Forgiveness of In-Group Offenders in Christian Congregations

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Religious communities, as other communities, are ripe for interpersonal offenses. We examined the degree to which group identification predicted forgiveness of an in-group offender. We examined the effects of a victim's perception of his or her religious group identification as a state-specific personal variable on forgiveness by integrating social identity theory into a model of relational spirituality (Davis, Hook, & Worthington, 2008) to help explain victim's responses to transgressions within a religious context. Data were collected from members of Christian congregations from the Midwest region of the United States (Study 1, N = 63), and college students belonging to Christian congregations (Study 2, N = 376). Regression analyses demonstrated that even after statistically controlling for many religious and transgression-related variables, group identification with a congregation still predicted variance in revenge and benevolence toward an in-group offender after a transgression. In addition, mediation analyses suggest group identification as one mechanism through which trait forgivingness relates to forgiveness of specific offenses. We discuss the importance of group identity in forgiving other in-group members in a religious community.