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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
    Beyond Racial Sympathy: An Antiracist Imagination for Homiletics and Hermeneutics for White Evangelical Congregations in San Diego.
    (2024) Wilson, Matthew Ryan

    A history of white supremacist ideology has long shaped white evangelical churches and their theology. This has never been more apparent since the election of Donald Trump and the response to the protests after the murder of George Floyd. Amid the racial reckoning in the summer of 2020, white evangelical preachers sought to address race, racism, and racial justice. This thesis aims to articulate theological resources and homiletical strategies for white evangelical churches as they address racial injustice from the pulpit. Specifically, two predominately white evangelical churches in San Diego, which have a stated belief in and pursuit of racial justice, are studied, and the six sermons after the death of George Floyd are analyzed. The study and analysis of Park Hill Church and All People’s Church are placed in conversation with present antiracist scholarship. Examination of antiracist discussions will illuminate the homiletics of these two churches and lead to practical theological insights and biblical hermeneutics that pursue an antiracist imagination. This thesis concludes by suggesting three biblical passages, Amos 2, Matthew 15, and Acts 15, as biblical companions for imagining antiracist homiletics.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Truth, Justice and The Role of Social and Religious Leadership towards Reconciliation and National Healing in Post-Independence Zimbabwe: A Theological Perspective


    This thesis argues that the challenges Zimbabwe has been facing since her independence in 1980 are a result of bad governance. There is undeniably a leadership deficit in Zimbabwe, as in many countries across Africa, that is evidenced by the continuous deterioration of living conditions of the general populace. The oppressive policies that emanated from the colonial era are still being enforced in contemporary Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, such policies are being perpetrated by the black government against black people. As a result, the economy and social lives of the populace have been ravaged by corrupt leaders, both social and religious. Many people have died at the hands of irresponsible and egocentric politicians without account. What theology can the church develop to mitigate such pernicious politics in Zimbabwe by the liberation struggle movement ZANU-PF? The church should be a non-partisan entity that functions as the soul of the nation. It is the church’s mandate to facilitate reconciliation and healing through dialogues that unify the people of Zimbabwe. The auspicious moment for the church in Zimbabwe is to facilitate an unbiased dialogue that is imbedded in Christian theology, seeking to promote democracy and leading the country towards recovery. Christian theology does not evade truth, justice and repentance. These three remain as the prerequisites for genuine reconciliation. This is the message of the church to the world, and it should never be compromised for any ungodly gain and self-aggrandizement.

  • ItemOpen Access
    “All My Relations” An Ecological Reading of Threefold Christian Scripture to imagine faithful action in a time of climate crisis.
    (2024) McGlothlin, Jaime Lee

    This Doctor of Ministry thesis seeks to address the misapplication of Christian Scripture and its contribution to the climate crisis in which we find ourselves. Ellen Davis calls the Christian duty to delineate a responsible vision of what participation in the renewal of creation might mean the most essential theological task of this generation. This is but one small offering. The solution this thesis proposes is the recovery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the story of everything, a metanarrative which holds together God and all God has made. This ecological (relational) reading of Scripture finds all of Holy Scripture and reality to follow a threefold wisdom pattern of Creation/Uncreation/New Creation. Recovery of this lens allows us to name the time we are living in and imagine what faithful ecological participation in the larger story might look like.

    The methodology used in this paper is narrative theology. Such a theology is advocated by Kavin Rowe and can also be seen in Richard Hays’ reading of New Testament texts as echoes of earlier narratives. NT Wright also suggests the metanarrative of the Resurrection of Christ in framing all ethical action and mission of the Church. Agrarian theological readings of Scripture, such as those offered by Ellen Davis, Wendell Berry, and Norman Wirzba, have also formed my understanding and hearing of Holy Scripture. I also have been shaped by the writing of Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann, who explores the liturgy of the Church in worship as the great cosmic story; Christ and the Church are offered “for the life of the world.”

    It is this world which is the theme and concern of this thesis, and which much contemporary Christian theology has left behind. It is time to recover the story of a God who so loved the world to bring heaven down to dwell with us.

  • ItemEmbargo
    The Need for an Altar and a Couch: How African-American Churches and Clergy can Create Safe Spaces to Confront the Stigma and Silence Surrounding Mental Health
    (2024) Rouse III, Matthew D

    The abstract aims to provide tools for African-American clergy and congregations toaddress mental healthcare in their communities better. I plan to use three African-American pastors and churches with established programs and counseling centers as case studies and provide churches and clergy with the framework to offer mental health services to their church and community. I also plan to provide options for pastors and churches to partner with local mental health professionals or healthcare systems in their area and share a resource guide on planning a local mental health fair to demonstrate the importance of meeting with mental health professionals. Through examining these initiatives, I hope to identify strategies that more congregations could deploy in order to increase congregational and community engagement with counseling services. I will argue that the ultimate outcome for any initiative would be to create a network that uses trained faith leaders and mental health professionals as crisis counselors to provide counseling services as community liaisons. I hope my thesis will help empower African- American clergy to develop these much-needed resources and networks.

  • ItemOpen Access
    The Cradle of Things: Recognition in Iconography and Paul Cézanne's Portraits of His Wife
    (2024) Ananias, Christina Lynn Carnes

    This dissertation seeks to show how a Byzantine theology of icons and can both inform, and be refined by, an engagement with a major figure in modern art. Specifically, I argue that the visual theology of Theodore the Studite (759-826) provides a fruitful lens for interpreting Paul Cézanne’s (1839-1906) portraits of his wife, and Cézanne’s portraits in turn pressure Theodore’s visual theology toward more precision.

    I demonstrate that it is possible to trace similar impulses toward skepticism in the iconoclastic arguments of the eighth and ninth centuries on the one hand, and in the emergence of modernism in the nineteenth century on the other. By considering both of these movements in terms of the dialectic between skepticism and anti-skepticism, I claim that certain iconoclastic writers and certain modernist artists and critics harbored a similar attitude of epistemological doubt in the ability of images to fittingly represent their archetypes. I then contend that Theodore the Studite’s iconophilic response to iconoclastic skepticism, premised upon his understanding of the hypostatic union of divine and human in Jesus Christ, can shed light on Cézanne’s portraits of his wife, because both the paintings’ style and the painter’s approach to his practice betray an orientation to images that we might call iconophilic. If, for Theodore, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ dignifies appearance as the definitive site of recognition and authorizes the painted likeness in an icon as a possible participant in this recognition, then the appearance of Cézanne’s subjects (including his wife), should be adequate for the artist’s sensation (enlightened perception) of his subjects and subsequent réalisation (meaningful depiction) of those subjects. While the dominant interpretation of Cézanne’s paintings tends to claim that the artist skeptically diminished the subject as a result of its (or her) ultimate inaccessibility, Theodore’s visual theology makes sense of and gives credence to Cézanne’s pursuit of recognition.

    When read through Theodore’s account of hypostatic recognition, however, Cézanne’s uniquely modernist concerns invite an expansion of Theodore’s visual Christo-logic. While these portraits enact a hope of recognition, they nonetheless demonstrate the tragic possibility of misrecognition. By highlighting the prominent theme of the tragic misrecognition of Jesus Christ as a criminal rather than the Son of God in John’s crucifixion narrative, I show that a theological account of hypostatic recognition must contend with the possibility of such misrecognition in a way that critiques but nonetheless complements Theodore the Studite’s confidence in the ability of images to call forth recognition of their prototypes. Following John’s gospel, I go on to argue that the resurrection of Jesus Christ reestablishes the ground for hypostatic recognition on the far side of tragedy.

    In this light, I go on to argue that Cézanne’s portraits of his wife can be understood anew as confessions. The paintings both profess what he can see of her, which is partial and incomplete, while simultaneously acknowledging his own inter-personal entanglement with her. Within the give-and-take of such a painted confession, I argue, the hope of recognition abides.

    As an epistemological posture, therefore, confession acknowledges that bodily appearance is the site of inter-personal knowledge and connection, while simultaneously acknowledging that right recognition cannot be certified or controlled by any formulaic construal of apparent parts. The hypostatic presence of the other—whether that be one’s wife or one’s savior—is always a gift. To echo the famous phrase with which Michael Fried ended his watershed essay, “Art and Objecthood,” recognition is grace.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Theodore Beza's Reading of the Old Testament Poetic Books in Service of the Church, 1579-1589
    (2024) Kim, Eunjin

    This dissertation examines Theodore Beza’s reading of four Old Testament poetic books – the Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs – to demonstrate his contribution in the history of biblical interpretation. While previous scholarship has largely focused on Beza’s contributions to the New Testament, highlighting his role as a text critic, this present study of his works on the Old Testament books sheds light on political and religious dynamics within Beza’s interpretive approach beyond his text critical influences. This study portrays Beza as a pivotal figure in the Reformed faith during the political and religious upheavals of the late sixteenth century, analyzing the ways in which he utilizes biblical exegesis to comfort persecuted churches and cultivate proper piety amongst afflicted believers. In doing so, Beza employs the Old Testament biblical characters – David, Job, and Solomon – as teachers of Reformed doctrines and paragons of Christian piety, particularly in their steadfast patience and unwavering trust in divine providence amidst adversity. His writings on these poetic biblical texts reflect his commitment to promoting a specific theological agenda for the church through the practice of biblical exegesis.

    This study explores each of Beza’s interpretations of the four poetic books with special attention to his exegetical method, principal themes, and pastoral applications. In his paraphrases of the Psalms, Beza draws parallels between David’s history (Christ’s history in certain psalms) and sixteenth-century believers, highlighting themes of godly kingdoms and righteous rulers, while also offering practical guidance on applying imprecations for contemporary Christians. In his commentary and paraphrases on Job, Beza focuses on Job’s history and his particular place as a member of the true church, laying the ground for using this biblical figure as a positive example for the afflicted believers of his time. In his paraphrases of Ecclesiastes, Beza conveys lessons on divine providence and the highest good through the lens of Solomon’s experience as a king. Furthermore, in his sermons on the Song of Songs, Beza employs allegorical interpretation to underscore the nature and identity of the true church throughout salvation history, from the Old to the New Testaments, on which he grounds the authority and succession of the Protestant churches over against the false churches of his time.

    An analysis of Beza’s approach to these poetic books reveals consistent patterns in his emphasis on literal and historical exegesis, his focus on themes of divine providence and God’s care for God’s people as an overarching theological framework, and his reading for the edification of the persecuted church through the lens of David, Solomon, and Job. Beza’s use and application of his Old Testament readings within his political and religious milieu underscore the important role that biblical interpretation played in promoting his theological program. Consequently, these findings demonstrate Beza’s place as a consolidator of Reformed confessional identity in his exegetical and theological commitments. This study offers an understanding of Beza as an exegete dedicated to reinforcing Reformed exegetical practices, while adeptly applying his interpretations to address the specific political and religious challenges of the late sixteenth century, thereby offering comfort to churches and believers enduring persecution.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Back to the Past: Reimagining Afro-Pentecostal Homiletics as a Form of Social Power by Recapturing Their Early Spirit of Activism to Address Contemporary Racism.
    (2024) Johnson Sr., Reverend Dr. Torianto S

    This thesis identifies how Afro-Pentecostal homiletics can be the impetus behind reviving Afro-Pentecostalism as a force for social justice advocacy by centering sermons around the social-ethical message of the biblical prophets. Despite a storied history of activism and a social ethic that promoted equality and countered racism with resistance, many contemporary Afro-Pentecostals have abandoned their rich history of social engagement and opted instead to focus on the prosperity gospel and its emphasis on extravagant wealth. The shift is a direct result of the emergence of the prosperity gospel with its roots in New Thought and Positive Thinking that eventually became influential in African American religious circles. Just like a thief in the night, the prosperity gospel swooped in and transformed Afro-Pentecostalism from a movement that prioritized justice and Jesus to one that developed a homiletical tradition that confused holiness with wealth and prioritized prosperity over social responsibility and, ultimately, the individual over community.

    The problems are theological as much as they are homiletical. Theologically, Afro-Pentecostal’s tendency towards pre-millennialism encourages little concern for the here and now, and the individualism inherent within prosperity theology centers on self. Sermons focus on what God can do for the individual and rarely, if ever, mention the power of community. Homiletically, the lack of emphasis on social justice matters from pulpits on Sunday morning sends a clear sign to parishioners of what the church prioritizes.

    By drawing from leading Afro-Pentecostal scholars and mining actual sermons of prominent Afro-Pentecostal leaders, this thesis concludes that preaching is critical in building a prophetic community that empowers pastors and congregations. This interdependent relationship goes beyond mere foretelling and counters individualism. Using the munus triplex as a blueprint for Christ-like leadership, Afro-Pentecostal pastors can galvanize their communities via their public roles as prophets, priests, and servant-leaders as they and the congregations emulate Christ. Finally, the Spirit’s work is not limited to the individual experience of salvation. A holistic theology of the Spirit goes beyond individual encounters and spreads into the world as a liberator. Jesus embodies what it means to prioritize the marginalized and still hold piety in high regard and shows that piety and passion for justice are not mutually exclusive.

    This thesis underscores the urgent need to restore Afro-Pentecostalism’s history of social justice advocacy, which is essential in the fight against injustice. Protestants cannot accomplish this alone. The importance of adding millions of believers to the justice arena cannot be overstated, and this watershed moment presents an opportunity for transformative change when the Spirit injects life into Afro-Pentecostalism’s prophetic voice to revive their early spirit of activism and address contemporary racism.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Moses Is Dead: Strategies for Pastoral Transition
    (2024) Simone, M. Travis

    In the independent church, where there is no bishop to call and no presbytery to consult, which strategies ensure a successful transition from one pastor to another? Using the biblical narrative of the leadership transition from Moses to Joshua as a guiding metaphor, this thesis examines why leadership transitions are fraught for all churches and uniquely complicated for independent churches. It then proposes viable strategies to use when transitioning from one pastor to another.

    The problem of pastoral transition is addressed by studying the successful leadership transitions that occurred within the Hampton Roads Consortium of Churches between 2013 and 2023. The thesis presents their stories, gives voice to the often-neglected perspective of successor pastors, and reflects on the findings through the lens of the classical theological disciplines: historical theology, systematic theology, biblical studies, and practical theology. It also engages the broader literature on leadership transitions within secular organizations as a way to evaluate pastoral leadership transitions in a wider context.

    Out of the qualitative analysis conducted on interviews with the successor pastors of the Hampton Roads Consortium, five strategies emerged: look for one-eyed pastors; deploy a prophet, priest, and king; speak with candor; drop the baton; and seek interdependence. These strategies represent a framework from which independent churches may begin to develop much needed processes for when their inevitable moment of pastoral transition arrives. The strategies may also serve denominational churches desiring to inject creativity into the stale parts of their approach. Together, the strategies outlined in this thesis are intended to help churches move from the loss of a leader to renewed mission as a community.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Before the Next Storm: A Pastoral Approach to Conflict Transformation in the Local Church by Reviving the Old Testament’s Theological Language
    (2024) Kelley, Wesley Gannon

    Local churches suffer from insufficient preparedness for intragroup conflict. Thisproblem may be addressed fruitfully by pastors and their local church leaders when they encounter Old Testament narratives of intragroup conflict with their theological imaginations. With the working metaphor of storm preparation, the author examines how imaginative theological speech gives a constructive shape to the local church’s conflict cycles. Drawing from John Paul Lederach’s work on the role of the imagination in conflict transformation and the work of Brent Strawn on the Old Testament’s theological language, the author developed a Bible study that trains participating local church leaders in four elements of conflict preparedness: imaginative theological fluency, Lederach’s conflict transformation skillset, empathic practical wisdom, and the capacity to rehumanize an enemy. The Old Testament is an essential theological resource for the local church cultivating intragroup conflict preparedness, because the Old Testament itself contains many narratives of intragroup conflict as well as rich intertextual theological conversations that illustrate the productive intragroup tensions abiding within God’s people. A pastor may tap into these narratives and conversations creatively in this Bible study to develop participating leaders’ imaginative theological speech about conflict in their own lives. The quantitative and qualitative outcomes of this Bible study’s first iteration in the local church are analyzed and interpreted theologically in order to reimagine the storm metaphor itself. By intervening with the Old Testament’s theological speech during low-intensity phases of a conflict cycle, the pastor weatherproofs their local church leaders before the next storm.

  • ItemOpen Access
    A Model for Church Revitalization: The Role and Treatment of Existing Older Congregants
    (2024) Green, Letisha Darlene

    The startling consistent decline of church attendance in the United States has created a flurry of new church start activities and revitalization efforts. Most literature and efforts focus on what new things must happen to reverse the decline. In those efforts, older existing congregants are often overlooked and ignored, at best, or viewed as obstacles and the root of the problem, at worst. This leads to combative relationships between revitalization leaders and congregations caught in the crosshairs. This combative approach is inconsistent with the message of Christ and detrimental to the needed revitalization efforts.

    This project seeks to introduce a model for the treatment and role of existing older congregants during a church’s revitalization. The model includes the treatments to Ascribe Value and to Optimize Minimal Change, and the twofold role to Engage in Ministry.

    In my process, I engaged existing writing and research on church revitalization and aging in the church, applied acute theological perspectives to these writings, and provided real-life examples of how these insights can come together for a more complete treatment and engagement of existing older congregants in healthy and sustainable church revitalization.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Storied People: Narrative as a Means of Communal Healing in the Local Church
    (2024) Akin, Gerald Ray

    Narrative identity is the process of discovering who we are by analyzing the stories that make up our lives and the stories of how we relate to the world around us. Unfortunately, this process is quickly derailed when unexpected events cause interruptions within the narrative and send our lives into unplanned directions. These interruptions could be tragic, welcome, or they could be anywhere in between. Regardless of the benefit or misfortune of these interruptions, they all require a re-calibration of our narrative to some degree.Just as individuals form their identities based on the stories contained within their own lives, communities are also shaped by their collective narratives, which are made up of shared accomplishments, struggles, and defeats. Each member of the community contributes to its unified story by allowing their own life to shape the communal narrative in some way. This is especially true within the community of a local church, where people share, not only their history, geography, and culture, but they also share a set of values and beliefs that they live out through the practice of corporal worship and collaborative mission. When the collective narrative of the faith community is not easily understood, or when it is interrupted by circumstances that challenge the identity of the community, it is necessary for the community to recalibrate once again proclaiming who they are, what they believe, and why they believe it. Since the days of the early Church, the process of narrative identity has been developed by the telling, hearing, and exchanging of personal testimonies— individual stories of how the community’s shared faith has made an impact on a particular individual’s life. In the case of Pierce Chapel Methodist Church, the church I currently serve as Senior Pastor, the community has been faced with several challenges in the last few years. These challenges include, but are not limited to: a deep divide over how to return from the COVID shutdown, the retirement of two long-tenured pastors, and disaffiliation from a denomination that the church had called home since 1968. In the wake of these events, I have challenged the church to re-discover their communal identity by encouraging them to hear and tell their individual stories. In the summer of 2023, I preached a sermon series called Storied People. The theme of each individual sermon is reflected in each respective chapter of this thesis. After each sermon was preached, I collected the stories of individual members from the congregation as they shared their own testimonies and experiences with each other. And, since this sermon series also took place in the weeks leading up to and following Pierce Chapel’s Heritage Sunday celebration, I conducted interviews for a narrative-based video presentation, to be shown that morning. I include many of the testimonies from that presentation in the following pages. Through this practice, I and the rest of the congregation found ourselves reexamining and better understanding our church's narrative identity.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Remember Who You Are! How Clergy and Christian Leaders Can Positively Affect the Self-Image of Black, Christian, Gen Z Women
    (2024) Hyrams, Larceeda British

    This project explores the ways in which clergy and Christian leaders can positively affect the continued development of the self-image of Black, Christian, Gen Z women. For those who are privileged to hold a space of influence with this demographic, experience among those in collegiate ministry shows that there is an abundance of curiosity and doubt, tenderness and fragility related to their self-image. These circumstances provide the opportunity for building up the self-image of these young adults, God’s beloved.The thesis first defines “self-image” using psychology, sociology, and theology as a foundation. Next, using a methodology that is womanist in nature, this project allows Black, Christian, Gen Z women to speak for themselves. The project explores via in- depth interviews with ten Black, Christian, Gen Z women how their self-image has developed over time, specifically in regard to their encounters with Christian organizations and clergy and Christian leaders. Finally, this project asks these young women to recommend actions Christian clergy and other Christian leaders can take to positively affect the self-image of women like themselves. What results are recommendations that will benefit not only Black, Christian, Gen Z women, but also will benefit others far beyond this limited demographic. A project that was implicitly womanist yields explicitly womanist results.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Overflowing and Intermingling: Augustine, Preaching, Relationality, and the Spirit
    (2024) Melton, Andrew Owen

    Some recent trends in homiletics have begun to move beyond postmodern questions to postcolonial questions. One primary concern shared among many contemporary homileticians, and especially articulated by postcolonial homileticians, is “relationality.” How can diverse peoples with diverse histories interacting through a variety of power dynamics truly relate to one another? How can those people relate to God and God’s word, especially as God’s word is proclaimed through preaching by a human being who is caught up in those power dynamics? These questions touch on the relationality of bodies, minds, and teaching; they explore anthropology, epistemology, and practical theology. However, the issues at the heart of relationality are not new. This thesis explores the homiletical theory and practice of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), with a view toward how Augustine anticipates some of the core questions of relationality raised in the 21st century. The first chapter synthesizes contemporary questions of relationality and suggests why Augustine is an apt conversation partner for these questions. The body of the thesis (chs. 2—4) focuses on a close reading of Augustine’s treatise, De Doctrina Christiana, and select sermons, through the lenses of the questions synthesized in ch. 1. The final chapter brings the insights gained from chs. 2—4 back into conversation with three contemporary sermons, each preached by a postcolonial homiletician. By setting Augustine’s sermons alongside contemporary sermons, this thesis seeks to show that there is much to draw on in the historic Christian tradition to help answer contemporary homiletical questions. Ultimately, it will be argued that Augustine’s way of interweaving various characteristics of bodies, minds, and teaching and his crucial reliance on the Holy Spirit to hold together the overflowing and intermingling relational dynamics of the preaching event outline a way of preaching relationally in both the 5th and the 21st centuries.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Pooling Resources to Meet Critical Needs: An Examination of Cary First Christian Church as a Site of Hospitality
    (2024) Brickhouse, Mycal Xavier

    On January 16, 2016, I was installed as the pastor of Cary First Christian Church in Cary, NC. Cary First Christian Church was founded in 1868 as a congregationalist congregation for the African American community in Cary, NC. Since then, the church has sought to be a relevant community presence by addressing the challenges that face the surrounding community. As a pastor, I sought to build upon this legacy to be communally engaged by introducing a vision to the congregation to complete the design production of a community senior center and affordable housing complex that would seek to serve seniors, especially those who identify as low to moderate-income, African American, and Latino/Latinx, in the Cary Community.

    This thesis will examine the theological framework that supported my pastoral vision of community development by drawing on a historical analysis of the ecclesiology of the Black Church, demonstrating the need for senior affordable housing in Cary, NC, and highlighting the ministry practices utilized to inspire collective participation in this vision. This thesis will demonstrate how a contextual exegesis of one’s context is essential in understanding the local community's needs, the congregation's capacity, and the network of resources available to determine a possible solution to a problem.

    In the case of Cary First Christian Church, the problem was rising housing costs and the elimination of seniors aging in place. This problem was identified through members of the Cary First Christian Church serving seniors through a meal delivery program and witnessing the need for ongoing services to assist seniors in aging in place. Such a problem mirrors that of those in the early church, where members of the faith community needed vital resources, such as access to food and shelter. The New Testament church demonstrated intentional and organized support for those in need. Communities of faith should take a learning journey to determine how they can be sites of hospitality - meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. While some communities are not always willing to express radical hospitality - relinquishing control and being open to the improvisational move of the Holy Spirit, when communities commit themselves to being sites of hospitality, we begin to see the abundance of resources that are connected to us. This spirit inspired Cary First Christian Church as we recognized that we were blessed with assets that might be able to be deployed to help meet critical housing needs for seniors in our community.

  • ItemOpen Access
    The Ordered Way of Ordination: United Methodist Ordination as a Way of Life
    (2024) Corpening, Daniel M

    The aim of this project is to provide a compelling and theologically sound understanding of the ordination of Elders in the United Methodist Church. Unfortunately within 21st century United Methodism, the telos of the ordination process is often portrayed as a credentialing or licensure that most poignantly speaks to what someone has done to receive such a certification, but says little to nothing about what lies beyond it. This unintended and inadequate portrayal of the telos of the ordination process bears significant consequences for the depth of ordained leadership and the vitality of the church. In this thesis, I will argue that the ordination of Christian leaders is primarily a covenant made between God, the church, and the ordained regarding a particular ordered way of living that provides leadership to the church for the flourishing of communities and in service and witness to the Triune God. Ordination is not a possession. It is a confession and patterning of lives around the life of Jesus. In particular, I will demonstrate how this understanding of ordination is deeply “at-home” within the Methodist tradition, and how this understanding and praxis of ordination can cultivate a vibrancy in both ordained and lay leadership for the flourishing of our communities.

    In order to make this argument, I will draw from the resources of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience which offer a fourfold lens of theological engagement that is central to the Methodist tradition. This project will begin by exploring a theology of ordination more broadly, followed by a more specific exploration of ordination in the Methodist movement. From here, this project will draw on the ecumenical witness of Saint Óscar Romero who offers a critical example for what ordination as an ordered way of living looks like. Finally, this thesis will work to establish the fourfold ministry of Elders – Word, Sacrament, Service, and Order – not simply as duties or tasks to complete, but rhythms by which Elders and congregations can pattern their lives in witness to the Reign of God being revealed in our midst.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Getting Carried Away: Preaching Jeremiah 32 as a Theological Framework Toward Reimagining Community and Economic Development as Prophetic Witness for Fairfield Baptist Church.
    (2024) Vickers, Sr. , Eric

    This project focuses on the praxis of prophetic preaching from Jeremiah 32 as the impetus for introducing, inspiring, mobilizing, and launching a community development corporation through the life of Fairfield Baptist Church of Redan in Lithonia, Georgia. The work of this thesis presents a personal account of prophetic preaching misrepresentation, recontextualization of prophetic preaching through academic grounding, historical and contemporary models, three original sermons preached from Jeremiah 32 as Theo-practical framing, and the challenges and opportunities for Fairfield to develop a CDC. The thesis attempts to outline the historical challenges and disparities for African-American communitieswhile seeking to lift the church as the vehicle for both spiritual change and social transformation. Pertinent to this work is the thorough investigation of what it means to live out the work of prophetic preaching and ministry. What is prophetic preaching? Why is Jeremiah the paradigmatic prophet? What is the telos of prophetic preaching for African-American communities and churches? How should prophetic preaching affect Fairfield Baptist Church of Redan?

  • ItemOpen Access
    The Anti-Racist Church: Freeing American Churches from the “religion of whiteness” to embrace the image of Jesus and Social Transformation
    (2024) Weathers, Stefan

    The criminalization of African Americans is a major issue in the United States of America and for American churches of all racial backgrounds and denominations. In fact, American churches, with notable exceptions, particularly among Black Churches, have acquiesced to this narrative or actively supported it. This criminalization has historically and is currently leading to violence against African American women, men, non-binary, and children, both physically and psychologically. This violence is justified by the dominant socio-cultural and political designation of African Americans as possessing inherent or heightened criminality.

    This thesis seeks to first show how we ended up in this situation and how instrumental the role of the Western church and theology was in shaping this reality. Moreover, the depths of the violence are brought forth and examined to fully understand how it was legitimized through this justification narrative, as an accepted aspect of church, culture, socio-political, and economic life. Secondly, this thesis offers a solution to this problem in the form of theological reflection on the formation of the Black Church in the Antebellum South and “free” North. This theological reflection is also done in conversation with the early Christians/Church’s understanding of the imago Dei, as the image of Jesus, and their resulting ministry.

    Thirdly, this thesis translates theology into practice. With an understanding of how the problem came to be and through theological reflection on transformative solutions, practical examples of not only espousing change verbally but embodying it through everyday practice as churches, clergy, pastors, individual believers, and faith-based organizations are outlined. Finally, in keeping with the tradition of the faith, the importance of evangelization as translating theology into practice is reimagined. Although the focus is specifically the African American experience of being criminalized, that experience has universal implications for all those who are violently otherized.

  • ItemOpen Access
    Pascal's Wafer: The Concept of Piety in Blaise Pascal's Theological Anthropology
    (2024-04-22) Whelan, Maximillian
    The concept of piety occupies a central, if hidden or obscure place in the theological anthropology of Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). Like many aspects of Pascal’s thought, piety has a two-sided, paradoxical nature stemming from the broader human condition, a condition marked by—indeed, torn between—misery and greatness. On the one hand, for Pascal, an individual can never, in their earthly existence, achieve a sense of certainty or definitive self-constitution through any act, pious or otherwise, no matter how visible or numerous such acts may be. As a product of the Fall, the human self is “hateful” and perpetually incapable of fulfilling, through its own merits or capabilities, any sense of duty or purity before God. As the means by which the human self is “annihilated,” piety hence entails a spirit of endurance and embrace of uncertainty. On the other hand, however, piety does not exclusively entail unceasing, self-annihilating acts. There are also different earthly states of piety—what Pascal refers to as the “beginning,” “progress” and “consummation” of piety—that are increasingly “filled” and directed toward a final, heavenly state. There is thus a way in which annihilating acts and vivifying states of piety work in tandem and toward the same end. This simultaneity and synergy of pious acts and states may be discerned in the three orders constituting Pascal’s anthropology, namely, those of the body, mind, and heart. Crucially and at each step of the way, this process is dependent on God’s action, that is, on grace. As I seek to show, piety, for Pascal, is fundamentally a childlike phenomenon—an act and state simultaneously whereby, rather than a person presenting themselves before God, God presents Himself both before and within the person.
  • ItemOpen Access
    With Liberty, Justice, and Salvation for All: The Religious and Social Ethic of Christian Universalists in the American Founding
    (2024-04-22) Beisswanger, Russell
    There have been few doctrines as provocative in the history of Christianity as Universalism, the belief that all people shall be saved and reconciled to Jesus Christ at the end of time. There have also been few times in history as volatile for institutional religion as America during the Revolution and early republic. In late eighteenth-century New England, though, the founding of the Universalist General Convention saw Universalism and American republicanism converge. It was no coincidence that a Universalist denomination spawned at this time and place, nor was it viewed as such by its leaders at the time. The “founding fathers of American Universalism” saw themselves as possessing a unique theological and political vocation. The Universalists forged their theological and social ethic in the aftermath of a breakdown of trust in New England’s Calvinist religious consensus and many clergy's perceived surrender of the region’s popular culture to selfish individualism. Universalists believed their distinct doctrine would provide the social cohesion that neither old-line Calvinism nor deistic Enlightenment values could offer on their own, building a communal piety that used the love of God demonstrated to all creation in universal salvation to spur the believer to a life of good works. Thus, universal salvation served as the optimal theological facilitator of republican values and social ethics, manifested in Universalist public piety's situation of individual liberty and assurance of salvation within an irenic communal ethic.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Healing the Sin Sick Soul: Aescetical Theology as an Antidote to Racism
    (2024) Orville, Lynn Denise


    In The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn observed,If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Jesus is clear that what comes from our hearts defiles us, and that our propensity for sin against God and others is deep inside us. Stereotypes that polarize run deep, as do attitudes from which bad behavior develops. Racism and attitudes of white supremacy are much in conversation within the church today. Books on racism, its causes, and its consequences abound. By comparison, there much less exploration of why the sin of racism exists and what causes it. Complacency about racism and white privilege afflicts the laity and the clergy alike within the American church, and its complacency in fulfilling the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves lies at the root of racism. Another word for this complacency is acedia, the root sin at the heart of racism and the role it plays in racism. This topic is relevant to my own ministry because I am white and part of the systemic racism in American culture, and because the church in which I serve is the Episcopal Church, which is predominantly comfortable and white, and I serve in a congregation and diocese that mirror that reality. The longer I study and contemplate acedia, the more clearly I see the turn away from God and God’s creation that defines the source of our “lack of care,” our acedia, at the heart of our racism. Racial reconciliation is difficult for the church, and the church is affected deeply by the lack of reconciliation found there. The presenting problem is the need for racial reconciliation in the church and the church’s difficulty in accomplishing it. This thesis offers a history of racism and a thorough consideration of acedia and its part in racism and white supremacy. Reconciliation, per 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, is explored, as are other texts from the New Testament that pertain to the issue of reconciliation and relationships between people of differing ethnoracial groups. The work on racial reconciliation of Ibrahim Kendi and Jonathon Augustine is explored. The root problem of acedia is considered in light of the scriptures and the work of contemporary authors. Finally, the spiritual disciplines that are effective in dealing with acedia are offered, as well as a mechanism for racial reconciliation based on one’s work overcoming acedia.