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  • Human Trafficking and Moral Injury

    Haralson, Debra LaCruz; McAfee School of Theology
    ABSTRACT DEBRA HARALSON MORAL INJURY AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING Under the direction of David Garber, Ph.D. Moral injury is a response to traumatic events that causes people to question the existence of good and evil, both in the world and in themselves. Once applied to military veterans, moral injury is now seen in medical professionals, first responders, and others who move in high stakes situations. When a person violates a deeply held ethical code, as in a soldier taking a human life, moral injury can occur. Even when the action is taken in obedience to authority, for the greater good, or under compulsion, moral injury can cause shame, reduced trust in others, and ethical confusion. At The Program, a faith-based, residential center for women who have survived sex trafficking, behaviors consistent with moral injury prevail. Many of the women at The Program are wrestling with moral injury. Moral repair involves moving from secrecy and isolation into a supportive community where naming traumatic events, and their moral ambiguities, is possible. Research explored the effectiveness of The Program’s spiritual care for women who have incurred moral injury. Five spiritual care initiatives were observed: three Bible studies, an art, and an exercise class. Research instruments included participant questionnaires, observation notes, and class leader interviews. After obtaining informed consent, anonymous surveys were distributed to participants, and class leaders were interviewed. Data was coded and analyzed according to evidence of an atmosphere of expression, a supportive community, and meaningful rituals. Though most participants indicated that they enjoyed the classes, the observations revealed little self-expression. The highest participant ratings were for the art class. Here, participants exhibited self-expression, supportive community, and connection to God. The area that showed great potential for growth was the presence of meaningful rituals. Conclusions present many opportunities. If class leaders are able to move from proclamation to facilitation, participants may be more likely to trust. Possible rituals include a service of lament, a memorial monument, and a prayer garden. Further research opportunities include the value of Program participant feedback, moral injury and spiritual care in other populations, and creative rituals to honor past trauma.
  • Discovering Abundance: Leading Stakeholders of Youth Ministry at First Baptist Church of Augusta in Asset-Based Community

    Hughes, David Jennings; McAfee School of Theology
    The student ministry at First Baptist Church of Augusta is no different than any other church, community organization, or business that suffers from a scarcity mentality. This project and its ABCD tools were to dispel that notion and instead declare that there is abundance in our present that will unlock a future with immeasurably more possibilities than all we can ever ask or imagine. Such a project does not just pursue programmatic viability for the future. It also aligns with a central truth of the gospel – there is a God-sized power within every person who calls upon the name of Jesus. Such power once rose Jesus from the grave, and the world has never been the same since Jesus came. This project proclaims that similar resurrection can happen every time groups of individuals are courageous enough to discover the abundance innate within their spiritual DNA and put it into practice in the world in which they live.
  • Reawakening the Ethical Imagination of the Local Congregation Through the Exploration of the Biblical Metanarrative

    Hall, Jeremy S; McAfee School of Theology
    JEREMY SEAN HALL REAWAKENING THE ETHICAL IMAGINATION OF THE LOCAL CONGREGATION THROUGH THE EXPLORATION OF THE BIBLICAL METANARRATIVE. Under the direction of David P. Gushee In the fall of 2019, Towne View Baptist Church (TVBC), a small Southern Baptist Church in north Georgia, voted to welcome LGBTQ believers into full membership. While the church was proud of its newly adopted membership policy, its people were theologically unsure of their actions. If one had surveyed members on why they had welcomed LGBTQ believers, they would either have offered platitudes about God’s love and the ubiquity of sin or would have attempted to prooftext their way through the question. The concern is that this inclusion decision sat on a weak foundation and could be walked back in the future by poor Biblical interpretation. If leaders could move this group of (formerly) Southern Baptists to look at the Bible in a new and life-giving way to see a better and more inclusive church, then it would be possible to form a more robust church witness in the post-Christian United States. My thesis project sought to train the TVBC membership to approach ethical decisions in the context of the Biblical metanarrative and to awaken the ethical imagination by aligning church decisions with the themes and trajectory of the Bible. If effective, this training would also aid TVBC members in making difficult decisions in the future from a robust Christian ethic grounded in the trajectory of God’s dream for the creation as found in scripture. The exploration of the biblical metanarrative allowed the participants to engage their ethical imagination, moving from choosing affirmation as a negation of their culturally-embedded understanding of the LGBTQ prohibition found in the “anti-homosexual acts passages” to being able to understand their affirming position as a response to the metanarrative of the Bible and the trajectory of God’s redemptive work across the story of the Bible and in the world.
  • Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students’ Perceptions of Risk and Protective Factors That Affect Their College Experience

    Pollard , Richard D.; Tift College of Education
    The stigma and daily distress routinely experienced by transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) individuals negatively disturb their safety, mental stability, physical health, school success, employment opportunities, and societal inclusion, resulting in systematic marginalization and isolation in a variety of settings, including families, schools, and employment (Azeem et al., 2019; Budge & Katz-Wise, 2019; Lerner, 2019; Murchison et al., 2019; Sevlever & Meyer-Bahlburg, 2019). This phenomenological study aimed to explore the higher education experiences of TGNB students to gain insight into self-identified factors associated with their academic success and college completion. Using snowball and chain sampling techniques for recruitment, the researcher recruited 8 participants. All participants self-identified as TGNB, were over the age of 18, and had either graduated or dropped out of higher education within the previous five years. The researcher employed semi-structured interviews, and data collection was completed via HIPAA-compliant Zoom videotelephony. The researcher used an audit trail, a reflexivity journal, member checking, and detailed, thick descriptions to ensure trustworthiness. Following the steps outlined by Smith, et al. (2009), the researcher discovered six subordinate themes: (1) "Exploration and self-education for gender identity determination," (2) "Anticipated Resistance: The struggles of daily college life for TGNB students," (3) "Intolerance and injustice just to be me, (4) Internal and external factors of loss and growth," (5) "Human pillars on the campus to create belonging for TGNB students," and (6) "Transferring the responsibility of survival to one's self." These six emergent themes provided insight into how the participants navigated their gender identity during their higher education experiences. Each participant was persistent in doing what was necessary individually to move forward, which was evident in this study. The one participant that did not graduate indicated their desire to return to higher education. Future research recommendations include: 1) A need for better understanding includes more comprehension of the connectedness of TGNB students on campuses to buffer isolation and promote wellness among the TGNB student population, 2) A case study for a college that works well with TGNB students, and 3) additional research should study TGNB assigned males to understand better the differences in their experiences in the higher education environment.
  • The COVID-19 Pandemic And The Impact Of Social And Cultural Courses on Ethnocultural Empathy: Cultivating Comfortability, A Program Evaluation

    Paige, Lynn; College of Professional Advancement
    The current study’s findings explored and defined graduate students’ perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for multicultural awareness, ethnocultural empathy, (a component of multicultural competency), and comfortability in the learning environment. The program evaluation’s aim is to report the impact of the learning outcomes of pre-designed social and cultural courses that are required in CACERP counseling programs and COAMFTE family therapy programs. As a program evaluation, the study research design was an embedded mixed- methodology that allowed for an analysis of both qualitative and quantitative inquiry. Therefore, a thematic analysis reported themes of multicultural awareness and empathic expressions among graduate students currently enrolled in a counseling program. The overall statistical analysis revealed a significant negative relationship between the number of credits for graduate students currently enrolled in a counseling program, and the level of ethnocultural empathy r= -.533*, p<05. There was a significant positive correlation between the level of comfortability in learning and the level of ethnocultural empathy r =. 05, p<01. A discussion on the areas of success, the study limitations, and implications for future research is included to provide insight of the presented program evaluation. Keywords: multicultural competency, ethnocultural empathy, comfortability, program evaluation, COVID-19 pandemic

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