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Duke migrated to an electronic-only system for theses and dissertations between 2006 and 2010. As such, theses and dissertations completed between 2006 and 2010 may not be part of this system, and those completed before 2006 are not hosted here except for a small number that have been digitized.

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Preaching for Post-Traumatic Growth and Healing: Preaching and Worship After Communal Trauma
    (2023) Chapman, Emily Lauren

    Our knowledge of the kinds of trauma people experience and the impact that it has has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Some margin of that knowledge has crossed over into the religious landscape, particularly about pastoral care and theology. This paper will take up the idea that preaching and, by extension, the other parts of the liturgy can be a part of reforming and healing the fractured imaginations of persons and communities who have experienced traumatic events, leading them to post-traumatic growth and thriving.My knowledge of preaching being far greater than my knowledge of trauma theory, my first priority was extensive research in that field; I studied how trauma impacts both individual bodies and whole communities, first utilizing Bessel van der Kolk and Judith Hermann, two established and well-regarded researchers. From there, I moved into source material from the medical field, finding significant intrigue in a 1688 dissertation from a medical library that was one of the first texts to describe the way traumatic events fracture imagination. Then I moved to experts in the field of preaching and worship – Will Willimon, Barbara Brown Taylor, Rick Lischer, Luke Powery, and more. It became clear that preaching is a vocation of words and imagination, and trauma’s chief impacts rob people of those very things. Thus, preachers have a critical role to play in the healing of their communities by providing shared, sacred language and a space to reintegrate broken imaginations.

  • ItemEmbargo
    The Justice Equation
    (2023) Everett, Jeremy

    Political polarization and regional conflict have directly contributed to global destabilization. This has resulted in extreme global hunger. Meanwhile, siloed approaches to addressing social issues, the Covid-19 pandemic, a rapid downturn in agricultural production due to climate change, and inflation have all exacerbated the tragedy of hunger. This set of conditions is often referred to as the Five C’s- Conflict, Covid, Climate Change, Rising Costs, and Corruption. The antidote to the Five C’s is Multisectoral Collaboration. I propose that applying the Shared Power Theory of Change with a Collective Impact programmatic model design to the issue of hunger is the most effective pathway forward in promoting food access among the U.S. and global population suffering from food insecurity (800 million people worldwide and 35 million Americans), as well as those on the brink of starvation (350 million people globally). This model creates pathways for multisectoral collaboration that will drastically reduce hunger and its contributing causes. To achieve the lofty goal of a world without hunger, we must also expand our theological, sociological, and political frameworks of mutuality and the practical implications of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Reimagining and Reclaiming a Better Future for Black Baptist Womanist Preachers
    (2023) McBride, Deborah G.

    Many Black women in Black Baptist traditional churches do not have the opportunity to exercise their spiritual callings to preach in the pulpit, nor do they receive adequate training to preach in alternative settings such as public platforms or online venues. Firstly, this thesis pays critical attention to why Black Baptist womanist preachers must embrace the power of the imagination – the God-given faculty - which forms and uses images to awaken us in answering our calling and spiritual gifts, bringing us closer to Christ. A holy and prophetical imagination from the Word of God gives us proper perception and perspective for preaching biblical truth. Secondly, this thesis presents a brief overview of the historical influence of the Black Church and the Black theological movement focusing on dignity, cultural identity, and political justice against racism. The focus on Black people’s struggles, predominately advocated by Black men in the pulpit or public sphere, and then forgetting to train and prepare women as Church leaders, stifles their imaginations and voices to preach. Thirdly, this thesis examines the impact of the courageous Black womanist preachers during the nineteenth century, breaking all pulpit barriers to preach wherever the Holy Spirit led them. Fourthly, this thesis discusses the inspiration of Black scholarly womanist preachers emerging from the civil rights and Black power movements of the twentieth century. These brave women impact today’s struggling Black Baptist womanist preachers to keep studying and preaching faithfully in every non-traditional setting. Fifthly, this thesis shows how a parachurch entity in this twenty-first century can fill the gap in preparing enthusiastic Black womanist preachers for preaching opportunities, whether in the pulpit or on alternative platforms. The investment of a parachurch entity, such as D.G. McBride Ministries, Inc., offers virtual space for developing laywomen and young leaders to build on their preaching craft to serve Jesus Christ.

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    Cultivating Purple Church: Equipping Church Leaders to Lead Politically Diverse Congregations as a Radical Act of Loving Our Neighbors and Restoring the Beloved Community
    (2023) Taylor Peck, Sarah Kathleen Duignan

    This thesis identifies the local Protestant church as an intentionally purple space and demonstrates that the Church is positioned to bridge differences. Purple churches are one of the last trusted institutions where everyday people gather. The local congregation is one of the social institutions to equipped to confront division. Our culture will continue to hemorrhage decency and churches will atrophy unless Protestant church leaders focus on bringing our communities back together. My thesis argues that practices of sharing sacraments and rituals together, while also supporting deliberative and democratic habits, serve as the civic function of teaching congregations learn how to address and overcome the polarization characterizing our nation. I contend that purple churches are doing the excruciating and challenging work of whispering hope into this desecrated and shattered moment in our human experience. While it takes a few hours to burn a house to the ground or chop down a tree, it takes a great deal of intention, struggle, and investment to build a community of wholeness out of the ashes of our current political landscape. This is the work of purple churches. My thesis will offer tools to strengthen the purple churches that exist in every town across the U.S. and a blueprint for building a purple church culture within existing protestant churches who face political divisions and struggles among membership. Finally, my thesis also explores stories from scripture that support the work of purple churches and of congregations seeking unity without uniformity.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Formation Guide for Opening a Hospitality House for Asylum Seekers
    (2023) Harris, Tiffani Cox

    This thesis, in part, seeks to provide a foundation for understanding the Christian call to ministry with those who are poor and suffering, specifically with the asylum seeker. It is a resource and formation guide for congregations and individuals sensing a call from God to extend themselves in this way. The project provides a foundation of Christian history and Scripture that speaks to the call of Christ to deny self and follow him in ministry with the least—those who are hungry, thirsty, poor, and forgotten. Included is some guidance on how to structure a ministry of this sort, important questions to consider, and reflection upon leadership challenges that arise in this type of work. It tells the story of one congregation’s approach to developing a ministry of a hospitality house for asylum-seekers and why churches should recover the discipline of hospitality.

  • ItemOpen Access
    A Rule of Life for Home: Equipping Churches to Develop and Engage a Ministry of Faith Formation at Home
    (2023) Russell, Travis

    Many Christians struggle to be significantly formed by their faith through the traditional practices and ministries of the local church. The prevalence and power of competing voices in our culture create exhaustion and fragmentation. Busy schedules, work demands, and extracurricular activities add to this struggle, monopolizing many households’ time and availability. Acknowledging the continual decline in church attendance and engagement across denominational affiliations and traditions, and current research that clearly reveals the necessity of the institutional church for faith development, I will explore some of the ways the church can begin shifting its faith formation practices to help congregants rediscover the deep center of their being in Christ and grow in their faith.

    Mining the depths of the Christian tradition, I will explore how the church can expand its educational ministries by reinstituting the ancient process of catechesis, which is how the church practiced faith formation for its first three centuries of existence. Arguing that the home is the primary source of faith and values, I will provide the church a method for extending the catechumenate outside the walls of the church by equipping families for the work of faith formation in the home.

    Drawing from deep within the well of church history, I will examine the core Christian values of early monastic rules that believers must develop in order to participate in the life and mission of Jesus. Utilizing Aristotle’s process for cultivating virtues, I will examine the spiritual disciplines and shared practices of Augustine’s and Benedict’s rules to provide concrete steps for habituating the core Christian values in the lives of believers. As these values are fostered in the homes of believers, Christ can begin to transform their lives from the inside out. What I am proposing is an accessible method for churches to begin equipping families for how to live more fully in the way of Jesus that allows them to experience the abundance (John 10:10) that Christ promised in their homes and wherever they go.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Human Trafficking, the Church, and You
    (2023) Bledsoe, Robert Simmons

    There are more slaves on planet earth right now than at any other point in history. This thesis works to highlight the reality of human trafficking, share stories of victims and survivors, study the canon of Scripture proving that this conversation matters to God, hear from experts currently engaged in this work, and offer practical options for individuals and churches to join in the fight to end human trafficking. I believe Christians should be leading the charge to advocate, legislate, and do something about modern day slavery. This is a criminal empire that is seemingly in the dark, but it is hidden in plain sight. My prayer is that this thesis shines a light on the atrocity that is human trafficking. The primary methodology of this thesis includes the sharing of testimonies, stories, and realities that others have produced and shared over the last several decades. In the grand scheme of the world, this topic has not been widely discussed or written about. In order to honor those currently doing this work, I labored to include a wide variety of resources that shine a light on human trafficking. This underscores the scope of the issue while engaging with other voices in the conversation. I will begin by offering an accurate assessment of what trafficking is and looks like. I will highlight why this should matter to Christians and churches by engaging Scripture, theologians of the past and present, and existing scholarly work. I will then interview leaders from three different organizations about the work they do and what their suggestions would be for individuals and churches to be engaged in the fight against trafficking. Finally, I will take all of this data and research and conclude by offering my recommendations for individuals and churches to make a difference in their neighborhoods, communities, country, and the world. I believe this project is feasible, manageable, and needed by our society. I believe it will make a difference, and lives will be saved because of it.

  • ItemEmbargo
    Banished from the City: The Exilic Ecclesiology of Luke-Acts
    (2023) Jeong, Mark Yunseok

    This dissertation examines those scenes in Acts where members of the church are banished, exiled, or displaced from the city, such as Acts 8:1, 13:50, and 16:35-39. It argues that Luke-Acts presents the church as a community of political exiles who have been exiled or banished from the cities of the Roman Empire. This narrative displacement prompts a response or solution, which in Luke-Acts is found in the community itself. Unlike other early Christian texts, which spoke of the church in exile from heaven or awaiting a city to come, Luke-Acts portrays the church itself as this “new city” that becomes a refuge for the displaced believers. Furthermore, exile or homelessness in Luke-Acts is not a problem requiring an otherworldly solution, but a part of the new way of life engendered by the proclamation of the gospel—it is a core part of following the way of Jesus, who himself is exiled from Nazareth in the gospel of Luke.The primary methodology I employ is literary criticism, by which I mean a careful, contextualized reading of Luke-Acts that attends to the form and content of the entire narrative. My reading of Acts is also a contextualized reading, by which I mean a reading that seeks to understand Acts in its late first-century context. This is especially important when talking about exile, since the study of exile in the New Testament has primarily focused on Israel’s exile without an adequate understanding of the socio-historical and literary reality of exile in the first century. To remedy this, I primarily read Luke-Acts alongside the consolatory literature of Plutarch, Musonius Rufus, and Favorinus. These texts address the problem of exile from different perspectives, but they all address the common themes of the loss of one’s homeland, the loss of possessions, and the loss of free speech or παρρησία. By reading Acts alongside these texts, which provide their own alternative visions of political belonging in the face of exile, I show how Luke-Acts envisions a new form of political belonging in local communities centered around the gospel.

  • ItemOpen Access
    The Munus Triplex: Pastoral Leadership Paradigm for HIV Prevention Ministry in the African American Context
    (2023) Wiggins-Banister, Tarsha L.

    Pastoral leaders in African American contexts often play a critical role in conveying messages about what is vital to black and brown people. Pastoral leadership has always been the driving force behind change within the Black Church, especially in times of community suffering. Health disparities such as the HIV epidemic in the Black community have created a crisis just as alarming as the COVID pandemic, and the key to addressing this issue will require pastoral leadership. This research aims to examine the framework of pastoral leadership through the theological model of the Munus Triplex and how it can be utilized and maximized within the congregational context to transform its culture into one in that is HIV competent and inculcated into the cultural fabric of the church.My thesis will focus on the significance of pastoral leadership in the areas of proactive and preventative HIV education, and how the pastor’s influence within the congregation can be best used to positively influence and generate outcomes leading to inclusive practices among members of the congregation in response to HIV stigmas. By examining the work of Christ through the lens of the Munus Triplex, we can ascertain some of the leadership competencies that constitute his roles as priest, prophet, and king. In turn, this can serve as a foundational model for pastoral leadership today. I will explore how each distinctive role of the Munus Triplex informs the pastor’s work towards affecting change within the congregational context. Based upon this work, I will propose a leadership paradigm approach for African American religious leaders to help them embrace their vocational responsibility to care for the whole person free of stigma and harmful theological rhetoric in response to the HIV epidemic.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Consent Forms: A Biopolitical Theology
    (2023) Elmore, Matthew

    What is consent? What does it mean, what is its use, and what good does it do? My dissertation turns these questions over and over, looking at the answers given by three different eras of western history: the Information Age up to the present, the Enlightenment up to the birth of the United States, and the Middle Ages up to the Reformation. The structure of my thought reverses the chronology of history, because I imagine my project as an excavation. Starting with a survey of the present landscape, I work downward to the depth of the past, recovering a form of consent buried in a language we have lost. Always conscious of our present context, my technique is what some call “metamodern,” meaning I freely adopt a posture that is, at turns, postmodern and premodern. After discussing the scope and method of my work in chapter one, I devote the second chapter to a study of our databased economy. Tech firms are extracting biometric and behavioral data, setting up asymmetrical power relations with a small but all-important choice architecture, the Agree button. I offer a survey of the logics behind its automation. The third chapter then picks up where the second leaves off. I draw from my own experience working in clinical research, where it was my job to “consent people.” The strange grammar of that phrase prompts a discussion about the history and practice of informed consent. This leads to the fourth chapter, where I turn to John Locke’s theory of the social contract. From Locke, we receive the basic principles regulating our use of consent today. But as I show in the next chapter, a very different paradigm lies beneath it, which is what I want to recover. Chapter five thus traces the evolutions of "consentire" from Aquinas to Luther, giving careful attention to language they received from Augustine. The sixth and final chapter then explores the Augustinian grammar in the visionary work of Dante and Catherine of Siena, whom I believe can teach us another way to be modern.

  • ItemOpen Access
    No Longer Male and Female: Ancient Christian Voices Illuminating Gender Beyond the Binary
    (2023) Brown, William F

    As faith communities engage in conversations about the meaning and significance of gender, many people have begun exploring the concept of gender beyond a fixed binary of male and female. These conversations can be challenging, raising complicated questions and employing unfamiliar concepts. This thesis seeks to engage the conversation about gender by attending to voices found in the biblical tradition, discovering a resource for better understanding the contemporary questions that have been posed. Although some may argue that the Bible endorses a strict, male-female binary, a close examination reveals that the Bible paints a much more complex picture of gender and its significance. This thesis will explore gender from several angles, discovering biblical and theological resources for a more expansive conception of gender beyond the binary. Written from a perspective that supports the full inclusion and embrace of transgender and nonbinary people in Christian churches, this thesis seeks to highlight ways that the Bible can be a useful tool for understanding gender in a way that is more nuanced and ultimately more faithful to the beautiful complexity of God’s creation.

  • ItemEmbargo
    Pray Without Ceasing: Corporate Prayer in the Evangelical Church
    (2023) Pardue, Brett McKinley

    This thesis argues that evangelical Christian communities, which traditionally reject liturgical models of prayer, might be spiritually enhanced through more disciplined prayer practices—specifically the corporate observance of a Daily Office. The ancient and apostolic pedigree of such prayer liturgies is especially relevant when considering congregations that demonstrate influence from the American Restoration Movement, which model worship exclusively according to New Testament based practices. To propose the implementation of a prayer liturgy within such a community, consideration should be given for the success of organized corporate prayer throughout the history of Christian worship. Fortunately, evidence suggests the successful receptivity of intentionally rhythmed prayer within key periods of ecclesial history, including the Early Church, the post-Constantinian period, and the Protestant Reformation. It is this historical research, coupled with exegesis of relevant biblical texts and the resultant theological implications, that provides the foundation for the action research project detailed here, in which a customized daily breviary might be introduced into an Evangelical Christian community such as Oxford Baptist Church.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Breaking Barriers: Documenting the Trailblazing Black Students of Duke Divinity
    (2023) Graham, Regina A.

    This abstract describes an oral thesis documentary project aimed at honoring the stories and experiences of trailblazing Black students who integrated Duke Divinity School in 1962 and the development of the Office of Black Church Affairs in 1972. The author/producer, an Interim Director at the Office of Black Church Studies, combines her film production, music, and marketing expertise to produce a documentary highlighting over 50 years of Black student matriculation at Duke Divinity and their empowerment as leaders. The documentary features interviews with historically silenced voices, including the first Black men (1962) and women (1973) to attend Duke Divinity School, providing a lasting testament to the transformative power of education in the face of adversity. The author/producer explores the intersections of faith, leadership, and social change, providing a valuable resource for future research.

    Moreover, the author’s research aims to recover narratives of Black women who have actively challenged the status quo regarding who should be granted access to theological education and who should be allowed into the pulpit to preach the Gospel. This focus broadens our understanding of the complexities of the Black religious experience and contributes to ongoing discussions about the role of gender and race in shaping theological discourse. The story of Duke Divinity School’s decision to admit Black students in 1962 and establish the Black Church Studies program in 1972 bears witness to the transformative power of diversity and inclusion in theological education, serving as a reminder of the importance of embracing and celebrating diversity as a reflection of God’s love for all people.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Redefining Church: Reaching, Retaining, and Assimilating Gen Z and Millennials
    (2023) Hart, Elictia T.

    This project seeks to present a model that will strengthen national non-denominationalchurches’ capacities for reaching, retaining, and assimilating Generation Z and Millennials. The central pillars of this project examine who Gen Z and Millennials are socially, psychologically, and spiritually, and identify strategies that churches nationally are utilizing to effectively reach, retain, and assimilate this demographic. This thesis uses an interdisciplinary strategy and engages pastoral leaders, consultants, and scholars.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Discerning Beyond the Screen: Embracing Christian-based Films as a Spiritual Discipline for Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
    (2023) Booth, Toya D.

    This thesis seeks to demonstrate that by intentionally integrating Christian-based movies and shows, faith leaders can encourage members of their communities to initiate, establish, grow, and sustain a relationship with Jesus Christ. Visual arts and the ingenuity the genre offers in reaching people spiritually, psychologically, and informatively need to be explored and presented as a resource for spiritual formation. This thesis seeks to provide a practical understanding of how Christian-based films have the potential to be practiced as a spiritual discipline for spiritual growth and to cultivate a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. As a spiritual discipline, the storytelling through film can stimulate an internal response to nurture disciples and make more disciples as Christ commissioned. In my research, findings, and analysis, I will provide the spiritual and film formation foundations and spiritual discipleship strategies to use Christian-based films in spiritual formation.

  • ItemEmbargo
    Augustine and the Therapy of Self-Love
    (2023) de Vries, Wilco

    For over a century, theologians, ethicists, and philosophers have debated the coherence and moral validity of Augustine’s account of self-love. What to make of statements like “Love the Lord, and in so doing learn how to love yourselves” (s. 90.6) and humanity’s ruin “was caused by love of self” (s. 96.2)? Does Augustine’s account of self-love contain an inner contradiction? And does loving oneself by loving God turn God into an instrument in the quest for self-love and happiness?

    In this dissertation, I analyze Augustine’s account of self-love and its relevance for pastoral care and redefine the more than a century-old debate in three ways. First, employing Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics, enriched by Augustine’s insights, I analyze the prejudgments scholars brought to this debate. I demonstrate that scholars who fault Augustine’s understanding of enjoyment (frui) with instrumentalization read Augustine with wrong assumptions. Aware of how modern utilitarianism’s emphasis on happiness could lead to the instrumentalization of people, critics like Hannah Arendt, Anders Nygren, and Oliver O’Donovan think Augustine’s usage of utilitas (“usefulness”) and uti (“use”) instrumentalizes God and neighbor. Through a detailed analysis of how uti and utilitas appear in ordinary Latin, ancient philosophy, Scripture, and Augustine’s writings, I show that Augustine uses forms of uti to describe the divine order. For Augustine, to use something is not to instrumentalize it but to love it as it should be loved: as an end in itself, situated within the higher end of loving God above all, from which every end receives its order, meaning, and purpose.

    Second, situating Augustine’s account of self-love in its historical context—Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, the debate between Stoicism and the Old Academy about the good life, and Scripture—I refute that his interpretation of self-love is incoherent. Augustine’s understanding of self-love is grounded in the ancient ideal of therapy. In antiquity, therapy is about a new way of seeing and being in the world. Through his writings and preaching, Augustine seeks to move his readers from a competitive self-love that favors the self over others to a connective self-love that flourishes in loving relationships with God and neighbor.

    Third, having established the nature and coherence of Augustine’s account of self-love, I go one step further by making explicit the implicit motivation for the entire debate: the relevance of Augustine’s interpretation of self-love for living a good life. I argue that Augustine’s nuanced understanding of self-love offers a good starting point for integrating self-care and self-denial for the common good. And in dialogue with feminist critiques of Augustine and Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, I also analyze where Augustine’s account of self-love needs to be corrected and expanded.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Revelance At All Costs: A Theological Exploration of Burnout and a Call to Relational Leadership in a Secular Age
    (2023) Hazelrigg, Marti Reed

    ABSTRACT

    This thesis explores the issue of burnout in congregational settings. Unmanaged stress in a system is a cause of burnout. Individuals can feel burnout, but a systemic approach is needed to prevent and address burnout. Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter believe burnout is a relationship problem. Requiring a relational solution This thesis will examine a congregation’s relationship to the world, work, and church. A relationship reset is needed to prevent and address burnout.

    The thesis unfolds in five moves. The first move explores the relationship between burnout and the world. It seeks to answer the question, what cultural realities contribute to the experience of burnout? In conversation with Charles Taylor, Andy Root believes we live in a secular age when the drive to seek a distorted idea of the good life “the good life” is constant and overwhelming. Root contends that the problem arises from the constant drive to seek the good life and from the speeding up of time itself. Root builds upon Taylor’s theory of the secular age using the work of Hartmut Rosa; he claims congregations are living in an age of acceleration which produces an epidemic of “time-famine” in modernity. Rosa concludes that acceleration causes alienation, experienced as isolation in many forms. Root concludes that the time-sickness of modernity causes depression. I conclude that times-sickness additionally causes burnout identified by exhaustion, disengagement, and ineffectiveness. The second move of the thesis explores burnout as a mismatch of relationships between people and their work. Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter suggest burnout is a systemic problem, not a personal one. Maslach and Leiter’s research defines burnout as a mismatch between people and work. The cost of caring can lead to exhaustion, disengagement, and ineffectiveness. Maslach and Leiter not only diagnose the problem of burnout but suggest how organizations can prevent burnout through engagement and empathy. The third movement of the thesis explores burnout as a systemic issue in which better matches can be made between people and their relationship to work. The fourth move explores the relationship between burnout and the church. Hartmut Rosa suggests resonance is the only antidote to the problem of the accelerated pace of modern life. Rosa defines resonance as a connection involving meaning and transformation. Andrew Root concludes that a theological understanding of resonance involves waiting as action, as the church waits for an encounter with God. I challenge Root's call for waiting and instead call for a current deepening of relationships in a congregational setting. The fifth and final move explores the need to reclaim relationships in the church as canopies of community through resonant leadership to manage burnout in a congregation. Sociologist Peter Burger wrote that religion provided a sacred canopy in the reality of a chaotic and secular world. How can congregations reclaim resonant relationships to prevent burnout as they work in the world? The Bible never uses the word burnout, though scripture offers examples of congregations facing exhaustion, disengagement, and perhaps feeling ineffective. The Apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome, facing divisions and obstacles in a chaotic world. Paul appeals to the church at Rome to create new relationships with each other and the world. He points to the image of a body working in tandem, believing each part is vital for the work of the system. Ultimately, the Apostle Paul, called by God, knows the church's work is too exhausting to do solo. In the 16th chapter of Romans, Paul names parts of the body like Phoebe and Junia who assist him in the work of God. How can the church reclaim the necessity and importance of relational leadership to prevent burnout in congregations? How can congregations move from burnout to engagement?

  • ItemOpen Access
    The Loneliness Epidemic: The Call of Christian Communities to Create Meaningful Connection and Transform Loneliness into Belonging
    (2023) Rodawla, Laldinpuia

    Loneliness is a common and near-universal experience that causes us to feel isolated and disconnected from others. More and more Americans experience it most or all the time. With at least 30% of the US population experiencing loneliness and 10% of lonely people suffering deeply, even before the Covid-19 pandemic set upon us in 2020, the loneliness epidemic is an issue that the whole society, including Christian communities, needs to combat. In a capitalist society that emphasizes individual freedom, autonomy, and productivity, we continue to experience economic prosperity and advancements in fields like healthcare and communication technology. At the same time, we have become more self-focused and mistrusting, while polarizing political divisions are growing ever wider. Fewer people join in social communities like church groups and sports teams, and an average person’s social network is declining. As a result, Americans are increasingly disconnected from friends, family, and neighbors. Loneliness tends to happen due to transitions such as aging, singleness, bereavements, disconnections, and a lack of connectedness, of community, and of belonging. There is a myth that elderly people are the loneliest group; the truth, however, is that young adults are the loneliest. This ongoing public crisis is not only causing people to suffer silently but also killing them literally, and the general public is not aware of it. Members of the lonely society are longing for acceptance, purpose, and love, and what they need are meaningful interpersonal relationships. Although Christ has called Christians to share the gospel and participate in his ministry of caring those who suffer and are in need, Christian communities in America are not ready to tackle the issue of loneliness. In order for them to tackle it, they must change their lens on loneliness, because it is often considered bad or undesirable by Christians. How can Christian communities create meaningful connections and transform loneliness into belonging? At the heart of the loneliness epidemic is the lack of meaningful relationships. The loneliness epidemic is a reminder that living a self-centered life is not life-giving nor sustaining. The fact that we have the loneliness epidemic despite the many opportunities to connect with one another is a reminder that we not only need stronger connections with one another, but also a deeper connection with our Creator. The loneliness epidemic is also a reminder that members of Christian communities cannot be complacent but must follow Jesus in their neighborhoods and reach out to those who are in need, including the lonely. I research loneliness from three perspectives: philosophy/theology, mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health, and the intersection of religion and health. In doing so, I explore the issues that can be beneficial to Christian communities in responding to the loneliness epidemic. I focus my research on such issues as how loneliness has an impact on individuals mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually; how loneliness affects demographics like young adults, the elderly, and Christian leaders; the role of psychotherapy and other interventions and approaches for reducing loneliness; and the necessary actions members of Christian communities and leaders can take part in against the loneliness epidemic. I explore the nature and dangers of loneliness from the perspectives of contemporary researchers on loneliness and theologians like Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Thomas Aquinas (1224 – 1274), and John of the Cross (1542-1591).

  • ItemOpen Access
    Walking the Back of The Crocodile: A Manual of Biblical Interpretation for Queer Members of the Black Church
    (2023) Matthews Jr, Clifford

    June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States, ruled that same sex marriage was constitutional, extending the right and its accompanying benefits to millions of persons to whom legal recognition of their marriages were denied on a federal level. With a sense of urgency, several of the Black Church denominations put out statements affirming that marriage is only recognized in a heterosexual frame. And while expressing love for the Queer community, each statement from these Black Church denominations stated that same sex marriage was against the Bible. The response of the Black Church concerning same sex marriage illustrates its weaponization of the Bible against Queer members of the Black Church who, are often unequipped to blunt the weaponization of the Bible against them, opting for either a rejection of affectional orientation, or a passive existence both which reinforce shamed based pathologies and correlates with unsafe practices which fester in contexts where communal accountability is absent. This project aims to provide Queer members of the Black Church with a manual for biblical interpretation, one which is rooted in the interpretative strategies of the Church, and particularly that of the Black Church whose interpretative strategies blunted the weaponization of the Bible in support of slavery and Black inferiority. Available research from historians, biblical scholars, theologians, social scientists, and journalist were utilized in support of this project. This project examines: the taboo framing of Black sexuality, how the Bible was developed, biblical interpretative strategies, Black Church interpretative strategies, and the importance of self-awareness in biblical interpretation.

  • ItemOpen Access
    A Storied God, A Storied People: A Strategy for the Local Church to Practice the Narrative Nature of Scripture by Adhesion to a Particular Story
    (2023) Scott, Jeremy David

    This thesis aims to develop a narrative strategy for the local church parish, drawing on postliberal and narrative theologies. It argues that the narrative nature of the incarnation is not only descriptive of God's movement into the world but also prescriptive for the movement of God's people within the world. To begin to develop this claim, the thesis examines denominational and consultant practitioners' approaches and proposes a practical strategy for carrying out a narrative movement in a contextualized seing.The thesis centers around the biblical feature that Jesus is from Nazareth, with a particular in-depth look at his time spent in the Nazarene synagogue in Luke 4:14-30. Building on Samuel Wells' A Nazareth Manifesto, the thesis argues that contextualized story should be more formative and shaping than the corporatized phenomena of mission statements and core values, following the pattern of the narrative nature found within Scripture. To test the proposed strategy's effectiveness, the thesis includes an on-the-ground experiment within the North Street Community Church of the Nazarene, spanning about two years. The experiment seeks to see if the strategy results in narrative formation of both the individuals within the church and the church itself. Finally, the thesis concludes with a project for congregational use that builds upon the experiment's results. The project proposes a practical application of the narrative strategy, incorporating both what was learned during the experiment and adaptations of strategies found elsewhere.