Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD, Member; Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Member


activism, African Americans, African Methodist Episcopal church (Los Angeles, CA) community, congregationational activism, faith-based initiatives, faith-based leadership, Leadership studies, Lutheran church, minority & ethnic groups, qualitative, religion


Policymakers have acted as if the federal government was the prime mover in developing and supporting American communities with significant needs. That assumption is now being challenged not only by politicians who recommend funding faith-based initiatives, but also by scholars who make the case for giving the nation's churches a central role in tackling community problems, including problems associated with poverty (Boddie, 2003). These scholars point out that, with over 300,000 congregations in America, faith-based organizations are strategically located in the community to address community needs (Boddie, 2003). As government services devolve to the community level, these scholars argue, congregations with spiritual and material resources are able to develop and transform communities. To date, there has been little systematic study of congregation activism in the community, in general, or faith-based initiatives, in particular. This qualitative study investigated congregation activism in two different churches and communities: (a) An African Methodist Episcopal church located in a Los Angeles community with a largely African American population and (b) a predominately White Lutheran church located in a rural part of San Diego's North County with a substantial number of Hispanic residents, some of whom are undocumented immigrants. The investigation focused on three specific issues: (a) congregational versus pastoral leadership; (b) the impact that a congregation's faith-based initiatives have on communities; and (c) the impact of initiatives on the spiritual lives of each church's members. The study documented quite different approaches to pastoral and congregational leadership in the two congregations: In the African American church, nothing much happened without the direct support of the pastor; in the predominately White church, however, the clergy took a laissez-faire approach and members of the congregation were the prime movers. No matter what leadership pattern was operative, however, initiatives exhibited very little organizational infrastructure. In addition, in both congregations, the evidence of impact on the community was quite limited. Furthermore, although in each congregation there was some evidence that congregation members who were directly involved with initiatives were personally impacted by their involvement; the number of these individuals was quite small in proportion to the size of each congregation.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access