The Church as Forgiving Community: An Initial Model
Summary “The Church as Forgiving Community: An Initial Model,” by Chad M. Magnuson and Robert D. Enright is a research article based on the study of forgiveness. This article guides the reader through steps on how to work towards forgiveness as an individual, through the church, and into the community, and also how to then sustain the forgiving community that has been built through this forgiveness education. Magnuson and Enright propose a three-tiered holistic psycho-educational approach to forgiveness education called “The Forgiving Communities.” They state, “The goal of The Forgiving Communities is to deepen individuals’ (and society’s) understanding and personal practice of, and growth in forgiveness”. The model consists of multiple levels of forgiveness education that starts with the senior pastor and works its way down through the church leaders, lay volunteers, and eventually into the entire congregation. The main point of this article is how to train the church community to install and sustain Enright’s process model on forgiveness. With this is the hope that the forgiveness education would trickle down to the children and give them the tools they need to confront injustices in a healthy way into adulthood.
Magnuson and Enright provide research that show strong evidence for the benefits associated with using a “road map” to learn how to forgive someone and also on how to receive forgiveness. Their evidence suggests that those who have forgiven or received forgiveness also have significant reductions in anger, depression, anxiety, grief, and post-traumatic stress symptoms and increases in self-esteem, hope, positive attitudes, environmental mastery, and finding meaning in suffering . The model that is proposed consists of multiple levels of forgiveness education which takes place at fixed times throughout each year in order to cultivate a culture of forgiveness within the church, which would then by nature be evident in the community. Reflection
This article seemed appealing to me because of the topic of forgiveness itself. Forgiveness has always been a struggle for me as I continue to grow and learn in my relationship with God. Forgiveness was never something that was discussed in the church I grew up in, and it was not until I attended Christian counseling as a client that I learned of the true concept of forgiveness and why it is beneficial both in my life and in the life of the one who has hurt or offended me.
Until reading this article, I had never really considered the scientific side of forgiveness. Magnuson and Enright provide a lot of evidence to support the positive effect that forgiveness has on psychological, relational, and physical health. I also had never actually considered approaching forgiveness as a process of steps in order to achieve a goal. In granting forgiveness, Freedman et al (2005) as cited in the article explains that, “One must first uncover one’s anger. In doing so, one can work through such issues as identifying psychological defenses (like denial), confronting the anger, or sometimes acknowledging the experience of shame…Once one has committed to forgive, one can begin the work of forgiveness by viewing the offender in new ways by developing empathy and compassion toward the offender…
After one has work on forgiveness, one might find new meaning in the suffering, recognize that one has been an offender in the past, and realize that one is not alone in the journey,” The same process is true of the process of receiving forgiveness. Up until reading this article, I had never considered forgiveness as a process that takes “work” in order to reach the goal of forgiving or receiving forgiveness. I have certainly gained a greater interest and desire to study more empirical research on this topic of forgiveness and will start with some of the materials cited in this article. Application
After conducting further research on this topic of forgiveness, I plan to construct my own model or “road map” in order to teach potential clients about the process of both granting and receiving forgiveness as I believe both sides of this spectrum are equally valuable. Within the context of my current career in a correctional setting, I would be working with inmates who most likely struggle with this very thing, and for some of them, this is one of the reasons that led them down the road that got them locked up to begin with. I plan to conduct further research that focuses more on the physical, psychological, and relational benefits of forgiveness in order to support my viewpoint on the topic to my perspective clients because I cannot openly share my faith, I would not be able to share the biblical truths on forgiveness in my workplace.
Constructing a tiered approach to forgiveness would allow both my client and me to have tangible steps to guide us through the journey of forgiveness and would also allow us to stay focused on one step at a time. In a group setting it would be beneficial to have multiple seminars throughout the year on the topic of forgiveness so that other leaders both in counseling and in the church could be educated on the importance of promoting consistent forgiveness education in their ministries and careers. This could also be in the form of a retreat or conference of sorts where multiple lay persons and leaders in my region could attend which would include a guest speaker, and break-out sessions on the importance of and how to implement and practice forgiveness and forgiveness education.