Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis & Resolution


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Judith McKay

Second Advisor

Dustin Berna

Third Advisor

William Young


African American church, Church Conflict, Conflict Resolution, Gender Bias


Conflict, both interpersonal and structural, is a reality in African American historical churches across the south. This study sought to discover the lived experiences of 16 adults, eight clergy and eight congregants, who directly experienced conflict while attending African American churches established for more than 50 years. A qualitative methodology was used, specifically, a phenomenological approach, to gain insight into both church culture and the impact of conflict on people and community. The findings in this study were that participants experienced conflict because of lack of training, gender bias, power imbalances, financial processes, internal leadership conflict, and a lack of formal processes to address and resolve conflict. It was also found that expectations placed on leadership, resistance to change, and the need to provide support and a place of empowerment to African American men contributed to the conflict culture of the church. Despite their experiences, the majority of the participants in the study continued to maintain connection with the historical African American church, embracing forgiveness as a spiritual requirement an indicator of religious maturity, and a significant factor in their ability to transform conflict.

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