Date of Award

12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

International Family and Community Studies

Advisor

Small, Mark

Committee Member

McDonell , James

Committee Member

Kimbrough-Melton , Robin

Committee Member

Motes , Patricia

Abstract

The question of the Black church's relevancy, power, and influence has been at the forefront of theological and social debates since the Civil Rights era. The continuation of these debates in the 21st century has postulated that today's Black church has become less theologically grounded and less vision-driven in initiatives and movements and is becoming ineffective advocates in addressing the social ills and challenges that cripple the upward mobility of individuals and communities. This study attempts to support the hypothesis that the Black church still possesses the relevancy, power, and influence as a vital and progressive community institution for positive social change in the twenty-first century. South Carolina's Black Baptist denomination is instrumental in providing empirical knowledge that introduces a proper perspective on how the Black church cultivates and utilizes social capital to promote engagement in social change, thus, supporting its claim of relevancy, power, and influence in this present day and age. This study utilizes a quantitative methodology to describe how Black Baptist churches in South Carolina, through their use of social capital, mobilize congregations for collective effort in shaping civic discourse, bringing about social change and facilitating the development of thriving individuals and communities. A convenience sample of 174 Black Baptist pastors from South Carolina completed a 57-item questionnaire. The overall results revealed that social capital has a positive effect on the likelihood of Black Baptist churches engaging in social change. Regression analyses were used to examine the predictive nature of pastor and congregation characteristics on social capital and social change engagement in South Carolina's Black Baptist churches. A total of nine predictor variables, including the pastor's age, seminary training, employment status, and pastor's view of the role of the church and the church's age, socioeconomic status, location, group importance, and membership size, were used to predict social change engagement and social capital. A correlation analysis was used to explore the relationship between social capital and social change engagement in Black Baptist churches in South Carolina. Results from these analyses indicated that seminary-trained and full-time pastors and that larger membership churches both had higher levels of social change engagement. The correlation analysis revealed that there is a significant positive relationship that exists between social capital and social change in Black Baptist churches in South Carolina. These findings have important implications for strengthening and mobilizing South Carolina's Black Baptist pastors and churches for engagement in social change initiatives and movements. This study signifies the unique dynamics of South Carolina's Black Baptist pastors and congregations that guide and impact their usage of social capital in addressing social change issues. The study also supports the need for a qualitative assessment of South Carolina's Black Baptist denomination's degree of effectiveness in engaging in social change issues and challenges. The findings may initiate dialogue and strategic planning that will provide the education, technical assistance, and resources needed for South Carolina's Black Baptist denomination to expand and develop new capacities, and to develop a multi-faceted, systemic approach to address social change issues.

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