Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Safety as a foundational pre-requisite to spiritual growth and effective church life in the Fox Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church of the Fox Valley District in Wisconsin
by Garbi, Samuel, D.Min., Andrews University, 2012, 193; 3689393
Abstract (Summary)

Recent publications on the topic of safety, my observations of some church members' reluctance to be involved, and a serendipitous experience of added safety I had outside of the church coalesced to point me to lack of spiritual and emotional safety in my church as a possible cause of deficient personal spiritual growth in some members and of a resulting want for greater church efficiency. Emotional safety seems to be a core component of the ideals of love usually professed in the church. This indicated to me a possible need to focus on facilitating practice of emotional awareness and safety that would be experientially confirmed as conducive to personal growth in contrast to simply using the traditional methods of just preaching and teaching on these subjects.

The theological and biblical study specifically allowed me to describe the type of individual spiritual growth stemming from genuine personal awareness acquired through a sense of safety. I was able to legitimately equate such spiritual growth with the concept of personal stewardship or "sanctification" used in the Bible—in an understanding of it that encompasses the development of all of one's life as part of the spiritual endeavor. This involves all aspects of life and not just those commonly understood as "spiritual" in a narrower religious sense. Others have used the term "individuation" to describe this spiritual development. This is different from other understandings that associate "sanctification" with lists of concrete attitudes and behaviors which, in the mind of some outside observers, are "evidence" of spiritual growth, but may not always be reflective of such.

My assumption at the beginning of this project was that practice of emotional safety could enable increased awareness leading to spiritual growth. This foundational element, in my estimate, seemed to be the missing piece in the promotion of spiritual growth and organizational effectiveness in the church. However, my study revealed two more foundational levels of safety that must precede the practice of safety because they either enable it by their presence or foil it by their absence. Practiced safety is greatly impaired by a lack of structural safety (i.e., retained parts of organizational structures that enable lawful harm to some); and a lack of structural safety may be the outworking of a lack of theological safety—that is, retained personal and organizational elemental worldview, assumptions and beliefs about self, God, and the universe that generate unsafe space instead of a place of safety and trust. Lack of safety deters people from seeking awareness that can lead to growth, while the presence of safety can facilitate a fuller experience of awareness leading to satisfying and genuine spiritual growth. But such safety which enables awareness towards growth cannot occur without its foundational theological, structural, and practiced components being attended to, in this order.

Two circles of causes and effects are proposed to the consideration of the reader through this project. One is a circle of theological, structural and practiced safety which seems to facilitate individuals' willingness to engage in the pursuit of increased conscious awareness, resulting in greater spiritual growth and a safer world. The alternate circle is one which continues to perpetuate theological, structural and practiced dangers, thus apparently metastasizing individuals and organizations' inhibitions towards greater conscious awareness into regressive conformism and dangerous projections.

The process successfully used in this project at the Fox Valley Church in Neenah, Wisconsin, to increase a sense of safety conducive to conscious awareness and spiritual growth among project participants is proposed to all readers and entities willing to recognize a lack of safety as a reality to be addressed, and it may serve as a model to any such individual or organization to improve safety, with the ensuing increased spiritual growth and organizational efficiency, within their sphere of influence. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sorajjakool, Siroj
Commitee: Bell, Skip, Fortin, Denis, Patterson, Stanley E., Trott, Rick
School: Andrews University
Department: SDA Theological Seminary
School Location: United States -- Michigan
Source: DAI-A 76/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Theology, Psychology, Spirituality
Keywords: Carl jung, Church discipline, Church organization, Emotional safety, Individuation, Shadow
Publication Number: 3689393
ISBN: 978-1-321-68742-2
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