Integration Course

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Summary of Important Points


 “The Church as Forgiving Community: An Initial Model”


Magnuson, C. & Enright, R. (2008). The church as a forgiving community: An initial model. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 36(2), 114-123.





“Recent empirical studies have shown that forgiveness interventions decrease anxiety, depression, and anger, and increase self esteem, hope, and positive affect. We propose a three-tiered holistic psycho-educational approach called “The Forgiving Communities,” that targets three interdependent categories: the family, the school, and the Church. The goal of The Forgiving Communities is to deepen individuals’ (and society’s) understanding and personal practice of, and growth in forgiveness. We posit here an initial model of the Church as Forgiving Community, consisting of multiple levels of forgiveness education intended to cultivate a culture of forgiveness and the expectation that forgiveness is part of the congregation’s existence. The model targets the leadership of the congregation and every level of programming, from infancy through late adulthood.”




Conceptual analysis:

·         Interpersonal forgiveness is conceptualized in the Bible as the cessation of resentment toward and offender and the implementation or resumption of a beneficent response toward the offender.

·         Forgiveness is NOT condoning, excusing, forgetting or even reconciling.

·         Forgiveness is offering mercy to one who has acted unjustly.

·         Formal research into forgiveness, which began in the 1980s, advanced two main models of forgiveness, both which have established positive clinical outcomes:

o   Enright’s four phase process model – 1) Revealing anger by facing the injustice and pain, 2) deciding through exploration and commitment to forgive, 3) working on forgiveness through empathic and compassionate reframing and 4) experiencing the outcome of healing.

o   Worthington’s REACH model – R) Recalling the offense E) While building Empathy for the offender A) and choosing to give the Altruistic gift of forgiveness; C) Committing to that forgiveness and H) Holding on to it once it has been given.

·         Forgiveness treatment has established itself in the research as beneficial to psychological, physical and relational health.

·         The research had yet to address how to help children develop attitudes of forgiveness within their primary communities of homes, schools and churches.

·         These “Forgiving Communities” have been attempted in school settings with some promising outcomes.

·         The proposal is that such communities should be set up in religious communities, specifically the Christian “Church as a Forgiving Community”.


The Church as Forgiving Community Model:

·         The model consists of forgiveness education given at fixed intervals, targeting every level of leadership and programming.

·         The model is premised on the idea that a tight-knit community will require forgiveness to survive and thrive over the life of the community.

o   Content:

§  Forgiveness education content includes instruction about both granting and receiving forgiveness.

§  The model utilizes Enright’s process model for granting forgiveness, although Worthington’s REACH model could be used as well.

§  The same model is used to actively seek and welcome forgiveness from one who has been offended.

·         Forgiveness is a gift given freely by the giver.

·         The receiver is not entitled to it.

·         Once given, true reception of forgiveness includes remorse, respect for the injured and acts of repentence.

o   Multiple Levels:

§  Beyond sermons and teachings, the model is meant to develop a climate of forgiveness among the leadership to the lay volunteers to the congregation itself.

§  Head pastor must be wholeheartedly on board with the implementation with a suggested 10% of sermons concentrating on forgiveness and with education for the pastor in developing a climate of forgiveness among his staff’s relationships. Additionally, the senior pastor is encouraged to work through his own forgiveness.

§  Forgiveness climate is then emphasized by:

·         The associate ministers as they receive forgiveness education and training to help them personally forgive and to form a collaborative environment of forgiveness in the whole of the church.

·         The worship minister through the use of various forms of worship to embody the forgiveness message.

·         The youth minister and the establishment of a forgiving atmosphere within the volunteers and through education of the youth.

·         The children’s minister and the forgiveness culture among volunteers as well as in the developmentally appropriate teachings and activities for the children about forgiveness.

·         The pastoral care team leader and team as they help counsel the congregation through forgiveness granting and receiving, including a recommended yearly forgiveness support group.

·         Adult education/small group coordinator as stressed to the volunteer leaders through education and emphasis about its importance as a topic.

·         Lay volunteers as they are trained of about forgiveness before becoming a volunteer and in on-going training through their respective areas of ministry.

·         Singles through discussions of forgiveness in the context of romantic relationships/break-ups or divorce or from family relationships.

·         Couples and families through an emphasis on forgiveness in pre-marital counseling, through targeting parents on the teaching and modeling of forgiveness-related virtues in the home, and through couples education or groups.

·         The individual through studies, small groups and for specific target groups such as divorce, abortion, job loss, substance abuse and death.

o   Sustainability:

§  In contrast to the consumer-oriented, latest fad surge of church programing and supplies, forgiveness education must be sustained over time to make an impact.

§  Development of character bent on forgiveness requires consistent reminders leading to on-going opportunity to practice forgiveness.

§  Setting aside a time of year to focus on forgiveness (perhaps lent) is suggested, along with new and fresh presentations of the topic through a variety of means.

Limitations of the model:

·         Model is an untested preliminary structure to help the Church reassert its role as facilitator and dispenser of forgiveness.

·         Church as forgiving community is only one facet of creating a social culture of forgiveness, which is conceptualized as the family, the school and the Church.