Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership (EdD)


Gary J. Bredfeldt


Leadership, Moral Courage, Ethics, Southern Baptist, Evangelical, Christian


Christianity | Leadership Studies


The legacy of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement was the social change its protests inspired. However, its leadership and moral compass were set by Christian theologians and ministers. These leaders moved the nation to recognize the humanity of African-Americans, demonize the sin of racism, and motivate their fellow Americans to oppose Jim Crow segregation. The purpose of this qualitative grounded theory study was to examine and identify the Christian leadership characteristics of influential legacy leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (Henlee Barnette, Billy Graham, Thomas Maston, Acker Miller, and Foy Valentine) who supported desegregation during the Civil Rights Movement. Further, this study evaluated applying their lasting lessons and relevant principles for present-day Christian leaders seeking to reverse racial polarization. These transformational leaders stood out from their fellow Southern Baptist congregants by openly promoting their theological convictions that every human being is made in the image of God. This grounded theory research examined contemporary Christian leaders' ethical leadership and moral courage characteristics, which are necessary to combat injustice. This study identified leadership qualities for analysis and applicability by assessing the transferability of these traits displayed by select Southern Baptist Convention leaders who promoted racial desegregation during the Civil Rights Era. This resulted in developing an emerging theory identified as the Ethically Courageous Christian and associated Christian Leadership Characteristics.