B u l l e t i n o f t h e C o l g at e R o c h e s t e r C r o z e r D i v i n i t y S c h o o l
Faith. Critically engaged. Inside:
✛ Kairos: From Concept to Practice ✛ Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.: African Centered Theology in an Age of Color Blindness: They Forgot Their Story! ✛ CRCDS receives $1M gift ✛ Pastor William Ellis (CRCDS ’14) energizes Elmira ✛ BMTS Legacy Continues to Provide Opportunities for Growth
P lu s : + New Master’s Track in Kairos Studies + Board of Trustees Update + 2014 Fall Lecture Preview
About this issue: The hourglass symbolizes the Greek word chronos, the way in which we normally perceive time. The Greek word Kairos, on the other hand, signifies Godâ€™s in-breaking into our lives. CRCDS, as part of the global Kairos movement, has incorporated this theme into its Spring and Fall Lectures, Reflections and Worship. In addition, the school is proud to offer a new Masterâ€™s Track in Kairos Studies, beginning in the Fall 2014 semester. In this issue, we share the ways in which those who have answered the kairotic calls in their lives have been transformed.
CRCDS: Faith. Critically engaged. is a bi-annual publication of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School 1100 South Goodman Street, Rochester, New York, 14620. PUBLISHER: Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS) EDITOR: Michele Kaider-Korol DESIGN: MillRace Design PRINTING: St. Vincent Press
Spri n g/Sum m er 2014
Faith. Critically engaged.
Spring Lecture Series 2014 was a resounding success! CRCDS enjoyed world-class speakers, record attendance and great exposure. Scan the QR code to view highlights of the week’s events, or go to www.crcds.edu to watch recorded lectures. Click on "Visit our YouTube Channel" on our home page.
Kairos: Transforming Crisis into Opportunity, In God’s Time by Dr. Melanie Duguid-May
Graduate in Action: Pastor William Ellis
BMTS Legacy: Exploring Enduring Connections
Out In the World: Alumni/ae Updates
African Centered Theology in an Age of Color Blindness: They Forgot Their Story! by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
Kairos and the Challenge of Theological Education: Dr. James H. Evans, Jr.
Fall Lecture Preview
Board of Trustees Update
Horizon Society: CRCDS Receives $1M Gift
Memorial and Appreciation Gifts
oin the conversation! If you haven’t checked us out on social media, please do—we want to hear from you! Share your news, photos and updates: www.facebook.com/crcds
D r . M e l a n i e D u g u i d - M ay , J o h n Pr i c e C r o z e r Pr o f e s s o r o f T h e o l o g y
KAIROS: Transforming crisis into opportunity, in God’s time
he word kairos derives from a Greek word for “time.”
Kairos is contrasted with chronos, from which we derive “chronology.” Chronos is clock time; the division of the day into twenty-four hours and then minutes and seconds, and now nano-seconds. Clock time—and now our accelerated digital time—not only orders our movement through the day, but institutes a regularity and repetition that leave no facet of our lives untouched. This time that governs our lives is propelled by an overarching temporal value: efficiency, which as a method has become the best way to use time for the sake of productivity and material progress. Kairos is disruptive time; kairos is something new breaking into our lives. In biblical texts the word refers to a “right” time or a time fulfilled, a time when momentous things are happening or are about to happen. For example, Mark’s gospel opens with these words about Jesus’ public ministry: “The kairos is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is hand. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What has been anticipated or expected is The Olive Tree: Ceramic Tile Mural of Jerusalem now breaking into our lives, and those who have ears to hear are called to respond: repent, turn around, believe—and live—the good news. Similarly, in his Corinthian correspondence, Paul writes, “Now is the acceptable kairos; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2); and he calls his readers to seize the moment and respond. The call to respond to a kairos moment is as unsettling as it is urgent. This is not an “ah ha” moment or a moment in which we are surprised by joy. God’s kairos breaks into times of life-and-death struggle, such as our own time, during which violence pervades domestic and international arenas, as we also violate the
earth that sustains our material life. Biblical texts admonish us to be alert, lest we fail to read the signs of the times and miss the kairos moment: “Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the kairos will come” (Luke 13:22). According to the Lukan narrator, as Jesus approaches Jerusalem for the last time, he reflects on what happens to those who fail to
“Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the kairos will come.” (Luke 13:22) discern the times and miss the “appointed time,” the kairos: “Your enemies will dash you to the ground, you and your children with you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you...because you did not know the kairos of your visitation” (19:44). There is today a global Christian kairos movement that seeks to alert us to life and death crises in our world today, and calls us to choose life abundant for all God’s people, especially for those who cry for justice and peace, for the “least of these.” Christians in South Africa, Namibia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Palestine, Brazil, South Korea, the Philippines, Canada, and the U.S. are “discerning the signs of the times” amid our present crises— apartheid, endemic violence and endless wars, poverty and the unjust global economic order, military occupation and settler-colonialism, structural racism, ecological degradation and consumer greed—calling us to confess and urging us to decisive action.
If Kairos moments are calls to repentance, these moments also evoke cries of hope. Hope is not optimism or wishful thinking, but hope in action, as the power of new creation. If we dare to discern the signs of God’s in-breaking, we may be seized by opportunities to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and our neighbors, locally and globally. If we dare to speak the truth to power, we may be able to live into the promise of beloved communities of mutuality and sustainability for all God’s people and for God’s good creation. As we move through the second decade of the 21st century, together with Christians worldwide, we are inspired to engage kairos as a hermeneutical lens through which we view the world and see present crises as opportunities for God’s new creation. We are challenged to cultivate kairos consciousness as a critical consciousness that not only discerns but judges the present situation and provokes us to decision. We are urged to kairos action, whether by speaking truth to power, offering just hospitality or compassion for the oppressed, engaging in nonviolent resistance or radical reconciliation, planting olive trees in the shadow of the Wall of separation or taking up the cross of our conviction in the face of censure. God’s time is now! Repent and believe in the gospel!
MASTER OF ARTS TRACK IN KAIROS STUDIES
CRCDS is pleased to introduce a Master’s in Kairos Studies beginning in the Fall 2014 semester. The Kairos Studies Track is two-fold: engaging the global Kairos movement while continuing CRCDS’ legacy of social justice studies. Graduates of the 16-course program will be equipped for careers in advocacy, social justice ministry, community activism, and non-government organization (NGO) work. Career preparation includes a three-month immersion experience, giving students the ability to practice kairos in accompaniment groups, border ministry, peace and justice initiatives and community organizing. Admission to the Master of Arts in Kairos Studies requires a completed four-year bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Please contact the Admissions Office at email@example.com or 1-888-937-3732 for more information or to request an application packet.
The inaugural class is limited to 12 students. Applications for the fall term are being accepted now. Submit yours today!
Pa s t o r W i l l i a m E l l i s ( C R C D S ’ 1 4 ) , f o u n d e r o f N e w D a y M i n i s t r y i n E l m i r a , N e w Y o r k , n o t o n ly r e c o g n i z e s kairotic moments, he embraces them.
“I sensed the Lord calling me to this area to start a ministry, and He placed a special burden on my heart for the men and youth, especially for those who are falling through the educational cracks.” New Day Ministry Church, Elmira, NY
he Baptist Missionary Training School (BMTS) Legacy Continues Enabling women for ministry for over 130 years
Over 50 years have passed since the legacies of the Baptist Missionary Training School (BMTS) and what was then Colgate Rochester Divinity School (now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School) were first joined. Many significant changes have occurred at the school since then, but one thing has remained constant – the presence of the BMTS legacy on the Hill and the vital role it continues to play in preparing leaders (women and men) who are pastoral, prophetic and learned. Over the years, the generosity of the alumnae and friends of the BMTS made possible the establishment of both the Baptist Missionary Training School Chair and the Baptist Missionary Training School Scholarship. Through these initiatives, the BMTS continues to impact all students at CRCDS, providing support for first-rate faculty scholars as well as support for women who want to pursue a call to ministry. Recently, the BMTS legacy has been present in a unique way on the Hill, a way that demonstrates how interwoven the fabric of the BMTS and CRCDS now are. David Evans (CRDS ’53) and Bronwyn Evans (CRCDS Student)
Bronwyn Evans, daughter of BMTS alumna and CRCDS Life Trustee, Grace Norton Evans (BMTS ’52) and David Evans (CRDS ’53), is currently pursuing studies at CRCDS that will allow her to minister in the areas of pastoral counseling and spiritual care. Bronwyn is a 2013-14 recipient of the BMTS Scholarship and her ability to study at CRCDS is related, in part, to the generosity of BMTS alumnae and friends.
“I feel incredibly blessed for my family’s rich BMTS and CRCDS history. The schools have shaped many family members and now it’s my turn.”
Bronwyn’s family is linked to the BMTS and CRCDS in many ways. Her mother, a BMTS alumna who taught kindergarten in the Ithaca City School District for 25 years and her father, a CRDS alumnus and retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Ithaca, are both graduates. Her uncle, Gerald Evans (CRDS ’66), her sister, Janel MillerEvans (CRDS ’85), her brother-in-law, Phil Miller-Evans (CRDS ’86) and her brother-in-law’s father, Jim Miller (CRDS ’63), who currently serves as a CRCDS Trustee, are all part of the BMTS/CRCDS family. Bronwyn says, “I grew up under the umbrella of BMTS/CRCDS and attended their events throughout my childhood. Yet, I always yearned to have my own relationship with CRCDS. Although I felt drawn to the school, I did not feel called to be a pastor.” For Bronwyn, the BMTS/CRCDS education provides an opportunity to gain the skills and insights, particularly in the areas of faith and spirituality, necessary to deepen her effectiveness in her work as a psychotherapist. She says, “At CRCDS, I’ve found a place of belonging. There’s a wonderful sense of community on “the Hill.” I feel incredibly blessed for my family’s rich BMTS and CRCDS history. The schools have shaped many family members and now it’s my turn. I don’t know what the future holds, but for today I’m listening, learning, and integrating that learning into the person that I am and the person God calls me to be.” “I wouldn’t be able to attend CRCDS without the financial support of the BMTS women and their friends and I want to thank them for helping to make this part of my journey possible. Now it’s my turn to carry their legacy forward.”
Grace Norton Evans (BMTS ’52)
Out in the World U p d at e s , N e w s and Notes from CRCDS, CTS and B M T S A lu m n i / a e
Rev. M. Jackson Takayanagi (CRDS, ’50) Jack and Mary celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in December 2013.
Rev. Ronald H. Webb (CTS, ’56) Ronald and Lois celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in April 2013. In June, they moved to a retirement community in Lynchburg, VA.
Rev. William L. Malcomson (CRDS, ’57) Rev. Malcomson is now retired and is the Theologian-In-Residence at Seattle First Baptist Church in Seattle, WA.
Ms. Natalie Wigandt Galaway (BMTS, ’60) Nan and her husband, Burt, moved to Meadowood Shores, an independent living community in Minnesota, to be closer to their sons and 5 grandchildren. Natalie sends her regards to all at CRCDS, and especially to the BMTS Class of 1960.
Dr. H. Darrell Lance (CRDS, ’61) Darrell appeared in the acting group “The Geriactors” at the Rochester Fringe Festival this past September. The group presented 10 original short plays penned by local authors known as “Rochester Playwrights.” The engaging plots involve everything from a space alien’s first experience of an American football game to a touching story of a man with Alzheimer’s.
Rev. Dr. Albert Rowe
Rev. Stuart J. Mitchell III
(CTS, ’62) Dr. Rowe recently retired from Calvary Baptist Church in Paterson, NJ. Although Dr. Rowe has relinquished his Sunday duties, he will continue to oversee Calvary’s Family Life Center, which operates a medical clinic, job training initiatives and a foster-parent program.
(CRDS ’70) In January, Stuart was recognized with the “Everyday Hero” award for economic and social justice at the 29th Annual Greater Rochester Martin Luther King Jr. Commission Celebration.
Mr. Neil Sowards (CRDS ’62) Neil attended the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Karen Baptist Convention this past December. The Convention, established in 1913, is located in Lanmadaw Township, Yangon, Myanmar. Today, the Karen Baptist Convention is the largest member body of the Myanmar Baptist Convention.
Dr. James S. MacMain (CTS ’63) Dr. MacMain is semi-retired and is working part-time at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Ivyland, PA.
Dr. Donald Guiles (CRDS ’64) Donald was appointed as retired elder in the United Methodist Churches to Beaver Dams and Corning Grace communities in Beaver Dams and Corning, NY.
Rev. Gary W. Harris (CRDS ’66) Rev. Harris is retired and a member of the Bereau Baptist Church in Harrisville, RI.
Rev. Dr. John S. Walker (CRDS ’69) Dr. Walker received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Faith In Action Network/GRCC at the group’s annual celebration dinner on June 10, 2014. Dr. Walker is a life-long activist in the Civil Rights Movement and scholar of Black Church History, founder of the Rochester Area Child Abuse Network (RACAN), member of the United Christian Leadership Ministries of Western New York and senior pastor of Christian Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Henrietta, NY.
Rev. Thomas Young (CRDS ’73) Rev. Young retired from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dubuque, IA. He was President of Dubuque Area Congregations United, which includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith communities. Rev. Young and his wife, Julie, retired to the Kansas City area. They are looking forward to new opportunities to serve Christ and grow in faith.
Rev. Dr. W. Kenneth Williams (CRDS ’76) Ken retired from First Baptist Church in Rochester, NY and has moved with his wife, Peggy Nowling-Williams, to Durham, NC.
Rev. Judith L. Sutterlin (CRDS ’83) Judy is retiring from her fully commissioned role at the American Baptist International Ministries. She will serve as a retired volunteer Special Assistant to Area Director for East Asia and India. She will continue to serve on the teaching faculty of the seminary in Nanjing and will help with other projects, including visiting 140+ orphans annually.
Rev. Patricia J. Olmstead (CRDS ’84) Pat has officially retired from the United Methodist Church and reports that life is good.
Rev. Thomas G. Carr (CRDS ’85) Rev. Carr has been involved in issues of ecology and environmental justice with local congregations, with the ecumenical community and on an interfaith basis for 25 years. He is the co-founder of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, has served on the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group, and is presently part of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care and the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate.
Rev. Alicia Conklin-Wood
Rev. Alvin L. Johnson
Rev. Janet A.M. James
(CRDS ’86) Alicia is enjoying retirement from regular parish duties and has more time for family, leading contemplative retreats and offering spiritual direction. She is celebrating her oldest grandchild’s graduation from college this year.
(CRDS ’91) Rev. Johnson has been called to serve as Pastor at Pond Street Baptist Church in West Warwick, RI.
(CRDS '08) Janet has been appointed to Calvary UMC in Latham, NY where she will serve as the first female senior pastor. Janet will be closer to family.
Rev. Burton L. Smith, Jr. (CRDS ’86) Burton has been appointed as a retired elder to Wellsville First United Methodist Church in Wellsville, NY.
Dr. Elizabeth Tillar (CRDS ’88) Elizabeth founded the “Editorial Expertise Retreat”, which offers writers the opportunity to devote themselves to a period of intensive concentration on self-selected projects. The retreat is located in Tamworth, NH. In addition to teaching university students for more than 25 years, Elizabeth has written and edited fiction and numerous scholarly articles and books, published by Notre Dame, Blackwell, and Kegan Paul, among other notable presses. She has been teaching philosophy and religious studies at Plymouth State University since 2007.
Barbara A. Moore, RSM (CRDS ’89) Barbara received the Metropolitan Award from the Faith in Action Network/GRCC at their annual celebration dinner on June 10, 2014. Barbara is a Sister of Mercy of the New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community and Director of the Program for the Study of Women and Gender in Church and Society, and Professor of Preaching and Practical Theology at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.
Rev. Shelia M. Wilson (CRDS, ’90) Shelia has published a strategic prayer journal Clean off the Dust available at www.Amazon.com. The premise of the journal is based on Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. Two of the five “dusty” subjects deal with frustration/stress and forgiving self and others.
Rev. Sarah E. Culp (CRDS ’91) Sarah serves as the Assistant to the Supervisor at the Town of Irondequoit, Irondequoit, NY.
Rev. Judith E. Cole (CRDS ’94) Judith has been appointed as a part-time pastor to Dunkirk, NY United Methodist Church.
Rev. Robert Scott Hayes
Rev. Lawrence Hargrave
Ms. Emily B. Huyge
(CRDS ’00) Rev. Hargrave recently received the Reverend Raymond Graves Award for community service and social justice from the CRCDS Black Student Caucus.
(CRCDS ’12) Emily and her husband Dana welcomed the birth of their daughter, Sarah Rose Huyge.
Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens
(CRCDS ’12) Katie Jo was installed as Pastor at The Baptist Temple in Brighton, NY in February. At the Rochester Fringe Festival in September 2013, Katie Jo created sand mandalas in the atrium of the Geva Theater. When not pastoring, she can be found creating delicate works of art by arranging thousands of tiny grains of brightly-colored sand incorporating Tibetan Buddhist techniques into her own unique designs.
(CRDS ’03) Dr. Bouwens is the Conference Director of Vital Congregations of the Upper New York United Methodist Conference.
Rev. Heather Williams (CRDS ’03) Heather has been appointed as a full elder to Saratoga Springs, NY United Methodist Church.
Rev. Timothy J. Schultz (CRDS ’06) Rev. Schultz began a new pastorate at the Monroeville Church of the Brethren near Pittsburgh, PA.
Rev. Michael Ware (CRDS ’06) Michael will take a sabbatical JulySeptember to study the concept and practice of the missional church in Rochester, NY, St. Louis, MO, and Cape Town, South Africa. He will also engage in spiritual reflection on retreat in New York State. The entire family (Barbara Lacker-Ware, CRDS ’84) will travel to South Africa for a vacation, after which Michael will remain for several weeks in mission.
Rev. Dr. Bonita Bates
(CRCDS ’12) Scott has been named Interim Minister of Parma Baptist Church in Rochester, NY.
Rev. Katie Jo Suddaby
Rev. Derek H. Hansen (CRCDS ’13) Derek and his wife, Becky, welcomed their second son, Samuel George, in January.
Rev. Julius David Jackson, Jr. (CRCDS ’13) JD was inaugurated pastor of the East Aurora Christian Church in East Aurora, NY. CRCDS President Dr. Marvin McMickle was the honored keynote speaker.
Ms. Katherine S. Merriman (CRCDS ’13) Katherine is the administrative assistant at Trumansburg, NY United Methodist Church.
(CRCDS M. Div. ’05, D. Min. ’11) Bonnie has been called to the Eastern Ohio and Western Reserve Associations of the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ as the Association’s Associate Minister for Congregational Vitality & Development. Her position includes revitalization efforts, new church starts, search and call and work with interim ministers. The Associations consist of 165 churches.
CRCDS African American Legacy Lecture, April 2014
African Centered Theology in an Age of Color Blindness:
They Forgot Their Story! Guest Lecturer:
Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
ix years ago during the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference’s Annual Legislative Days held in the Nation’s Capitol, prominent scholars of the African-American Religious Tradition from several different disciplines (theologians, church historians, ethicists, professors of Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Homiletics, Hermeneutics and historians of religion…) joined with sociologists, psychologists, political analysts, local church pastors and denominational officials from across the ecumenical spectrum to examine the African-American Religious Experience and its historical, theological and political contexts. The workshops, the panel discussions and the symposia examined in much more intricate detail this “unknown phenomenon” of the Black Church than I have time to go into in the few moments that we have to share together this evening. I do, however, want to raise some important points about the Black Church from that gathering. The “unknown phenomenon” of the Black Church and the African Centered theology that undergirds it are as old as (and in some instances is older than) this country that all of us love and that some of us have served. The African American Religious tradition is a tradition that is in some ways like Ralph Ellison’s “The Invisible Man.” Like “The Invisible Man,” African Centered theology is also too often “invisible” to the dominant culture all the while being “hidden” in plain sight. The Black Church and the African Centered theology upon which it is founded have been right here in our midst and on our shores since the 1600’s, but they were, have been and, in far too many instances still are, invisible to the dominant culture in terms of their rich history, their incredible legacy and their multiple meanings. The Black Religious Experience and African Centered theology are traditions that at one point in American history were actually called “The Invisible Institution” as Black worship was
forced underground by the Black Codes which prohibited the gathering of more than two Black people without the presence of a white person to monitor the conversation, the content and the mood of any discourse between persons of African descent. This happened in this country! Race, Religion and Politics which inform African Centered theology have been a part of this country’s history since the 1600’s. The Black Codes that came into being after enslaved Africans tried to break free of chattel slavery in the 1800’s (with insurrections led by Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner among hundreds more and fed by David Walker and Harriet Tubman)—those codes did not kill the religion of the Africans nor the theology they embraced. Africans did not stop worshipping because of the Black Codes. Africans did not stop gathering for inspiration and information, and for encouragement and hope in the midst of discouraging and seemingly hopeless circumstances. Africans just gathered out of the eyesight and earshot of those who defined them as less than human. They became, in other words, “invisible” in and invisible to the eyes of the dominant culture. They gathered to worship in brush arbors or hush arbors where the slaveholders, slave patrols and Uncle Toms “couldn’t hear nobody pray.”
From the 1700’s in North America with the founding of the first legally-recognized independent Black congregations through the end of the Civil War and the passing of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, the Black Religious Experience was informed by, enriched by, expanded by, challenged by, shaped by and influenced by the influx of Africans from the other two Americas and by the Africans who were brought into this country from the Caribbean. Just as they brought their culture (and their code languages) with them, they also brought their theology. In addition, the Africans who were called “fresh Blacks” by the slave traders, those Africans who had not been through the “seasoning process” of the Middle Passage (in the Caribbean colonies), those Africans of the Sea Coast Islands off of Georgia and South Carolina, the Gullah (or the “Geechee”) people, brought into the Black Religious Experience a flavor that other “seasoned” Africans could not bring. The theology of “fresh blacks” therefore also impacted the theology of “seasoned” blacks.
“maybe this dialogue on race could move the people of faith ... from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation.” Those various streams of the Black Religious Experience (and the theologies which make up that experience) were addressed in summary form over the two days of the Proctor Conference’s Legislative Days at the in the Nation’s Capitol in April of 2008; streams which require full courses at the university and graduate school level and could not be fully addressed in a two-day symposium, and streams which tragically remain “invisible” to a dominant culture which knows nothing about those whom Langston Hughes calls “the darker brother.” All of those streams make up this multilayered and rich tapestry of the Black Religious Experience and African Centered theology. I opened up that two-day symposium with the hope that the 2008 media attack on the Black Church just might mean that the reality of the AfricanAmerican church would no longer be “invisible.” The Trustees of the Proctor Conference thought that maybe in 2008, as an honest dialogue about race in this
country looked like it was beginning—a dialogue called for by then Senator Obama and a dialogue that began in the United Church of Christ among 5,700 congregations—it was the thinking and the hope that maybe then as that dialogue began, the religious tradition and the theology that has kept hope alive for a people struggling to survive in countless, hopeless situations—maybe that religious tradition and that theology would be finally understood, celebrated and even embraced by a nation that seems not to have noticed why eleven o'clock on Sunday morning has been called “the most segregated hour in America.” We have known since 1787 that 11:00 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour. It was the hope of the Board of Trustees of the Proctor Conference six years ago that maybe we could begin to understand why it is the most segregated hour; and maybe after that Conference we could begin to take steps to move the Black Religious Tradition and African Centered theology from the status of “invisible” to the status of invaluable, not just for some Black people in this country, but for all the people in this country! Maybe this dialogue on race that was then supposed to begin—an honest dialogue that does not engage in denial or superficial platitudes—maybe this dialogue on race could move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation. In the 1960’s, the term “Liberation Theology” began to gain currency with the writings and the teachings of preachers, pastors, priests and professors from Latin America. Their Latin American theology was done “from the underside!” Their viewpoint was not from the top down or from the set of teachings which undergirded imperialism. Their viewpoints, rather, were from the bottom up. Their theology originated from the thoughts and understandings of God, the faith, religion and the Bible of those whose lives were ground under, mangled, marginalized and destroyed by the ruling classes or the oppressors. Liberation Theology then started in and from a different place. It started from the vantage point of the oppressed. My paper which attempted to summarize a 500 year-old tradition focused on three areas—a theology of Liberation, a theology of transformation and a theology of reconciliation.
I. A THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION In the late 1960’s when Dr. James Cone’s powerful books burst onto the scene, the term “Black Liberation Theology” began to be used. I do not disagree with Dr. Cone, nor do I in any way diminish the inimitable
and incomparable contribution he has made and continues to make to the Field of Theology. Jim, incidentally, is a personal friend of mine.
it was practiced to set the slaveholders free from the notion that they could define other human beings or confine a soul set free by the power of the Gospel.
After the publication of his latest book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, I wrote him a personal note and I told him that it was the best of all of his 14 or 15 books! You have to put that on your personal reading lists if you want to understand Race, Religion, Politics, African Centered Theology and the Black Church’s Proclamation in 2014.
The prophetic theology of the Black Church during the days of segregation, Jim Crow, lynching and the “separate but equal” fantasy was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set African Americans free from the notion of second-class citizenship which was the “law of the land;” and it was practiced to set free misguided and miseducated Americans from the notion that they were actually superior to other Americans based on the color of their skin.
I call our African Centered faith tradition, however, “The Prophetic Tradition of the Black Church” because I trace its origins back past Jim Cone, past the sermons and songs of Africans in bondage in the Transatlantic Slave Trade or the European Slave Trade as L. H. Whelchel cautions us to call it. I trace its origins past the problem of Western ideology of and Eurocentric notions of white supremacy. I trace the
“Liberating the captives also liberates those who are holding them captive.” theology of the Black Church back to the prophets in the Hebrew Bible and to its last prophet (in my tradition), the One we call Jesus of Nazareth. The prophetic tradition of the Black Church has its roots in Isaiah 61 where God says the prophet is to preach the Gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates those who are holding them captive. It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressor. One cannot talk about Race, Religion, Politics and the Black Church’s Proclamation without taking seriously what Jerome Ross, Curtiss DeYoung and Allan Boesak stress about the faith we share. Oppressors and living under oppression are the warp and woof of the biblical faith tradition. Every word in our bibles was written under one of six different kinds of oppression—Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonia, Persian, Greek and Roman. From Moses’ prophetic message of “Let my people go” (given by God)—a message of liberation—to Harriet Tubman’s nineteen life-threatening trips back into the segregated south to GET her people free, the message of liberation has been central in our faith tradition. The prophetic theology of the Black Church during the days of chattel slavery was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set free those who were held in bondage (spiritually, psychologically and sometimes physically!), and
The prophetic theology of the Black Church in our day is preached to set African Americans and all other Americans free from the misconceived notion that different means deficient. Being different does not mean one is deficient. It simply means one is different. (Like snowflakes and like the diversity that God loves!) Black music is different from European and EuropeanAmerican music. It is not deficient. It is just different. Black worship is different from European and EuropeanAmerican worship. It is not deficient. It is just different. Black preaching is different from European and EuropeanAmerican preaching. It is not deficient. It is just different. Black learning styles are different from European and European-American learning styles. They are not deficient. They are just different. This principle of “different does not mean deficient” is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the Black Church. It is one of the main tenets of African Centered theology and it is definitely a theology of liberation (from the bottom up).
II. THE THEOLOGY OF TRANSFORMATION The prophetic African Centered theology of the Black Church is not only a theology of liberation. It is also a theology of transformation also rooted in Isaiah 61—the text from which Jesus preached His inaugural message as recorded by Luke. When you read the entire passage from either Isaiah 61 or Luke 4 (and do not try to understand the content of the passage in the context of a sound bite), what you see is God’s desire for a radical change in a social order that had gone sour—a transformation. God’s desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. Transformation! God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to another people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized or those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems that treat some in the society as being “more equal” than others in that same society.
These two foci of liberation of transformation have not only been at the very core of the Black religious Experience— right at the nexus of Race and Religion (and politics). These two foci have also been at the very core of the denomination I served for 36 years as a pastor.
Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., Dr. Marvin McMickle, and Dr. Mark Braverman
God’s desire is for a positive change (transformation); real change (transformation)—not cosmetic change; radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference (transformation). God’s desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders and changed hearts in a changed world. This principle of transformation is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the Black Church. It is also at the heart of African Centered theology which seeks a non-racial society like the non-racial society of (and in) the new South Africa. Non-racial does not mean a “post racial” or “color blind” society. A non-racial society (which African Centered theology preaches) means that no one race stops being who they are as God created them. In South Africa, Ndebeles remain Ndebeles. Tswanas remain Tswanas. Shangans remain Shangans. Sothos remain Sothos, Xhosas remain Xhosas. Zulus remain Zulus. Afrikaans remain Afrikaans. Khois remain Khois and Sans remain Sans. No one race becomes some other race; but at the same time no one race is privileged over some other race. That transformed society is very different from the society with which and in which we have been acculturated. These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the Black Religious Experience and African Centered theology from the days of David Walker, Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen, Jarena Lee, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and Sojourner Truth through the days of Adam Clayton Powell, Ida B. Wells, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, Cornel West, Paul Robeson and Fannie Lou Hamer.
The United Church of Christ has had liberation and transformation at the center of its theological perspective since its predecessor denomination, the Congregational Church of New England, came to the moral defense and paid for the legal defense of the Mende people aboard the slave ship Amistad; …since the days when the United Church of Christ fought against slavery, played an active role in the Underground Railroad and set up over 500 schools for the Africans who were freed from slavery in 1865.
And, these two foci—liberation and transformation—remain at the core of the teachings of the United Church of Christ as it has fought against Apartheid in South Africa and fought against racism in the United States of America ever since the “union” which formed the United Church of Christ in 1957. These two foci of liberation and transformation have also been at the very core of the congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ since it was founded in 1961; and these foci have been the bedrock of our congregation’s preaching and practice for the thirty-six years that I served as its pastor. Our congregation took a stand against Apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the Afrikaaner government in South Africa. Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants of El Salvador and Nicaragua while our government (through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal) was supporting the Contras who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries. Our congregation sent fifty two men and women (on my watch) through accredited seminaries to earn their Master of Divinity degrees (with an additional twenty being enrolled in seminary when I retired), while building two senior citizen housing complexes and running two childcare programs for the poor, the unemployed and low-income parents on the Southside of Chicago for the past thirty years. Our congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting unjust wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and anywhere else U.S. business interests are threatened. [ Continued on page 20 ]
Kairos and the Challenge of Theological Education Dr. James H. Evans, Jr., Robert K. Davies Professor of Systematic Theology
“What has in the past been taken for granted—that theological schools were a vital part of the landscape of higher education—is now up for debate ... our graduates will face new challenges—or old challenges in new forms. The question is, how can we respond to them?”
“Theological education cannot be successfully carried out without attention to the most significant challenges to our lives together.”
Theological education today faces significant challenges, among them being stagnant or declining enrollments, uneven and sporadic support from churches, and in the cases of university related divinity schools, the demand for demonstrable results from its activities. Indeed, what has in the past been taken for granted—that theological schools were a vital part of the landscape of higher education—is now up for debate. At Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School we have certainly not been immune to these challenges. Our discussions on how to shape a curriculum that will help our students pursue ministry in all of its varied forms in light of these challenges has settled on the idea of Kairos. Kairos is defined theologian Paul Tillich as “the fulfillment of time” or as “God’s time.” This notion of kairos points to the potential that each moment of our existence contains. This concept has been important for our discussion of our mission as a faculty as we seek to prepare women and men to be leaders in world that is full of crisis and potential in equal measure. We live in such a moment and therefore, theological education cannot be successfully carried out without attention to the most significant challenges to our lives together. While there will likely never be complete consensus on the exact nature of those challenges, this means that theological education must be carried out with both a sense of purpose and urgency. The values that have historically been associated with the faculty and alumni/ae of this school include economic justice—Walter Rauschenbusch, spiritual integrity— Howard Thurman, an ecumenical vision—Edwin Dahl and Stanley Stuber, racial justice—Martin Luther King, Jr., gender equality—Marjorie Matthews and Betty Bone Schiess, among others. Each in his or her own time faced the daunting challenges of ministry head on. Part of their preparation for doing so occurred in this place. We know that our graduates will face new challenges—or old challenges in new forms, and the question is how can we respond to them? Here is where the notion of kairos comes into play.
”Theological education must be transcendent but not trendy. It must be an expression of love that wants to hold the human family together.” Understanding the world in a kairotic framework presents three specific challenges to persons and institutions involved in the preparation of the next generation of learned, pastoral and prophetic leaders. First, theological education must be an act of faith. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his Letter From A Birmingham Jail, he stated that the time for change in the established system of racial segregation in America had come. The urgency of his plea was based on his conviction that God provides providential moments for the human community to effect the kind of social transformation that reveals the kingdom of God among us. Theological education must not view the classical traditions of the Christian community as hermetically sealed formulae to be simply applied to our situation. Christian faith is situated in the timeliness of our lives. Therefore theological education must search for the timely truth and never settle for the temporary falsehoods of our society. King knew that the timely justice of God was always victorious over the temporary injustices perpetrated by humanity. Theological education in its teaching, formation, research and publications should be an expression of the faith that unites us with God and with one another. Second, theological education must be an act of hope. It must be current, but not shortsighted. In the quest for relevance, theological educators and students can become intoxicated with what the latest trends. Indeed, many church leaders turn to futurists and others to determine where the church is going. The expectation is that if they had an idea of where the church is going they might be able to better serve these congregations. Ministering into the future involves risk, trust and ultimately hope. The analysis of demographic statistics can be helpful on occasion, but what the community of faith requires is a hopeful vision for the future. That future is found only in God.
Third, theological education must be an act of love. This love is not the sort that is satisfied with anything less than excellence in our Christian service. In times of scarcity and uncertainly some theological schools can be tempted to mistake this call to love as a call to accommodate students and faculty and staff by requiring less of them rather than more. Sometimes it may legitimately be understood as act of pastoral care. However, the kairotic moment requires commitment at the highest level and an understanding of the gravity of the moment. Theological educators must demand the best of themselves and model that to students and others. Theological education must be transcendent but not trendy. It must be an expression of love that wants to hold the human family together. Theological education in the United States stands at a crossroad. We can either submit to the fear and uncertainty which initially confronts us, or we can embrace the opportunity to serve this present age in new and fresh ways. That is the choice we face. Our choice should be shaped by the joyful fact that “The Time Is Now.”
“We can either submit to the fear and uncertainty which initially confronts us, or we can embrace the opportunity to serve this present age in new and fresh ways. That is the choice we face.”
Save the Date October 6–9, 2014
Lectures, Reflection and Worship
H i g h l i g h t s i n c lu d e : Helen Barrett Montgomery Conference Lecture: “The Exploitation of Women” Ms. Edwina Gateley, presenter Janice Lynn Cohen Symposium on Child and Adolescent Health and Spirituality: Kids’ Health in the ‘Crescent’: From Hard Data to Real Hope (at the University of Rochester Medical Center) Christian Faith and the LGBT Experience Lecture: “It is—more than—what it is.” Rev. Ray Bagnuolo
Ms. Edwina Gateley
CRCDS Artists will be featured throughout the week
Dr. Grant is the former Executive Director of the non-profit Christian organization known as the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMMB). Dr. Grant served as executive director and treasurer of American Baptist Churches of New York State, and as the senior pastor at churches in New Hampshire and Maine for more than 15 years. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Gordon College, Dr. Grant completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University’s School of Business Administration. In 2002, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Franklin College.
Rev. Ray Bagnuolo
Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak
Rev. Dr. Sumner Grant and Mr. George Hamlin, IV were appointed as Governing Trustees at May’s Board meeting. Grace Norton Evans (BMTS ‘52) and Mary Anna Geib (CRDS ‘64) were named Life Trustees. The Rt. Rev. Jack McKelvey has accepted the position as Board Chair. Mr. Richard DiMarzo will act as Vice Chair and Sue Scanlon, Esq. will serve as Secretary.
R ev . D r. Sum n er G ra n t
African American Legacy Lecture: Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak, Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice and Reconciliation Studies, Christian Theological Seminary
“But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Board of Trustees Welcomes Two New Members and Names its 2014-2015 Slate of Officers
M r. G eo rge W. H a m li n , IV Mr. Hamlin is Chairman of the Board of the Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Company. Before joining the Bank in 1978 he was associated with the Rochester law firm of Nixon, Hargrave, Devans and Doyle. Mr. Hamlin graduated from Yale University in 1963 with a B.S. degree in Physics. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School in 1972. We offer our deep gratitude and thanks to five Board members who have completed their terms of service: Stuart J. Mitchell III (CRDS ’70), Gary DeBellis, Joe Kutter (CTS ’71), Frank Tyson (CTS ’69) and Paul Vick (CRDS ’71). Thank you for your tireless support of CRCDS and its mission. We thank God for you and your years of dedicated service.
Horizon Society: CRCDS benefactor of generous $1M gift “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” — N e l s o n H e n d e r s o n Steven Price (CRCDS ’91) and Norman Geil believe in “growing the good work” in every sense of the word. Norman, a former environmental attorney, and Steven, a pastor at Community Christian Church in Chili, NY and Director of Service Excellence at Rochester’s Trillium Health, traversed very different career paths. Both, however, possess the same intrinsic belief in Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and its reputation as a place where “transformation happens.” When their financial planner contacted them Steven, a tap dancer for over 20 years, belongs to Oasis about updating their Tappers, and at age 50, dances alongside its oldest wills, they made a “very member, age 96. An accomplished singer, he’s perintentional decision” to formed with the Rochettes at the David Hochstein gift a $1M life insurance Memorial Music School, The School of the Arts, and policy to CRCDS to Christ Church, all in Rochester. Now retired, Norman support its mission of occasionally audits courses at CRCDS. He has served as preparing transformative treasurer at Christ Church in Rochester for the past seven leaders who are pasyears and is committed to toral, prophetic and Norman Geil and Steven Price staying physically fit through a learned. Although many Brodie and Gracie healthy exercise routine. people assume that Steven and Norman’s are not planned giving is comonly dear friends of the school. plicated, Norman says, “It really was very easy. Because of They are also neighbors! Just the way the policy is structured, the overall cost of the gift is one street—and one hill—over reduced and in this way, the dollars are used more strategifrom the CRCDS campus, you cally. Monies are leveraged about five times more through will find them both with the this joint policy, as opposed to a single-insured policy.” other loves of their lives—an Irish terrier named Brodie and a Steven and Norman’s generosity extends beyond the gift of the basset hound named Gracie. actual policy itself. While CRCDS retains full ownership of the CRCDS is grateful for the generosity and friendship of Steven policy and thus, must pay the annual premium, Steven and and Norman and thankful to have them as members of the Norman decided to donate an annual amount to the school CRCDS family. Together, they are making a difference in the that is equal to the annual premium, for which they receive a legacy of CRCDS, helping to ensure its success in the many tax deduction. The policy itself will be fully paid up in ten years to come. years. “It’s a win-win” for CRCDS and for them, says Norman. The couple view their financial investment as a tangible way to support CRCDS’ commitment to the biblical mandate for justice and mercy and its mission of training leaders who confidently speak truth to power. They say, “It’s important for both of us to have a beacon to support what we feel is right.” For them, and for many others, CRCDS is that beacon. Both Steven and Norman have adapted or surrendered hectic corporate lives in order to participate more fully in meaningful spiritual, community and creative pursuits.
W h at i s Yo u r L e g a c y ? What is your legacy? Take care of yourself and help take care of CRCDS. For more information on how you can help us grow, contact Tom McDade Clay, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, at (585) 340-9648 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memorial & Appreciation Gifts T h e Fu n d f o r CRCDS
E. Robert Ferris Susanna Ferris
Robert E. Miller Jodi Hottel
In Memory of:
Jerry Freiert William L. Malcomson
Agnes J. Morrison Epp K. Sonin
William H. Hamilton Carol J. Allen William L. Malcomson
Charles M. Nielsen Scott W. and Sue Anderson Thomas A. Hilton
Kenneth Hardy Deborah Blauw
Leon Pacala Larry Greenfield
Randy B. Hellwig Mark and Holly Gestring
Mary Margaret Ricker Richard M. Ricker
Winthrop S. Hudson Glenn Loafmann
G. Todd Roberts Lou G. Roberts Eckle
Frank Hutchins Jeanne B. Hutchins
Robert Rowsam Bruce O. Babcock June Morin
Bernhard Anderson Frank Q. Beebe James B. Ashbrook Clinton L. Barlow Charles B. Mercer Paul D. Millin Michael D. Scott Glenn H. Asquith, Sr. Glenn Asquith, Jr. Arline J. Ban Joseph D. Ban Baptist Missionary Training School Marita K. Douglas Gene E. Bartlett Jean Bartlett Michael D. Scott
Mr. and Mrs. Miller C. Kilpatrick David M. Kilpatrick
Henry A. Buzzell Eleanor Pope
Ruth Lacker Rev. Barbara J. Lacker-Ware and Rev. Michael A. Ware
W. Douglas Call Anonymous J. Paul Cameron Anonymous Paul and Ellen Mae Carter Vernon and Janice Kuehn Jack E. Corbett Sara A. Corbett J. Ralph Davie Kathleen M. Davie
H. Victor Kane, Sr. H. Victor Kane, Jr.
Edward H. Rybnicek Robert H. Calvert Roland V. Santee Lorena M. Ritter Jarvis G. Schwarz Genevieve Schwarz
Werner E. Lemke Sandy Lemke
Tanya Sexton James S. Badger
Harold Loughhead Wilda J. Loughhead
Kenneth L. Smith Thomas G. Poole Joellyn W. Tuttle Ronald H. Webb
Donald T. Mackey Merilyn M. Israel John B. Mackey Merilyn M. Israel Richard Liam Mackey Merilyn M. Israel
Donald S. Deer James G. Denny Clifford H. Haskins
Virginia D. Mackey Kathleen E. Madigan
V. E. Devadutt V. Sumati Devadutt
John A. Massimilla Edna Massimilla
John E. Donovan Dorothy J. Donovan
Floyd W. McDermott Lorena M. Ritter
Robert R. Spears Walter Szymanski M. Kathleen Talbot Gary D. Talbot William R. Tasker Jimmy A. Beshai Charles Thurman Mattie Thurman Rollin Tingley Patricia W. Tingley
December 13, 2013 – June 7, 2014
James E. Townsend Billie Townsend
Barbara A. Moore James S. Badger
Charles E. Walker Kenneth G. Benne
Margaret A. Nead Samuel Bishop
Ted V. Wannenwetsch Jean Banfield Louise W. Epstein Kathryn Scheck
James Sanders David C. Marx
Edina Weeks Edwin F. Weeks MacDonald Westlake Jennie A. Findley Brenda P. Williams W. Kenneth and Peggy Williams Harrison E. Williams Eloise Beynon J. C. Wynn Roxie Jester Ash Peter Fabian and Aurelia Hale-Fabian In Honor of: Claudine P. Crooks Margaret Ackley Christopher H. Evans Robert Goeckel Jessie A. Harrison Winterbourne LaPucelle Jones Robert and Charlotte Harrison Winterbourne LaPucelle Jones H. Darrell Lance Scott W. Anderson and Sue A. Anderson Deborah L. Hughes Dr. Marvin A. McMickle Fred M. Gibson Thomas McDade Clay Elizabeth T. Clay Pamela A. McDaniel Paul McDaniel
Stephanie L. Sauvé Robert L. Booher Robert Selby Betty Cloen
In honor of David, Marion, Randy, Stephen and Sarah Margaret’s birthdays Jean Bartlett In honor of Jean Bartlett Kenneth V. Dodgson and Sally Dodgson Marion Bartlett VanArsdell Crozer Endowment Fund
Susan S. Shafer Samuel Bishop
In memory of J. Pius Barbour, Elmer P. Gibson, and Henry H. Mitchell Frank Tyson
Joseph H. Sutcliffe J. Raymond Sutcliffe
In honor of Kenneth Cauthen Frank Tyson
Paul A. Vick Lawrence Hargrave and Brenda Lee
Kent L. Kiser Memorial Scholarship Fund
Benedetto Pascale Scholarship Fund
Baptist Missionary Training School Professorial Chair
In memory of Benedetto Pascale Elmo and Ella Pascale
In memory of Suzanne Rinck Armstrong Marian Gerecke Cheryl C. Knight
Janice Lynn Cohen Memorial Fund
Baptist Missionary Training School Scholarship Fund In memory of Mary Frances Lewis Smith Dorothy J. Donovan John B. Donovan Mary Jo Pugh BJ Wilcox Daryl D. Wiltshire Gene Bartlett Scholarship Fund In memory of Gene E. Bartlett Jean Bartlett Steven Bartlett and Linda Bardenstein Marion Bartlett VanArsdell
In memory of Kent L. Kiser A. Melissa Kiser
In memory of Marcia Karch Jerry and Susan Marks In memory of Myron Nozik Marshall and Doris Cohen J. C. Wynn Family Ministries Fund In memory of J. C. Wynn Rachel Wynn and the Wynn Family
All memorial and appreciation contributions received after June 7, 2014 will be published in the Fall/Winter 2014 Bulletin.
[ Continued from page 13 ] Our congregation has sent dozens of boys and girls to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War and the present two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My goddaughter’s unit had just arrived in Iraq the week of the Symposium on the Prophetic Witness of the Black Church while those (that same week) who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service all the while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls to die over a lie! Our congregation has had an HIV/AIDS Ministry for over two decades. Our congregation has awarded over one million dollars to graduating high school seniors going into college, and an additional one-half million dollars to the United Negro College Fund and the six HBCUs related to the United Church of Christ, while advocating for healthcare not only for the uninsured but also for the poor (euphemistically called “the public option” and taken off the table to get the Affordable Care Act passed by the greedy pharmaceuticals and the congresspersons who are on the “DL” payroll of these pharmaceuticals). Our congregation spent years advocating and working for workers’ rights for those forbidden to form unions and fighting the unjust sentencing system which has sent Black men and women to prison for longer terms for possession of crack cocaine than white men and women have to serve for possession of powder cocaine. Our congregation has had a Prison Ministry for over forty years, a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Ministry for twenty five years, a full-service program for senior citizens and twenty-two different ministries for the youth of our church from preschool through high school—all proceeding from the starting point of liberation and transformation. A prophetic African Centered theology presumes God’s desire for changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders and changed hearts in a changed world.
III. A THEOLOGY OF RECONCILIATION The prophetic African Centered theology of the Black Church is a theology of liberation. It is a theology of transformation and it is ultimately a theology of reconciliation. The Apostle Paul said, “Be ye reconciled one to another even as God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s self.” God does not desire us as children of God to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other or put each other down! God wants us reconciled one to another and that third principle in the prophetic African Centered theology of the
“God does not desire us as children of God to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other or put each other down!” Black Church is also (and has always been) at the heart of the Black Church Experience in North America. When Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were dragged out of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia during the same year (1787) that the Constitution was framed in Philadelphia for daring to kneel at the Altar next to white worshippers (Race, Religion and Politics is nothing new), they founded the Free African Society and they welcomed white members into that organization to show that reconciliation was the goal—not retaliation. Absalom Jones became the Rector of St. Thomas Anglican Church in 1791 and St. Thomas welcomed white Anglicans in a spirit of reconciliation. Richard Allen became the Founding Pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1792 and the model of the A.M.E. church has always been, “God Our Father, Man Our Brother and Christ Our Redeemer!” In 1792, the sexist word “man” included men and women of all races in the spirit of reconciliation. The Black Church’s role in the fight for equality and justice from the 1700’s up until 2014 has always had at its core the non-negotiable doctrine of reconciliation—children of God repenting for past sins against each other and being reconciled to one another because of the love of God who made them all in God’s image. Allan Boesak and Curtiss DeYoung’s latest book, Radical Reconciliation, is a must read also for those who wrestle with Race and Religion and Politics. They use the term “radical” because they argue that unless reconciliation goes to the ROOT of the racial problem, then our use of the term and our understandings are only superficial and far from biblical! Reconciliation, the years have taught me, is where the hardest work is found for those of us in the Christian faith because it means some critical thinking and some reexamination of faulty assumptions when using the paradigm which Dr. William Augustus Jones puts forth.
Dr. Jones in his book, God In The Ghetto, argues quite accurately that one’s theology (how I see God) determines one’s anthropology (how I see humans); and one’s anthropology then determines one’s sociology (how I order my society)! The implications from the outset are obvious. If I see God as male… if I see God as a white male… if I see God as superior—as God over us and not immanu-el which means “God with us”… if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens. My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens and as a result, white males are superior. All others are inferior. And I order my society where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe! Race, Religion and Jim Crow Politics. I can have laws that favor whites over Blacks in America or in South Africa. I can construct a theology of Apartheid in the Afrikaaner church and a theology of white supremacy in the North American (or Germanic) church! The implications from the outset are obvious. There is complicated work to be done as you dig deeper into the constructs that tradition, habit and hermeneutics put on your plate. To say “I am a Christian” is not enough. Why? Because the Christianity of the slaveholder is not the Christianity of the slave. This is where African Centered theology makes things uncomfortable. The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks of that same slave ship. How we are seeing God (the theology of the slave holders and slave traders and the theology of the enslaved) is not the same; and what we both mean when we say “I am a Christian” is not the same thing! The prophetic African Centered theology of the Black Church has always seen and still sees all of God’s children as sisters and brothers—equals who need reconciliation… who need to be reconciled as equals in order for us to walk together into the future God has prepared for us. Reconciliation does not mean that Blacks become whites or whites become Blacks, that Hispanics become Asians or that Asians become Europeans. Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories (all of them!). We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us. It is the same principle put forth in a non-racial society. African Centered theology and “radical reconciliation” mean we root out any teaching of superiority vs. inferiority, hatred or prejudice and we recognize for the first time in modern history in the West that the “other” who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles and different dance moves…
that other is one of God’s children just as we are—no better, no worse! They are human beings. The “Other” is a human being, prone to error and in need of forgiveness just as we are. Only when we can see others through those lenses will liberation, transformation and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals. Now, what you just heard and all that I just said was my presentation at the opening of the two day Proctor Conference, the two day symposium, the two day gathering for Legislative Days as we met to discuss the Prophetic Witness of the Black Church in its 500 year history in the Black Atlantic. We were there to investigate the nexus of Race, Religion, Politics, African Centered theology and the Prophetic Witness of the Black Church. My presentation was focused on the “once-upon-a-time INVISIBLE INSTITUTION” BEING INVISIBLE NO MORE! The Black Church which most of white America knew nothing about was no longer going to be invisible. African Centered theology was to be invisible no more. That conference at Howard University was putting the Black Church front and center in the discussion—the national discussion—about Race, Religion and Politics in the Black Atlantic in general, and in the United States in particular. My paper was the first of four major papers given at the conference. The Conference was co-sponsored by the Howard University School of Divinity and a panel discussion involving the professors from HUSD from different disciplines was to complement the other three plenary presentations where papers by three highly respected Black Scholars in Religion were given.
We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us. Dr. John Kinney, Dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology gave the second paper. Dr. Katie Cannon, a leading Womanist Theologian and Professor at Union Theological Seminary gave the third presentation; and Dr. Dwight Hopkins, a double PhD from Union Theological Seminary and the University of Cape Town, gave the fourth presentation. I thought that the “Ralph Ellison Syndrome” of the Black Church and African Centered theology would be
ended as the Black Church would be made highly visible by both those scholars and the Divinity School Panel discussion.
dirty politics once again rendered African Centered theology and the Black Church in America invisible and not worthy of serious consideration!
However, such was not to be the case. Racism, white supremacy and white arrogance won out again and silenced the story of the Black Church, the meaning of African Centered theology and the Prophetic Proclamation of the Black Church.
What was equally troubling for me, however, (if not even more troubling) was witnessing the disturbingly large number of assimilated African Americans who bought into the “hype” of a post racial and color blind America and who embraced the illusion of “progress” while ignoring the reality of racism. In the words of Chancellor Williams, those are African Americans who “forgot their story!”
No media coverage was given to Drs. Kinney, Cannon or Hopkins. No discussion of their input in the dialogue about African Centered theology, Race, Religion and Politics was offered. No mention was made of the distinguished panel of Howard University Divinity School professors or the content of their dialogue. In fact …nothing that I just presented to you was covered by the media…and in the 30 minute question and answer period following my 500 year summarization of the Black Religious Experience and its three broad points of Liberation, Transformation and Reconciliation…NOT ONE QUESTION WAS ASKED OF ME BY THE MEDIA ABOUT MY PAPER AND MY CENTRAL THESIS.
“The good news is that the messiness of politics has not, does not and cannot silence the message of our God who can still (in the words of our tradition) ‘take a crooked stick and hit a straight lick.’”
As both Dr. Martin Marty (Professor emeritus of Church History at the University of Chicago) and Chris Hedges, the public intellectual, observed, “The media didn’t come to hear about the prophetic witness of the Black Church. The media didn’t come to your presentation to learn about African Centered theology, the Invisible Institution or to hear your entrée into the presentations by Kinney, Cannon, Hopkins and the faculty at Howard.”
“The media came there to discredit you and hopefully destroy the candidacy of the first African descended candidate for the highest office in the land who looked like he just might get the Democratic Nomination! Racism made them come there on the attack! White supremacy made them ignore, ‘diss’ and in fact trash the religious tradition and the theology of your people, your parents, your grandparents and those who died believing that God could still make a way out of no way! In their estimate your people and your religious tradition had nothing to say to them worth hearing or worth reporting.” The ugliness of dirty politics—the same politics that legalized slavery, legalized Jim Crow, legalized the New Jim Crow and legalized the war on poor blacks and browns euphemistically called the “war on drugs”—those same
James Melville Washington offers one reason for this amnesia. Eugene Robinson’s Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America offers another set of reasons for this amnesia. Political scientists offer yet another reason or set of reasons for this kind of amnesia. Having lived through the political “season” of 2008 and 2012, however, I call the “messiness” of politics the primary reason we are experiencing such a masshypnosis of racial amnesia. That is the bad news. The good news is that the messiness of politics has not, does not and cannot silence the message of our God who can still (in the words of our tradition) “take a crooked stick and hit a straight lick.” That message of Liberation from Exodus three to 2014 remains the same.
That message of transformation from Zaccheus in Luke 19 to Governor Wallace in the 1970’s and that message of Reconciliation from Jacob and Esau to Archbishop Tutu and Chief Albert Luthuli…that message remains the same! That message has been the central core of the Black Church’s prophetic utterance and the central core of African Centered theology since the first Africans “stole away” to freedom or “stole away” to worship. That message found in the Maroon communities from Dismal Swamp, Virginia through the Saramaka in Suriname to the quilombos in Bahia and Maranhao, is the same message. That message that is found from Haiti to Harlem and from Rwanda to Rochester…that message is what I challenge you tonight to embrace as your own message and also as God’s desire for all of God’s children. In Zulu I say Siyabonga. And in English? I say “Thank you” for hearing my heart!
To view lecture videos, please visit www.crcds.edu and click on "View our YouTube Channel" on the home page.
In Memoriam Baptist Missionary Training School
Crozer Theological Seminary
Alice Simmons Shae
Mary Lewis Smith
James K. Zink
Gertrude Bloss Rector
Colgate Rochester Divinity School Everett L. Perry
Patricia Taylor Pivnick
Luther Smith, Jr.
Friends of CRCDS Robert Gianniny C. David Hess Dorothy MacQueen Alice Roberson Berneice Taylor Rollin Tingley Blondina Titchenell Barbara Walker Anna Wilkes Laura Whyte Patricia Yorks William Yorks
Non-Profit Org. US Postage
Rochester, NY Permit No. 1588
Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School 1100 South Goodman Street Rochester, NY 14620 (585) 271-1320 www.crcds.edu
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B u l l e t i n o f t h e C o l g at e R o c h e s t e r C r o z e r D i v i n i t y S c h o o l
Spring / Summer 2014
Faith. Critically engaged.
Each person can make a difference! This image, entitled “Earth Wave”, is the result of NASA’s “Cassini Mission” request on July 19th asking people all over the world to “Wave at Saturn.” Over 1,400 people from over 40 countries submitted images via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram and email. This photo represents the resulting collage.