Journal of Christian Ministry | 2022: DMin Research Notes
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2022: DMin Research Notes

2022: DMin Research Notes

DMin Research Notes are brief descriptions of research conducted by DMin faculty or students that will inform our community of current research taking place in DMin programs. DMin Research Notes prioritize research by DMin students and research related to DMin programs but any research relevant to Christian ministry will be considered. Please consider submitting a DMin Research Note and making your best DMin students aware of this opportunity to publicize their work.

The DMin Research Note Template is displayed in the following examples. Questions about DMin Research Notes can be addressed to the JCM Research Note Editor: Dr. Mark Chapman (mchapman@tyndale.ca).

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Current DMin Research

Title: Created to Connect: Recapturing a Gospel Understanding of Intimacy for Emerging Adults in a College Setting

Author(s) Name(s): Rev. Dr. Erin F. Moniz

Institutional Affiliation(s): Trinity School for Ministry

For more Information about the Research, contact: erin.moniz@tsm.edu

Description of the Research (including the population studied, methodology used, research objective(s), findings, next steps):

Christian emerging adults struggle in their relationships because they lack a robust theology of intimacy. This thesis examines and analyzes the problem by combining practical theology, generational studies, and a study of the culture of faith communities.

Biblical support is offered by an exegetical examination of three Scripture passages that demonstrate the three intimacy motifs of family, sexuality/marriage, and friendship. Trinitarian and covenant theology reveal the theme of intimacy in the triune God and redemptive history. The doctrine of Union with Christ connects human and Divine intimacy through a Christological lens. Human intimacy exists because intimacy is first defined and perfected in the Trinity. As a result, our ability to truly be in relationship with Christ and subsequently each other, begins with a kingdom identity established in Divine intimacy. Our human-to-human relationships are healthiest when they are understood in a gospel framework initiated by a Triune God.

An ethnographic study of current and recently graduated undergraduate students involving a focus group and sixteen interviews was analyzed in order to uncover the intersection of faith and intimate relationships in emerging adults. In summary, this research uncovered an unmooring of intimate relationship ethics from the gospel. Participants were unable to connect their discernments about relationships to any theological foundations outlined in the biblical studies/systematics chapters.

Additionally, patterns emerged revealing problems in the popular content guiding emerging adults produced by faith-based authors/influencers.

These findings demonstrate a need to re-examine our current resources and strategies for discipling emerging adults on intimate relationships. This research also recognizes a need to recapture a theology of intimacy that is woven onto the gospel instead of starting with behavior modification or interpersonal ethics. This recapturing of a gospel-centered theology of intimacy will provide a new framework for ministers to emerging adults as well as different considerations for emerging adults themselves.

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Title: Black Pastor, White Church

Author(s) Name(s): Rev. Dr. Celestine Fields

Institutional Affiliation(s): Lancaster Theological Seminary

For more Information about the Research, contact: fieldscelestine@gmail.com

Description of the Research (including the population studied, methodology used, research objective(s), findings, next steps):

Black Pastor, White Church was born out of conversations with other Black clergy, participation, and observation in clergy of color social media groups, and my experience as a UCC pastor serving in predominantly white congregations. The Black clergy were communicating that their congregations believed they had evolved enough in racial reconciliation to the point where they could call a Black clergy person. The congregation and Black clergy soon discovered they were not prepared for this change and preferred to not even discuss race or racism. The congregations were resistant to making changes in the church’s culture, which were necessary to grow, retain their Black clergy, and sustain the diversity the congregation desired.

The Black clergy were struggling with how to navigate painful experiences, such as resistance to their leadership, and blatant, and subtle racism.  The congregations were finding themselves in the search and call process sooner than they expected, the Black clergy choosing to leave their pastorate and entering discernment on whether to return to parish ministry.

For Black Pastor, White Church, it was important to discover the experiences of a larger sample of Black clergy serving in predominantly white congregations. At its core, the purpose of the project was to find support for the Black clergy in these ministry settings. The first step of the project was to survey 10-12 Black UCC clergy persons using closed-ended questions. At the end of my research, I was able to engage only two UCC Black clergy persons. Consequently, my research mostly focused on Black clergy in the Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church, and Presbyterian USA. The increase in participants from other denominations showed the prevalence of Black clergy experiencing challenges serving in predominantly white congregations regardless of denominational affiliation.

A website was created as a clearing house for research participants to easily interact with the study, as they were dealing with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The website was connected to Google Suite, which was used to create and gather data from the clergy. The purpose of the survey was to collect basic data and information about their congregational setting, race, and racism. The clergy were interviewed using open-ended questions to discover their experiences. Surveying the clergy assisted in acquiring basic demographic information, as well as collecting data on the pastors and their thoughts and experiences on their congregation around race and racism. The interviews with the clergy helped discover what the pastor’s experiences were serving in the predominantly white congregation.

The data was summarized into groups and analyzed looking for common trends and patterns inthe clergy experiences. The data from surveys and interviews were evaluated for their usefulness in informing the creation of a resource for Black clergy serving in predominantly white congregations, which have called them, desire to call a Black clergy person and/or desire to make creating and sustaining a multicultural congregation their mission.

The research revealed that Black clergy serving in predominantly white congregations experience subtle and blatant forms of racism. Their experiences were not all negative, as some clergy have used the experiences as learning opportunities for the congregation. These congregations were open to learning from difference. Because of this openness, the clergy are thriving in these congregations. The research data also revealed that some of the congregations are not willing nor ready to have conversations about race and racism, at the same time desiring to create a multiracial congregation. In these ministry settings the Black clergy experiences were anything but lifegiving. Many situations were devastating, and the Black clergy left the ministry, or often thought about leaving.

Many of the clergy expressed concern for the lack of denominational support when situations in their congregations become racialized. The Black clergy believe training is necessary for denominational leadership. The research results revealed that a resource is needed to support the ministry of the Black clergy. Most of the clergy desire a collegial resource, such as a support group consisting of other Black clergy serving in predominantly white congregations.

The most common experience of racism is resistance to their leadership, which the Black clergy believe is not experienced by their white male colleagues. The curriculum in a leadership and change course, for example, may not be applicable to a Black clergy person serving in a white congregation, as the resistance to change in a congregation may be related to the fact that their pastor is Black, and to who they believe should have authority in white spaces.

This research is beneficial to students of color who are currently serving in or will one day serve in a predominantly white congregation. The racism there is real, and they will benefit from recognizing it and formulating ways to function within that congregation. Meanwhile, white students can gain a greater understanding of how race and racism manifests itself in the church and for that matter in society, possibly becoming advocates in racial justice for Black pastors.

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