Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
Kenley D. Hall
Problem. A focus group at the Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist Church, prior to the onset of this research, identified three key areas of conflict that must be addressed in order to improve its spiritual life and experience growth. One of the identified areas of conflict was the lack of forgiveness and a need for reconciliation among members. Unwillingness on the part of some members to both give and receive forgiveness has led to significant declines in attendance and loss of members over the past ten years.
Method. The project undertakes the development of a four-part biblical sermon series over two month on forgiveness, culminating in a seminar on how to give and receive forgiveness. The impact of the sermon series and seminar, on promoting forgiveness, changing long held habits, and reducing hostility among church members was evaluated. My focus for this project was through a survey study. A baseline forgiveness assent survey was given at the start to determine the attitudes among members of the church regarding forgiveness. The same survey was given at the end of the sermon series and seminar/workshop, and again after six months to determine the lasting impact of the sermon series and seminar/workshop.
Results. Initially 81%, and in the final survey 69%, had no desire to get even with those who had offended them, which is a change of 12%. Initially, while 81% had no desire to make others pay for their mistakes, attitudes about making others pay had changed to 84%. Only half of the respondents dwell on the offense at the start of the study, by the final survey 77% of participants spent more time thinking about the offense which is a change of 27%. Anger toward others had significantly changed; initially 44% had no anger toward others. There was now a 33% change, 77% had no anger toward those who offended them. While initially only 50% could see the good points in those who had offended them we see a dramatic improvement of 34% gain. Now 84% of members can point out the good in others. There was also an increase in those who now pray for their opponent by 9% to 84%. Those who were willing to forgive had changed from 81% to now 84%. While initially 62% felt no resentment there was a dramatic change, now 92% had no resentment which is a 32% improvement. There was a 22% change among those who were not at peace. More members were now willing to be associated with each other. While 44% felt the need to distance themselves from other members, now 69% disagreed with keeping their distance from others that offended them. This particular result provides the basis for further dialogue and reconciliation. The next response is consistent in that while 56% did not agree in treating others as if they do not exist we now have 77% not willing to treat offenders as if they do not exist. That is an improvement of 21%. While only 44% were willing to correct the problem, 69% now felt a need to find solutions. There was also an improvement of 7% to 69% of participants who desired reconciliation, this is quite significant. The results showed signs of hope for the congregation. Efforts toward promoting understanding and tolerance between members must be promoted and fostered by church leadership in order for healing to take place. It would appear from these encouraging results that an ongoing effort must be made to facilitate forgiveness through sermons and seminar/workshops. Structures should be established where members can bring grievances and concerns to the attention of leadership. The established pattern is, after an altercation, heated words or hurt feelings, members withdraw their presence and financial support. Their absence prevents an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and healing of the real or perceived hurt. Leadership must be proactive in promoting a climate of forgiveness and reconciliation. Because conflicts and misunderstandings are a part of the ongoing challenge of human institutions we must be consistently vigilant in promoting peace, harmony, and tolerance among those we lead.
Conclusion. Using a quantitative method to measure attitude toward those we have conflict within the congregation provided an effective and objective tool to access participants attitude. The hypothesis that when forgiveness training is provided and we are able to dialogue about problems we have with each other a positive, desired outcome can be achieved. A majority of the responses to the questions on the survey instrument showed signs of acceptance and a willingness towards forgiveness and reconciliation over the eight-month span of the project. Measuring attitude toward those who we have conflict with and training toward resolution will be beneficial in any circumstance, be it interpersonal, family, community, or between nations.
Forgiveness--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists, Forgiveness of sin, Reconciliation--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists, Conflict management--Religious aspects
Baxter, Glenford, "A Strategy Toward Healing and Reconciliation Through Forgiveness Training for the Members of the Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia" (2012). Project Documents. 15.