their own words : stories of healing and practices for the church

Author
Jason T. Link
Abstract
The purpose of this project was twofold: 1) to research how the church community can be a place of healing in people's lives, and 2) to suggest practices that when enacted would help a church to be a place of healing. Church life was differentiated into three levels: Pastorally, Relationally, and Congregationally. A group of people were interviewed who had received some type of healing and their lives and were asked to share how the church community helped in the healing process. Based off of the information gathered in the interviews, practices were suggested for the church at each of the three levels of church life.

Rehearsing resurrection by practicing what we proclaim

Author
Kim Louise Blocher
Abstract
This project explores the ways in which we teach, preach, and think about the resurrection within a church setting. The resurrection is the foundational doctrine of our faith, and yet many pastors struggle with imparting his or her belief. A pastor's beliefs surrounding the resurrection may be at odds with the primary belief systems of the people in the pews. Or perhaps a pastor does not know what he or she believes. A vacuum is formed that gets filled with popular theology from books promoting a dispensational worldview, television or movies. Sermons often promote the notion of heaven without confronting what we really mean when we say, "I believe in the resurrection of the body."

The study presents the point of view that our understanding of resurrection can be opened up through attending to the gap between belief and practice. In other words, what does it mean in our lives today when we say we are a people of the resurrection? Can we think of ourselves as rehearsing resurrection right now? Toward that end a curriculum was developed for an adult study on resurrection, based on the shared praxis model of Thomas Groome.

The curriculum was found to be a tiny, first step in a re-shaping of the way a congregation apprehends the resurrection. Other necessary pieces are pastoral study and reflection, developing a theology of practices within the congregation, the importance of the funeral sermon in teaching about resurrection, theological imagination, and a willingness of the pastor to be forthcoming about his or her own beliefs.

Gentleness in pastoral care as a way of bringing healing to congregations within a culture of harshness

Author
Rodney E. Miller
Abstract
The project uses a narrative method to explore the nature of gentleness with its biblical and theological roots. It reflects on the way the harsh history of the anthracite area has shaped the attitudes and actions of members of the United Methodist Churches in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. In this respect special reference is made to the coal mines, the Molly Maguires, institutional violence, ethnic diversity, poverty, the railroads, economic depression, and local church history. Using a case study method, the project reflects upon the practice of a gentle style of ministry in various pastoral settings and its contribution toward overcoming obstacles to health and healing in these congregations. These settings include situations of resistance, distrust, and abuse of power. Boundary-setting and encounters with the demonic are also discussed.

The main thesis of the project is gentleness creates a supportive, gracious and sacred space in which individuals as well as congregations can feel free and safe enough to let down their protective defenses and receive the healing and health which God offers. In the sacred space created by gentleness, God is at work to heal and to enable individuals and congregations to discern their power to overcome abuse in non-abusive ways. Gentleness, as gracious respect, enables people to change their attitudes and behavior to one another, God, and the community. This gentle leadership style has the potential to heal not only church congregations but also communities and nations.

Privacy and the prayers of the people

Author
Brian C. Hardee
Abstract
Recent changes in Federal laws have created an increased awareness of the potential for violations of personal privacy in many different areas of community life, including the Prayers of the People as they are offered in many churches. By writing in the form of a pastoral essay, I examine the privacy issues that exist in common church practices. I then look specifically at the Prayers of the People as they have been developing in the Evangelical and Reformed tradition of the United Church of Christ to highlight the growing need to have worship leaders and planners examine their Prayers of the People to see if there are privacy issues present in their worship. I seek to highlight the very real possible damages that can be caused through the unauthorized giving out of personal information in many of these prayers, while also pointing out the possible qualities of that prayer time that can be lost in an attempt to completely safeguard the privacy rights of all who are involved. I then suggest steps that can be taken to preserve public sharing during the Prayers of the People while simultaneously attempting to respect people's right to privacy. Finally, I suggest an etiquette for the Prayers of the People for churches to use for their practice of the Prayers of the People when it includes the opportunity for public sharing of specific joys and concerns.
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