Project Documents

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

G. Russell Seay

Second Advisor

Leslie Pollard

Third Advisor

Kelvin Onongha

Abstract

Problem. African Americans have a higher rate of poverty than any ethnic group. The dearth of dignity through slavery and beyond became a societal pathway to poverty. Seventh-day Adventist African Americans in Birmingham Alabama are not exempt from this predicament. The Norwood and Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist churches are located in the midst of communities of poverty. Some members live in these and other poverty distressed areas. This study is to determine the extent of poverty and the lack of dignity of members of these two predominantly African American churches. The church community is uniquely positioned to share the message that all human beings are made in the image of God. Although the church community has been slow and fail to communicate a clear message of dignity essentials as love, freedom, and equality it is still equipped with divine conviction from God’s word on the dignity of humankind and the sense of duty towards humanity.

Method. This project used the questionnaire method to gather information about beliefs, behaviors, poverty levels, and other related indignity experiences of African Americans of the above-mentioned congregations. The questionnaire was distributed to consenting members age 18 years old and above. The purpose was to determine the level of poverty and other relating factors among African Americans at the Norwood and Ephesus churches. In addition, dignity seminars were conducted to highlight how dignity awareness contributes to an elevated sense of worth and purpose regardless of statuses. Results African American members of both Norwood and Ephesus churches in Birmingham, Alabama experience high rates of poverty. Yet 50% of respondents (both churches together) indicated that they had “hopeful dreams for a better day.” They instituted adjustments in their experience that allow them to express hope for a better future. The seminars explored strategies to understand and improve their dignity. Evaluations of the seminars were conducted with both churches. The evaluation question, “Did this seminar raise your awareness that true worth comes from God” was the highest affirmative response of all questions. Accordingly the objective of raising the awareness of dignity was verified among the participants.

Conclusion. The study speaks to the erosion of dignity among African Americans as a result of poverty and arising from the institution of slavery. The participants learned that in spite of their economic situation, possessing dignity is crucial to their involvement in society and that dignity occurs as a result of their origins -- being sons and daughters of God with unique qualities and abilities of intelligence and moral contemplation.

Subject Area

Poverty--Religious aspects, Poor African Americans--Alabama, Dignity--Religious aspects, African American Seventh-day Adventists--Alabama

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