An Examination of Prevalent Twenty-First Century Models of Community Engagement by the Black Churches
Bellamy, Brian Odem
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
An Examination of Prevalent Twenty-First Century Models of Community Engagement by the Black Churches Brian Odem Bellamy (ABSTRACT) This thesis examines three prevalent models of community engagement in the black churches in the United States of America since the year 2000. It will contribute to existing scholarship by identifying theological motivations for community engagement by the black churches, and assessing the extent to which the black churches address and fulfill criteria for advancing liberation delineated from three generations of scholarship in Black Theology. This shall provide theological insight into the continued social relevance of the black churches. Existing scholarship has shown that the black churches historically have engaged the oppressed communities they have served by addressing their secular and social needs in addition to their spiritual ones, with a sense of mission to affirm human dignity and advance social justice. This praxis of liberation through community engagement was necessitated by the oppressive contexts in which the black churches were founded, and has continued in varied ways in tandem with shifts in social location of black people in America. Black church community initiatives have also been marked among three generations of scholars in Black Theology, who have delineated imperatives for which the black churches might engage their communities to fully continue the praxis of liberation in the present. The interrelated aims of this thesis are to discover the theological motivations of black church community engagement agents, and, to consider the extent to which the community engagement initiatives of the black churches of the twenty-first century address critical theological criteria from Black Theology for advancing liberation; each of which will help to illuminate theological implications for the continued social relevance of the black churches. This project requires an examination of contemporary models of black church community engagement in their own social reality. The models of community engagement that are researched are grass-roots movements where black churchpersons use non-violent direct action to advance particular social justice causes, community development corporations where churches filter grant money from the government to create economic opportunities for their local communities, and megachurch initiatives where congregations use the revenue of their large memberships to effect positive change in their communities. Local examples of each model are examined from a grounded theory approach through interviews with clergy and community workers, observations of worship and program activities, and textual analysis of bulletins, websites, and brochures.
PhD in Theology