Date of Award

12-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

University or Center

Interdenominational Theology Center (ITC)

Degree Name

D.Min.

Abstract

This dissertation project addressed the implementation of a Dialogue on the topic of Sexuality in the Black Pentecostal church, at Church of the Lord Jesus Christ Today, Inc. (COTLJCT) in Douglasville, GA. In continuing the ministry of Jesus Christ, all Christian leaders, including leaders in the Black Pentecostal church have a great responsibility to imitate Christ through their actions. While providing ministerial care that addresses moral issues encountered by the Christian community and the world, Christian leaders must always consider the question, What Would Jesus Do? The contemplation of this inquiry is necessary towards delivering the type of service and care provided by Jesus. This raises the question whether Black Pentecostal church leaders respond to moral issues within the church community in a manner that is reflective of how Jesus handled matters during his ministry. For the purposes of this dialogue, are leaders of the Black Pentecostal church responding to the issue of women and unwed pregnancies in ways that indicate they have contemplated the question What Would Jesus Do? Are leaders of the Black Pentecostal church responsive to this issue in ways that demonstrate the love, compassion, and forgiveness of Jesus? The response to these questions is a resounding “NO.”

Years of personal observation in the Black Pentecostal church have revealed harsh treatment by leaders, and the Christian community towards women and sexuality issues. This punitive behavior, normally surrounding the occurrences of non-marital pregnancies, has consisted in women being openly shamed, alienated, ostracized, and rejected from Christian fellowship. These actions and outcomes, which are not reflective of the ministry of Jesus nor his love, compassion, and forgiveness, warrant a serious discussion. Black Pentecostal church leaders have failed to construct a dialogue on this subject, as it affects the lives of their parishioners.

The working hypothesis of this project is that leaders in the Black Pentecostal church have a great task by God to assist in the spiritual growth and development of his people. As such, the Black Pentecostal church must be at the vanguard in instituting a dialogue on women and sexuality. In particular, these discussions should address the sexist and negative treatment directed towards women for their sexual encounters and pregnancies from non-marital relationships. Leaders in the Black church have a responsibility to create an atmosphere where sexuality issues can be freely discussed in the church. These discussions should lead to the restoration and reconciliation of women in their relationship with God and the Church community. However, in times past and presently, congregational leaders in the Black church have been “silent” on the topic of sexuality. In the midst of their silence, leaders have openly condemned women for non-marital affairs, and have ostracized, marginalized, and rejected them from any involvement in ministry. Therefore, the scope of this project was to implement a constructive dialogue in the church, in collaboration with women at COTLJCT. This dialogue highlighted the negative treatment directed towards women for their diversion from biblical and doctrinal norms of the Black Pentecostal church. The project addressed reasons why the topic on sexuality has been taboo in the Black Pentecostal church, and the motivation for the sexist treatment of female parishioners. The goal of this dialogue was to ultimately dispel the negative behaviors and stereotypes directed towards women and their sexuality. The final aim of the project was to create positive images of God’s creation, which ultimately leads to a constructive course of action to sexuality matters by Christians and leaders in the Black Pentecostal church.

Theologically, it is believed that the examples provided by the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ illustrate the role of Christian leaders as “servants.” Jesus’ model of ministry also demonstrates the responsibility of his servants, which is to focus on attending to the needs of the marginalized, the rejected, and the outcasts. As follows, the project highlighted biblical text that validated this type of service that meets the necessities of the poor, liberates the captive, heals the brokenhearted, and accepts the rejected, as reflected in Luke 4: 18-19. The project presented biblical scripture from the Old and New Testament that has shaped the doctrinal position of the Black Pentecostal church in terms of a lifestyle of “Holiness,” and the stance against non-marital sexual relationships. In describing the holiness/purity codes of the church, the researcher advocated against the church’s practice of shaming and ostracizing women for their choices to have sex and children outside of marriage. The project highlighted how the ministry of Jesus clearly demonstrated love, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness towards women, for their sexual indiscretions, as referenced in John 8:1-11. Additionally, the project provided a detailed analysis of Galatians 621-2. This scripture specifically addresses the responsibility of Christians to exhibit the spirit of love, compassion, and gentleness, as they endeavor to restore persons, who have fallen to sin. In summation, leaders in the Black Pentecostal church have been called to illustrate love in their service of restoring the lives of God’s people.

The doctoral dissertation project was conducted in three phases over a four (4) month period, (June 2012 through September 2012), involving seven (7) sessions. Phase I: Sexuality, and Sexuality Distorted - part 1 and part 2; Phase 11: Christian Ethics: The Do’s &. Don’ts Based on Biblical Principles - part 1 and part 2; and Phase III: Real Talk: “Sex in the Church” - part 1 and part 2. The effectiveness and overall success of the project was measured by the following four (4) goals:

1. Initiate a dialogue with women on the subject of sexuality.

2. Positively impact women with a better understanding of sexuality issues and a new outlook that leads to constructive responses of love and compassion.

3. Maintain participation of at least 15 women in all three phases of the project.

4. Celebrate participants of the project dialogue.

Based on evaluations, testimonials, and reflections from this project, the outcome of this journey was a success. This project dialogue on sexuality issues resulted in the lives of women being liberated, healed, and transformed for the Glory of God!

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