Sewanee: School of Theology Theses 2016


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 11
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    The Church-Idea for an Episcopal Moment
    (University of the South, 2015-12-16) Pankey, Steven J.
    Project under the direction of Professor Ben King This dissertation argues that two figures, William Reed Huntington at the turn of the twentieth century and Brian McLaren at the turn of the twenty-first, correctly asserted that The Episcopal Church was uniquely poised to meet the religious and spiritual needs of a changing world. In 1870, The Rev. Dr. William Reed Huntington published his vision for the unity of the Church in America entitled The Church-Idea. That text began with these words, “Dissatisfaction is the one word that best expresses the state of mind in which Christendom finds itself to-day. There is a wide-spread misgiving that we are on the eve of a momentous change.” It does not require a great deal of understanding about the state of the Church today (2016) to realize that Huntington’s word continue to echo loudly through the decaying buildings of American Christianity. Huntington saw the possibility of momentous change as an opportunity and spent his life and ministry attempting to change the future of Protestantism in America. Nearly 140 years later, non-denominational pastor, leading voice of the Great Emergence, theologian, and author, Brian McLaren, stood before the 76th General Convention and declared the opening of The Episcopal Moment saying, “I believe this moment of Episcopal crisis is also a moment of Episcopal opportunity.” This dissertation looks at the specific moments in history in which McLaren and Huntington found themselves. While it may seem that Post-Civil War and post-modern America have very little in common, we will examine the claim of Phyllis Tickle that they are bookends of a larger historical epoch. The words of hope for church unity from Huntington’s era have much in common with the words of hope for an Episcopal Moment in our own. Chapter one lays out the historical setting of the church in America after the Civil War, followed by a chapter dealing with Huntington’s Church-Idea and his subsequent work to bring forth a pan-Protestant American Catholic Church under the umbrella of what would become the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, including a look at Huntington’s work to revise the Constitution of the Episcopal Church to achieve his goals. Chapter three focuses on McLaren’s speeches beginning with his presentation to the Lambeth Conference in 2008, through his General Convention sermon in 2009 and the subsequent tour of Diocesan Conventions as well as other presentations and addresses, and culminating with his reflections in an interview with me on July 13, 2015. The final chapter looks at the response to each of these scholar-pastors in their era, as well as proposing a quadrilateral utilizing the work of both thinkers to suggest a way in which the Episcopal Church might seize this Episcopal Moment and become a church for the 21st century, ready to meet the needs of a changing America. Through spelling out each of these four points: 1) Come to know who we are and what we are about; 2) Raise up disciples; 3) Boldly go and tell our story; and 4) Not be afraid to fail: this dissertation suggests that if embraced by the Episcopal Church, it can situate itself perfectly to meet the needs of postmodern American religion.
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    Being Good Stewards in Every Aspect of our Community
    (University of the South, 2016-05) Melton, Brent
    I think that much work needs to be done in the area of complete stewardship. That is to think of Stewardship besides just in the financial aspect. I have found the very word stewardship is still very uncomfortable for many Christians, especially Episcopalians. We do not like to talk about money. If Stewardship is only viewed from a financial lens then naturally the word will take time getting used to hearing and embracing with a broader view, thus moving beyond only a money context. Yet data, including money, reveals an indication of any progress being made by a congregation in “Being Good Stewards in Every Aspect of Our Community.” This project integrates over the year, a broader understanding of stewardship in a parish. I have spent the past year implementing a year round Stewardship program in my current church. The progress of the project has been steady. We have completed seven months to cover Stewardship through seven commission areas. During each month the congregation was exposed through teaching moments from both the leadership of the Vestry and a sermon by me. In addition, special events were often held to help further enhance the definition of what it means to be a good steward in one commission area at a time. Our church is organized with seven umbrella areas of ministry referred to as commissions. The seven commissions are: Service (Outreach), Worship, Evangelism, Education, Pastoral Care, Administration and Structures. The first five commissions of Service, Worship, Evangelism, Education, and Pastoral Care, tie us closely to our Baptismal Covenant, thus holding us accountable, both individually and collectively, to living out those faithful vows we routinely make to God and each other. The last two commissions, Administration and Structure, focus on the realities of being an actual church, thus ensuring that the first five commissions are supported through the effective and responsible management of time, personnel, structures and money of the church. This S.W.E.E.P. model of Service, Worship, Evangelism, Education, and Pastoral Care is commonly used in churches. The first section of this project will cover my strategy. The second section reflects the research of theological views of stewardship as a way to discern further what stewardship means through written resources of scholarship. This will be a chance to reflect even further on a broader view of stewardship to be developed in a parish. The third section will be examples of each month’s commission area offering and summary. I’ll provide excerpts from my sermons, Vestry members’ teaching blurbs in the monthly meetings, Vestry newsletter articles, and when relevant, a description of a corresponding special event. In the fourth section, I will describe my congregational context and a chance to examine the data to see if there is a change in actual sharing one’s gifts from one pledge campaign to the next and results from a survey following this project’s work. In the fifth and final section, I will analyze the project as presented in a broader definition to the congregation and how I plan to continue to use this concept in our future ministry.
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    Film Narratives in Preaching
    (University of the South, 2016-05) Hinds, Eric Kimball
    This project challenges the assertion that sermon illustrations should be pared down to the shortest length possible. In a controlled study of 100 sermon listeners, film narratives that ranged between two to five minutes in length within a sermon text, were confirmed to be very effective in working to deepen an individual’s understanding of a selected scripture passage. This project demonstrated that short and long versions of the same narrative were both effective in working to communicate the meaning of the sermon. For this ser-mon project four distinct narrative sermons were composed. Each sermon deployed scenes from fairly well known mainstream movies. The following films: Dead Poets So-ciety, The Shawshank Redemption, Shadowlands, and A River Runs Through It, were each paired with a specific scripture text. Illustrations from film were purposely selected for their capacity to connect with listeners at a deep emotional level. Each of the four sermons was edited to produce two versions—one that deployed a short version of the film narrative (2-3 minutes in length) with the other utilizing a longer version (3-5 minutes in length) of the film narrative. In this way, the project was able to compare the reaction of listeners to sermons that were identical except for the illustration length. The eight narrative sermons used in this project ranged in length from about nine to thirteen minutes. For consistency, the project relied on sermons that were videotaped and then shown to viewing groups in in controlled setting. Each group watched a total of four sermons and answered a standardized set of questions after each sermon. Several questions ventured to quantify aspects of the listeners experience. In two of the four sermons, the shorter narrative was slightly more effective in “leading to a deepened understanding of the scripture or gospel passage.” In one case, the shorter narrative was significantly more effective that the longer version; and for one of the sermons the longer version was judged to be more effective. In the case where the longer sermon illustration was judged to be the most effective, the narrative material comprised almost 50% of the sermon length. This project clearly demonstrates that narrative sermons which utilize scenes from film can be very effective in assisting to communicate the meaning of the sermon. This was true even in instances where the film illustration was unfamiliar to the listener. By extension this projects demonstrates that narrative material from other sources including literature and journalism might be profitably used to advance homiletical purposes.
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    Critique of Penal Substitution Atonement Theory and Its Influence on the American Death Penalty
    (University of the South, 2016-05) Shippen, Joseph Jenkins II
    This thesis examines Christian atonement theology and how it relates to the American prison system, especially the death penalty. In particular, it explores the ways that penal substitution theory has influenced the development of the American prison system. It also focuses on the ways that penal substitution theory has been influenced by secular penal theory and legal philosophy. My thesis is that the Christian approach to the American prison system and the death penalty in particular should be driven by an atonement theology derived primarily from narrative Christus Victor theory rather than penal substitution theory. Based upon scripture and theologians from the early through the contemporary church, I explore the implications of this atonement theology on the Christian response to the American system of mass incarceration, especially with regards to the practice of death penalty. This thesis shows that the satisfaction family of atonement theories is deeply flawed, and, to some extent, the moral influence family of atonement theories is flawed as well. As a basis for my argument, I do an in-depth study of the Suffering Servant and messiahship traditions. I then show that the New Testament writers primarily looked to these two traditions to understand their experience with Jesus Christ and then to witness to his atoning life, death, and resurrection. These two traditions and how they are appropriated by the New Testament writers form the basis of my critique of satisfaction and moral influence theories of the atonement in favor of narrative Christus Victor. This thesis argues that, especially since Anselm proposed his satisfaction theory, atonement theories have powerfully shaped individual, communal, and societal responses to wrongdoing. I show that the satisfaction and moral influence theories of atonement developed at the same time that western legal and penal philosophies and practices were developing. These legal and penal philosophies and atonement theories have had a great impact upon each other and, at times, have even been dependent upon each other. I show that penal substitution theory has provided the ideological justification for the development of the retributivist policies of the American prison system. I argue in favor of a restorative and nonviolent response to wrongdoing based upon the ancient Christian sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Reconciliation and the narrative Christus Victor theology embodied in these practices. A primary goal of this thesis is for it to be a resource to pastors, in both parish and prison settings, as they reflect on preaching the cross in American society. It will do so by showing both that the penal substitution theology, which has underpinned the death penalty and the American system of mass incarceration, is unhealthy and deeply flawed and that retributivist penal philosophy has influenced what has become the dominant atonement theology of the western church. A better approach is urgently needed, and to find it Christians need look no further than the writings of the New Testament and sacramental practices of the church. This thesis endeavors to do just that.
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    Towards a Spiritual Formation Model of Clinical Pastoral Education
    (University of the South, 2016-05) Ronaldi, Lynn Petrie
    Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) traditionally applies the disciplines of psychology, education, and supervisory theory to raise into consciousness students’ inner landscapes and help form them as persons and pastors. CPE supervisors are trained to uncover students’ buried or hidden wounds and unconscious agendas, in order to help them grow in self-awareness, maturity, and compassionate care. However, through years of experience as a lay chaplain, professional hospice chaplain, CPE student, and supervisor, I have noticed that traditional, psychology-based CPE ignores a dimension and perhaps foundation of spiritual formation that could deepen the student’s interiority, consciousness, and potential transformation. This project’s goal is the creation, implementation and evaluation of a CPE curriculum that incorporates an integral approach to CPE, incorporating spiritual formation into the traditional CPE model. Previous models of CPE suspended attention to the human relationship with the sacred, focusing almost exclusively on intra-psychic drama and on what happens when the student relates to other people. The traditional method has avoided intentionally addressing what happens when the student relates to God. Within this dualistic, unnatural separation from the spiritual dimension, students were listening for patients’ experience of the divine without intentionally attending to their own religious experience, or exploring their own integral development. Only pastors more in tune with their own religious experience, biases, fears, and blocks to intimacy can truly listen for, notice, and compassionately tend to the religious experience, struggles, and formation of others. The project’s new curriculum intentionally integrates the dimensions of human development that are already inherently integrated: the spiritual and psychological. One ancient approach to human formation that has always emphasized the development of the whole person can be found in Benedictine spirituality and the Rule of Benedict. Thus the new curriculum incorporates the principles and practices of Benedictine spirituality into the CPE process, while maintaining the integrity of the traditional CPE model and standards. Reflecting on the principles and adopting a rule of life cultivates the students’ interior lives. Within a balance of contemplation and action, they become immersed in humility and accept a lifelong process of conversion. They develop a sense of stability, fidelity, and obedience as they face the struggles and challenges. Ultimately, as they learn to appropriate their own religious experience, they develop into more integrated, compassionate, and effective persons and pastors. The project’s strategy encompasses planning and implementing a new CPE curriculum infused with ongoing conversion based in the Paschal Mystery: life, death, and resurrection. I have applied teachings and reflections based in part on the Rule of Benedict. Dating back to the sixth century, Benedictine spirituality provides a point of departure for other spiritualities. The Rule of Benedict emphasizes a life of balanced prayer and action (ora et labora). While unapologetically Christian, the Rule reflects on the process of formation in language that other religions may also appropriate for human development. ii i This new curriculum incorporates some components of the Community of Hope (CoH) International’s Lay Pastoral Training Program. Developed by St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, the CoH connects principles discussed in Sr. Joan Chittister’s book, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality of the 21st Century, to aspects of pastoral care and formation. However, by itself, the CoH’s spirituality-based curriculum lacks beneficial clinical exercises that the traditional CPE model includes, such as verbatims, individual supervision, and group processing. In contrast, the current psychology-based CPE model lacks spiritual grounding and a more universal, integrated and redemptive vision. In fact, this model seems dualistic, creating a false division between spirituality and psychology. One formation model without the other seems deficient, particularly for the training of ordained and professional ministers. Therefore, this project integrates into CPE both the psychological and spiritual dimensions, which I will argue are already inherently related. I will draw upon the integrated models of Ken Wilbur and other developmental experts such as James Hillman and Robert Kegan. I will demonstrate that incorporating an integrated model of human development is a more effective approach for CPE. After developing a new, integrated curriculum, I scheduled and implemented a CPE unit using that curriculum over a span of nine months. The CPE group met one 10- hour day per month at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, then skyped or face-timed in-between classes. Students made at least 300 hours of pastoral visits. The six students, four of whom were Episcopal deacon postulants, responded favorably to the spiritual formation emphasis. Demonstrating less resistance than traditional CPE students, the class developed a receptivity and willingness to enter into a difficult process. They iv recognized that balanced practices of prayer, meditation, and action cultivated a keen self-awareness and compassionate acceptance of themselves and, as a result, others. Ultimately, with teachable hearts open to Christ-consciousness, and through deliberate spiritual practices, they were receptive to the graces of transformation. They became more humble, effective, and compassionate pastoral caregivers. The six students, my supervisor, and I each wrote a final evaluation about the unit and the individuals’ progress. The Diocese of Mississippi’s bishop and directors of the A.C. Marble Institute for Theological Formation also offered feedback on the unit. The evaluations and feedback indicate that the students developed a willingness to be transformed and demonstrated personal and pastoral growth and commitment. They experienced heightened awareness and receptivity to God’s presence and voice as encountered in themselves, patients, CPE group, and others. The students enthusiastically embraced and grasped connections between human spiritual formation, self-awareness, pastoral care, and theology. They progressed in their ability to self-supervise. Based on the results of this project, I plan to continue supervising the deacon and bivocational priest candidates in the A.C. Marble Institute, as well as other ministry students. I may eventually offer this curriculum to other Episcopal dioceses and potentially to other CPE centers.