Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Sharon H. Callahan

Second Advisor

Asa Lee

Third Advisor

Linda Smith; Edward Donalson

Abstract

This research project investigated some of the hindrances that preclude churches from taking more active and impactful roles to challenge and restructure America’s racially unjust penal system of mass incarceration. The research examines the evolution of the prison industrial complex, with a focus on mass incarceration and its racially unjust make-up.

The project involved research and review of theological and societal restraints that hinder American Christianity from seeing and responding to this tragic situation and living out God’s concerns and decrees beyond the walls of their respective churches into the public domain of public policies and actions.

The focused methodology included a multi-case study of seven faith leaders and their congregations who had exhibited a long-term commitment to be involved in ministry with the incarcerated. The study consisted of field observations; data and record research; and interviews, which explored how and why the faith leaders came to be involved in such ministry and how they developed their programs. A specific focus of the interviews included the leaders’ theological compulsions or rationalizations for doing prison-related ministry, given the great reluctance of many churches to become involved in it. The researcher intended to discover factors that may sensitize and encourage other churches to engage in this challenge to change a major injustice in culture and society today.

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