“What is race and how is it theological? Is safety a theological matter; how does it relate to justice?” Thanks to a grant from Reconciliation Ministry, a group of young adult leaders from across the Church (at Claremont School of Theology, Christian Theological Seminary, DDH-Chicago, DDH-Vanderbilt, Disciples Seminary Foundation, the University of Montreal, and Yale University) have taken up these pressing theological challenges.
The Constructive Theologies Project (CTP) at University of Chicago’s Disciples Divinity House (DDH), started in 2015, seeks to cultivate ideas that move across racial, vocational, intellectual, and economic lines, to address the possibilities that face the Church today. Reconciliation Ministry Executive Director Rev. April Johnson explains that this peer group “meets in person and online to foster relationships and use theological lenses to discuss the racial realities of where they live.”
The Reconciliation grant, received this spring, supports CTP’s efforts by helping to underwrite the costs of two 2019 gatherings with a Justice and Safety theme: one in the spring, which has since been completed, and a second in November. “Through these events,” Rev. Yvonne Gilmore, Associate Dean of DDH and CTP project director, says, “the grant helps bring together this group of young thought leaders with diverse commitments to reflect on geographies of identity and their relation to theologies of justice and community formation.”
Part of the grant has already been put to use, supporting CTP’s spring meeting at the Oakland Peace Center (OPC). The group of scholars toured the OPC and met with founder and director Sandhya Jha, OPC participants, and members from the First Congregational Church of Oakland.
“The group’s goal was to learn with multi-denominational interlocutors and Oakland-area practitioners,” explains Gilmore. The group certainly achieved that goal, participating in theological reflection led by Yolanda Norton, professor of Hebrew Bible at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and JoAnne Kagiwada, one of the founders of NAPAD.
In November, CTP will host its fall meeting in Nashville. This gathering will include reflection with Emilie Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School and author of Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil; conversation with students at Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt; and time to workshop essays by CTP members on justice and safety in their geographical, ministry, and identity contexts.
Members of the Constructive Theologies Project include: Darnell Fennell, Judith Guy, Lee Ivey, Reanisha Karim, Alexis Kassim, Allison Lundblad, Jose Morales, Andrew Packman, Hyein Park, Antonio Redd, Eli Rolon, Allison Ruari, Christian Watkins, Eric Wilcox, and Jean-Daniel Williams.
The peer-driven project was started with a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation and support from the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago.
“What excites me about the Constructive Theologies Project is that this intentional group of theological conversation partners are examining reconciliation as an applied theology and sharing the experiences and informed perspectives with the Church at-large,” Johnson celebrates. “This project, and these emerging theologians’ voices, serve as a model that can be replicated and/or utilized to spur conversation and action in each of our Churchwide expressions.”
To support this and other Reconciliation Ministry Fund programs, you’re invited to give to the Reconciliation Special Offering, received in many congregations on Oct. 6.