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Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada

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Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada
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The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) is an organization of seminaries and other graduate schools of theology.[1][2][3] ATS has its headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has more than 270 member institutions.[4] It was founded in 1918.[5] ATS's stated mission is "to promote the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public."[3]

The ATS Commission on Accrediting provides graduate schools of theology with accreditation.[6] It is recognized by both the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education as an accrediting body.[1][2] It also publishes the journal Theological Education.

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  • ✪ Panel Discussion on the Princeton Seminary and Slavery Report
  • ✪ "Eleven" | The Future of Global Population Growth | Paul Hanley
  • ✪ 2018 Bowen Lecture with Craig Steven Wilder - Colleges & Slavery in the Age of Revolution


- Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today for this very important conversation in the life of our seminary community as we engage the historical audit report on slavery. We will continue this discussion throughout the year in a variety of forums as we consider not only this history, but more importantly, its legacy and its implications for our life together as a community of faith and scholarship. We do this as an exercise in Christian faithfulness. Confession of sin, repentance have always been vital to the health of any spiritual community. We will discern the appropriate ways for us to respond to this report and make repentance, but the first step is to understand and to confess our history. And one of the ways that we do that as a scholarly community is by engaging in research and critical reflection which is what this report represents. I'm grateful to the committee of faculty and administrators who worked diligently and faithfully on this research for more than two years. They now sit before you. If you've had a chance to read the report you know that is thorough and substantive, but it is also designed to spark further research and conversation. We'll have the chance today to talk about the report's finding and its ongoing legacy. Over the last two weeks there have already been four events of conversation about the report amongst our students. In the year ahead we'll continue to have conversations about what this history means for our present life together and what a process of confession and repentance and reconciliation might look like. Just next month, on November 1st, there will be a service of repentance in the chapel and on the 12th there will be a seminar on the history and the future of Liberia which will relate to our seminary's involvement in the Colonization Society of America. Next semester an academic conference is scheduled and planned which will also include academic papers published in Theology Today. Last month I appointed a task force of students, administrators, faculty, trustees, and alumni to gather suggestions from the seminary community for its faithful response to the report. This group, this task force, will deliberate about the appropriate responses and then make a formal set of recommendations, hopefully by the spring meeting, to the Board of Trustees. This task force wants to hear from you as they undertake this work on behalf of the seminary community. You can email the task force through the report's website, At this time I'd like to introduce the members of the task force to you because I want them to be visible so that you can approach any of them individually. I'll ask you to stand as I announce your name and to remain standing please. In alphabetical order they are Keri Day, Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religion, Karen Jackson-Weaver, a Trustee and also visiting scholar, Dean in Residence at Oxford University, Jaqueline Lapsley, Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Old Testament, Gordon Mikoski, Associate Professor of Christian Education, Kermit Moss, PhD candidate and Interim Director of the Center for Black Church Studies, Anne Stewart, Associate Vice President for Communications and Deputy to the President. Mariana Thomas, MDiv Senior. Marcus Tillery, an alum of the Seminary and Pastor of Community Church of East Williston, New York. Johnathan Walton, a trustee of the seminary, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, and Pusey Minister at Memorial Church at Harvard University, and John White, Dean of Student Life and Vice President for Student Relations. Thank you. Again, please feel free to contact any of these task members or again to use the seminary's website to address the task force. I encourage you to participate in the conversation by making your suggestions for recommendations, which will again come to the board through this task force. The President of the Princeton Seminary Board of Trustees will take up these recommendations and they'll take them quite seriously. They're committed to this process and to engaging the conversation thoroughly. The Board of Trustees has read the report and will spend the majority of their meeting this week talking about it. The Board started their October meeting early in order to be a part of these presentations. Later tonight, they will continue meeting after dinner in a conversation using Edward Baptist's book, The Half Has Never Been Told. After our panelists have spoken, I am inviting the chair of the Board, Jeff O'Grady, to share a word from the Board to you. Now I would like to introduce these members who wrote the report. They will each share some reflections on their portion of the research, then respond to your questions. Dr. Jim Moorhead is the Mary McIntosh Bridge Professor of American Church History Emeritus. Dr. Keri Day is the Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religion. Dr. Gordon Mikoski is the Associate Professor of Christian Education. Mr. Ken Henke is the Curator of Special Collections and our Seminary's Archivist, and Reverend Kermit Moss, the Interim Director of the Center for Black Church Studies, who will also moderate this panel discussion. You should each have a note card on your chair. If you have a question for the panel, please write it on the card. We'll be collecting those cards for the panel to respond to so that we can get in as many questions as possible. And now, as we begin, I'd like to turn to the daily lectionary reading today from Psalm 15. Oh Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell in your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right. Those who speak the truth from their heart, who do not slander with their tongue and do no evil to their friends, nor take up reproach against their neighbors. The Word of the Lord. - [Crowd] Thanks be to God. - Let us pray. Holy God, in Jesus Christ, you have revealed the way, the truth, and the life. In today's presentations and discussions, may we find more of Jesus Christ along the way, and in the pursuit of confessing the truth and in our hopes for a more just way of life. We ask this in the name of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen. - [Crowd] Amen. - Dr. Moorhead. - Thank you Craig. As I looked out here, I was reflecting on the fact that the last time I spoke in here, was probably in the late 1980s. Stuart Hall was in renovation at the time and at eight o'clock I had this placed pack to the gills with a survey course. It was not good to be in a windowless room at that hour. I was certainly not at my best and I noticed after a few lectures that the students were starting to plug coffee urns in the back there. So, I'm hoping the coffee urns won't be necessary today. Let me say just a couple of words about context before I talk about Princeton Seminary directly. When the Seminary was founded in 1812, slavery still existed, not just in the South, but in the state of New Jersey. The legislature in 1804 had passed a manumission or freedom bill saying that any child born after the fourth of July 1804 would be free. However, they had to work for 21 and 25 years, respectively, depending on gender to in effect reimburse their owners for their freedom. And, anyone who was a slave at the time of that act was still a slave for the rest of his or her life. What that meant is that there were slaves in this state in dwindling numbers right down to the Civil War. So, slavery was a fact of life here. They've discovered at the University that the first presidents of the college were all implicated in slave holding. Now, let me begin with a comparable thing. We didn't have a president until the early 1900's, but significant parts of the founding generation here were involved in slavery. Ashbel Green, who was the first president of the Seminary's Board of Directors, and also for a time, President of the College, had slaves several times during his life. The most notable of whom was Betsy Stockton whom he freed and she became a notable missionary to then the Sandwich, now the Hawaiian islands, and she also came back and had a significant career in education here in Princeton. The first professor here, Archibald Alexander, was a native of Virginia and he had served a church in his early days as pastor in the state of Virginia which derived some of its revenue from slavery. Before his time, the church had created a campaign to raise funds to purchase slaves, three male, three female with the understanding the slaves and their descendants would be the property of the church, hired out in order to raise money. They were in effect the endowment of that church. And, this continued, according to one recent scholar, until at least through the first third of the 19th century. So, presumably Archibald Alexander was a beneficiary of that as a pastor getting his salary in that fashion. He also acquired, Alexander, a slave through his wife who went with them when he moved to a pastorate in Philadelphia and then she was subsequently returned to a family in Virginia. To the best of our knowledge he did not own or use slave labor while he was here as a professor. Samuel Miller, the second professor, also used slave labor while he was here. One, at least, apparently being a person who was a slave for life. Charles Hodge, likewise, in the 1830s used at least two African servants. In 1828, he had purchased a slave woman, Henrietta and a few years acquired another. These appeared to have been used primarily for domestic service. Now, we have the first three professors then that are personally implicated in slavery. I want to add, and I think this is an important part of the story that my colleague will pick up on later. They all said, that they considered slavery a social evil that eventually would be overcome and looked for that day. And, how they thought they could contribute to that, Professor Mikoski will talk about. Now, I want to say a bit about slavery and Princeton Seminary as institution. Did the seminary as an institution have ties to human bondage? A few answers. To date, research suggests that slave labor was not involved in construction or in the maintenance of the school's buildings. The workers involved were paid laborers for whom there are records of wages dispersed. The institution's financial ties to slavery represented a more complicated issue. In answering this question, I think we need to, or analyzing this question, the financial connections, I think it's important to note that in some ways virtually the entire American economy was implicated in slavery. Not just those places where slave labor was used directly. Now, with that in mind, bear the following in mind, that the Seminary's donor base reflected the geographic diversity of a denomination that was national. So, a significant number of revenues clearly came from southern sources. We can also identify specific individuals, who benefited, fairly wealthy individuals who benefited from slavery, who gave gifts to the Seminary. Beginning with Richard Stockton, who had owned slaves, that was part of the way he made his fortune. He gave the original land on which we built. Now, donor connections to slavery were not limited to people who from what we think of as the South. At least two major Seminary patrons from the Mid-Atlantic derived through their families a significant capital that had been raised in significant ways by slavery. So, they are benefiting from it and then they are able to pass that along. This would be true of James Lenox for whom the old Lenox Library of the seminary was named. It would also be true of the Brown family. Isabella McClanahan Brown donated funds for the Seminary's Brown Hall. She was doing this in honor of her husband who at the age of 15 had joined his father's investment banking firm, Alex Brown and Sons. The company became part of an international trading powerhouse that derived a significant part of its monies from slave produced products. Now later, they invest by the time they give the money, she gives money to the Seminary, they have invested their money in railroading. So, it's not directly tied to slavery anymore, but that's where originally a significant part of it came from. And, I learned in doing this, just a little side note, that the Alex Brown and Sons Company, through various acquisitions and mergers, got acquired for a time by the Duetsche Bank, which has come up in more recent conversations about money laundering from Russia. Well, there's much more I could say, I think I'm at about my eight minutes now. Let me again close with the fact, the observation I made earlier: Despite the fact that the Princeton leaders were engaged clearly in profiting to some degree from slavery, they also said that slavery was ultimately an evil institution which should pass away and they did not see themselves as wanting it to continue indefinitely. In fact, I found an article by Charles Hodge in which he said it would be sinful to try to keep slavery as a perpetual institution. Well, how they dealt with that complication, I turn to my colleague. (crowd laughter) - So, Archibald Alexander was a prolific writer. The largest book he ever wrote was A History of Colonization on the Western Coast of Africa, and in that book six hundred plus pages, he wrote that the solution to America's race problems and slavery was colonization. That is, we should support, he's talking to white Presbyterians and other mainline Protestants, we should support this effort because, and I am paraphrasing, it would take a thousand years for white and black to live together in harmony in the United States. And even then, he says, probably either the whites would have to leave or the blacks would have to leave. So, he can't imagine that the United States could be a multi-racial egalitarian society. Hence, there should be support for sending freed slaves and eventually as many as possible, African Americans to Africa. Now, he was not alone in the colonization effort. Every member of the faculty before the war, and most, if not all, of the trustees and even after the Civil War, and after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment there was at least one practical theologian, the one practical theologian on the Seminary, Alexander Taggart McGill, who's got a big plaque down in the basement of Stuart Hall in 1877 was still raising money for the colonization effort. And so, that's all to say that the faculty at Princeton Seminary and the trustees were deeply committed to the American colonization effort. So, what was that? Despite what Archibald Alexander says in the book, that idea did not originate in Princeton. That's what he says, but actually there were others in New England and even Thomas Jefferson and some others had floated the idea of taking slaves and sending them back to Africa as a way to solve the slavery problem and also the race problem in the United States. So, it didn't actually originate here even though Alexander thought that it did, but in a formal, more formal sense, it did have roots in Princeton. That is the Reverend Robert Finley who went to the College of New Jersey, there was no seminary yet, and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, he came up with the idea of colonization in West Africa and ran it by Alexander and Miller and others from the College of New Jersey. And, all the faculty thought this was a really good idea, and encouraged him. So, he went to Washington, D.C., and I believe it was his brother in law, and the two of them founded, in 1816, the American Colonization Society which continued to exist, if you can believe it, until 1964. So, it had a very long life. From 1816 until about 1830, a lot of white Protestant Americans signed onto this effort and thought that this is a good idea. This will solve slavery eventually. It will help bring slavery to an end because freed slaves will pay for their passage to Africa and they will be out of the United States. And, eventually we'll just keep that going and that'll take care of it. Even Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, a number of prominent people in public politics signed onto the colonization effort, but by about 1830, people began to do the math and realized that this was not going to work just as a pragmatic issue. Because, before the Civil War, a total of about 20,000 African Americans were sent to West Africa through the American colonization effort. Out of a total population of two million and people realized this was not going to work financially. But also, William Lloyd Garrison wrote a key book where he quoted, as most of the book, he quoted from the minutes and proceedings of the American Colonization Society, and showed how utterly and deeply racist the whole thing was because it assumed that white and black people could not live together as equals in this country. The American colonization effort could not imagine that. However, they could imagine that when freed slaves were sent to what's now Liberia in the west coast of Africa, they would be Christian and they would be democratically oriented so that they would colonize or Christianize the whole continent of Africa and set up a model democratic society on the pattern of the United States. So, there's a breakdown of theological imagination, and many people began to realize that this was a kind of failed effort, but not at Princeton Seminary. Our people soldiered on through the Civil War and beyond, and there never seems to have been any wavering on the part of the faculty or, I'm not sure about the trustees, but at least the faculty. Not so with all the students though. There was a percentage of students and we'll hear about that in a few minutes, maybe 10, 15%, I'm not sure what the numbers are, but not a majority who were abolitionists and who left Princeton and were involved in a very different enterprise than what they were hearing from Archibald Alexander and Sammy Miller and Charles Hodge in the lectures that they got as seminary students. Those lectures said slavery's not good, but we won't condemn it because it's in the Bible. Paul, Ephesians and Colossians and so on, and the way to resolve this is gradualism and through colonialism. The faculty hated the abolitionists because they thought they were undermining the authority of scripture and I'm not sure they were really Christian anyway, and they thought, the faculty here thought that the abolitionists would destroy the church, rip it in half, and rip the country in half. And about that, they were not wrong. The faculty was exactly correct, that did happen. The church divided, the country divided, and it was apocalyptic. But, that raises a question, that we'll come back to at the end. I have a couple more minutes. So, the idea behind it was not that black and white were inherently inferior, or that blacks were inherently inferior to whites. Because of Genesis 1:26, they believed everybody was created equal. There's also a passage, I think, in Acts 17 that says as much, but the social circumstances are such that black people are never going to get out of that hole. So, what we have to do is separate black Americans until they can be civilized enough to relate to white people, on, quote, our level. That's the same logic that was used to support Indian removal to reservations. Actually, Bind Us Apart is a key book recently written that describes how liberal, Protestant, theological leaders invented segregation in this same period and that our people were part of that. The idea was to raise money and to encourage people to go, freed slaves. Southerners signed onto this for a while because they didn't want free slaves hanging around because that would cause potential insurrection like had happened in Haiti. And, white people in America, including in Princeton, were scared to death that there would be a black uprising, rebellion, and that white people would be slaughtered. So, that was a great motivation to raise money for the project in West Africa. Some black people signed onto this voluntarily and said, yes, we would like to do that. Partly because I think some of them realized that it wasn't going to get better here, and better to be there, even though that was a foreign country to them. Others were given their freedom if they would agree to leave the country. Some Southern slaveholders supported colonization saying we will set you free if you take the first boat out of here and don't come back. Mostly, African Americans did not support colonization, and mostly the Princeton seminary faculty supporting this did not ask them what they wanted or needed. They told them what they needed. So, that raised a whole other set of questions about what does help look like and you know, what does Christian benevolence look like? Just to kind of end this, as I said only about 20,000 people ended up in Liberia, but it's a mixed legacy because on the one hand there is Liberia and with a proud heritage and we have students and graduates from Liberia and we have, you know, a reason to celebrate that. Even though the original establishment of that country was at the point of a gun by the Stockton family, remember who was part of the Navy and it's got some very mixed aspects to it, but we have to think about what does it all mean for today. So, two questions that the colonization effort raises, one is why did they have here at Princeton Seminary such a weak theological imagination about what God would do in our context, but they had a robust imagination about what God would do over there with those people? They could imagine the whole continent of Africa being changed for the Gospel and the Reign of God, but they couldn't imagine it happening here, that God would change that. So, that raises a question. It also, there's a question about, these folks were not crazy, I don't think. They were trying to find a gradualist, rational, balanced approach to a very bad problem, slavery and racism underneath it. And the question that it raises is when is gradualism and a moderate strategy, the wrong strategy? I think this would be the case, at least the poster child, for this is the wrong strategy. But, as you'll hear, not everybody at Princeton Seminary signed onto the colonization effort. Many of the students had other ideas. (applause) - So, I've been asked to share some about the alumni and the quite different approaches which many alumni take. It's a fascinating thing to work in the archives because we have so many wonderful stories about various alumni and what they've done with their life and their ministry. Perhaps the best known alumni of the Princeton Seminary, who spoke out on the slavery issue were the abolitionists, Theodore Sedgwick Wright, class of 1828 and Elijah Parish Lovejoy, class of 1834. Theodore Wright was recommended to the Seminary by the Presbytery of Albany as a fine young man of color. Other educational institutions to which he had applied had turned him down, but the board of the Seminary, after considering the matter, resolved that his color should be no obstacle in the way of his reception. To the best of our knowledge, Theodore Wright is among the very first African Americans to receive any kind of higher education in North America. He went on to a very successful pastorate at the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City where he and his congregation were active in the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves up the Hudson River to freedom in Canada. They organized educational and vocational training programs for African Americans in New York City and Wright also traveled and lectured with such other well known African American abolitionists as Frederick Douglass. He wrote articles for the Antislavery Press and at his death in 1847, an estimated six thousand people joined in his funeral procession. Elijah Parish Lovejoy, originally from Maine, had immigrated to St. Louis where he started a newspaper and a school. Feeling a call to the ministry, he came East to prepare for that vocation at Princeton Seminary. Following his studies, he returned to St. Louis, resumed his newspaper work along with is work as a pastor. Becoming more and more concerned about the slavery issue, and the mistreatment of African Americans, he began writing columns on these topics in his paper. This stirred resentment. His newspaper office was ransacked, his family was threatened. He eventually decided to move across the river to Alton, Illinois, supposed to be a free state. But, in fact, a place of illegally held slaves and strong anti-abolitionist sentiment. His press was again destroyed. A new press was ordered and arrived at a warehouse along the river. He and some friends went down to the warehouse to protect it, but on the night of November 7, 1837, a mob gathered and threatened to burn down the warehouse. When Elijah Lovejoy stepped forward to defend his press, he was shot five times and killed, becoming one of the very first martyrs, white martyrs, in the abolitionist cause. The killing stirred a national conscience and memorial services were held across the country, including at the church of Theodore Wright in New York City. His two brothers wrote a memoir of his life and his beliefs, including some letters that he wrote to his family when he was a student here at Princeton, some of his newspaper columns, and account of his murder. Our copy of that, which we have in the archives, was actually presented to us by the American Antislavery Society of which Theodore Wright had been one of the founders. There were other abolitionist alumni, but as you heard that was not the standard opinion here. More common was the belief that slavery was an evil that should eventually go away, but that the best path was a gradual emancipation. Meanwhile, one needed to work to ameliorate the mistreatment of slaves and provide for the education and religious instruction of African Americans, both slave and free. On page 86 of the report, you'll see the names of some of the PTS alumni who took this task seriously enough to make it a full-time ministry, at least for a part of their career. Among those not listed is James Miller Dickey, class of 1827, who spent time after graduation as a missionary to slaves in Georgia and in Florida. Later, as a Pennsylvania pastor, he would sometimes go South to testify in the courts when a free African American he had known had been illegally kidnapped by unscrupulous slave hunters and brought South to sell as a supposed runaway that they had recaptured. Dickey became concerned about the lack of educational opportunity for African Americans and enlisted the help of his fellow PTS alumnus Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, class of 1833, to found what became Lincoln University, the first historically black degree-granting institute for higher education in North America. It opened its doors in 1856 and over the next decades, a steady stream of PTS alumni went there to teach. Many other alumni helped to set up and run local Sabbath schools, educational and training programs for African Americans in the areas in which they served. And, after the Civil War, volunteered to work in educational programs for freedman, as the former slaves were called. Among the latter were some of our ablest African American graduates, such as Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, class of 1856, who eventually became Secretary of State and then Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Florida, where he significantly improved the standards of public education and worked hard to promote racial integration in the public schools. Another of our alumni very committed to this kind of work was someone named Charles Colcock Jones, class of 1830. He had been born into a slave-holding plantation family in Georgia. He came north for seminary studies at Andover and at Princeton and began to be concerned about the morality of slave holding. Following graduation, he returned to Savannah where he organized an association for religious instruction of negroes as one of his major activities. Visiting slaves on the plantations and setting up meetings for worship and instruction. He didn't always find this task very easy because his position as both the slaveholder and one who wanted to share the gospel with the slaves. It caused him to do a lot of reflection on this kind of work. He reports that one day he was preaching to the slaves from the Epistle of Philemon on the duty of obedience, and condemning the practice of running away. He says he lost his audience that day. Half of them simply walking away while the others murmured hey didn't believe there was any such epistle in the Bible or simply declaring it wasn't the gospel. If a few of our alumni espoused the abolitionist cause, and if most believed in gradual emancipation and urging better treatment for slaves in the meantime, including education and religious instruction and supporting schemes for colonizing Liberia, still others were content to argue that slavery was biblical, had always existed, at least since the fall, and would always continue to exist. Like the existence of God it is taken for granted from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Slavery in some form or other does exist, will exist, and must exist in the present condition of humanity wrote one PTS apologist. Henry Jackson van Dyke, class of 1846, pastor of the prestigious First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn published a pamphlet on the very eve of the Civil War following the election of Lincoln, urging his readers not to listen to abolitionist accounts of the atrocities of slavery, telling his readers that the slaves of Christian families in the south are far better fed and clothed and instructed and have better opportunity for salvation than the majority of the working class in New York City. James Lyon Adair, class of 1830, Mississippi pastor and recognized leader of the Southern Presbyterian Church, acknowledged that the slave trade had indeed been immoral, filled with avarice, cruelty, and greed. Yet, he saw behind it, God's great design. Just had Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt, so good could come from evil and the African slave trade could be seen as part of God's providential design, transplanting these Africans from their own land of darkness and degradation to this favored land of promise, this home of light and liberty and pure Christianity. The most favorable condition of the Black man, he wrote, on this continent is that of servitude. For this state, he is imminently qualified by nature. So, you see, these are just a few of the opinions, the stories that we find in the archives. People wrestled with a very, very important issue and they came to different conclusions. You also have to realize that they didn't always hold the same position over a lifetime. I was looking last night at the files, a fellow named Lewis Gunn. I found this letter, he was a classmate of Lovejoy and the killing of Lovejoy moved him greatly. But, at the time, when he first came to the Seminary, he was a person who believed, well, the Bible does say that slavery is not sinful, we may abuse the thing, but the actual practice of slavery isn't sinful. But, his roommate, his roommate, a fellow named Prime, Samuel Prime had the opinion, well, I think these abolitionists are right. We ought to be on the abolitionist cause. So, it was one of the few records we have of students debating this issue here at the Seminary. So the students said, well good, each of you have arguments, let's have a public debate. Let's each of you present your best arguments to each other and we'll listen to this debate. And, they turned out, they were both very successful. Our first fellow, Lewis Gunn, who was arguing for the fact that the Bible accepts slavery, it's fine, actually convinced his roommate in the course of the debate, yes I guess that's true, the Bible does say that slavery's okay. We just have to work on the abuses, and Prime went on for the rest of his life believing that. But, on the other hand, Prime's argument was also very successful and he convinced his roommate to be an abolitionist. (laughs) And so, he started organizing abolitionist meetings here in Princeton. He became very sick with pneumonia, but as soon as he recovered, he went to Philadelphia, joined the abolitionist movement full time, tried to get people to boycott slave goods, started a press in which he was publishing abolitionist materials, and went on to become, he made a visit to Haiti at one point because he wanted to see what was happening there, and went onto actually reverse his opinion entirely from the one he had come to in seminary and become a leading spokesman for abolitionism. So, people did change their minds over time and following these stories and seeing what can happen, I think gives us hope as well. Thank you. (applause) - Good afternoon. So, I was tasked with thinking about and writing about the theological reflections section of the report. And, what I want to do in my brief time is emphasize two points related to the theological reflections piece that hopefully we can talk more about in the other activities that we will have throughout the year related to the report. The first point of emphasis in the theological reflections section is communicating that Princeton Seminary as an institution must struggle with the problem of whiteness as a theological problem. And as a way of talking about this, I want to, I think that Charles Long is a great way to enter, what I what we mean by this. Charles Long in his book, black religious scholar, that is Charles Long in his book, Significations, makes a statement about America and the problem of race. And, I think that this can be extended to the problem of white Christian identity. Charles Long says that America does not possess a hermeneutical dilemma. America is a hermeneutical dilemma. And, part of how I understand Charles Long, what he's saying is that America interprets itself wrongly. Right, that it imagines itself to be a land of liberty and opportunity and freedom, but stitched into the very DNA of the American project is the project of colonialism, is the colonial project. And so then when you think and you extend that to Christian theology as understood at that time within the United States, that Christian, white Christian identity, is a hermeneutical dilemma because it ideally imagined itself as enacting the gospel, but part of the problem is that it is sort of encased, and this is really to use my colleague Willie Jennings' language, that we'll hear later, it is encased in the intimacy of white existence. Right, that in other words, this goes to the point, Gordon, that you were raising about how could it be that the imagination that they're wanting to exercise over in Liberia, saying that all of this can happen, but it can't be done here is precisely because it is encased in a colonial project. Right, that part of, at the heart of missiology and missions is Christianizing heathen nations where, that presupposes that all of these other peoples and cultures are being theologically thought from within patterns of white identity belonging and desire. So, I think this is like a really important point in talking about theological reflections because I can say, I know that for this report, we're naming it as sin and I think that's a very important thing. I think there's some churches within the context of the United States that have done that as well. I think it's a much more difficult task to chart out under what conditions did this become possible? Right, so it is the case that we're naming it a sin, but it's also the case in saying that it's sin because white Christian identity has so tethered and married itself to a colonial project and because of that then it becomes very difficult right, to think other peoples, in this case, to think enslaved Africans outside of that colonial imaginary because it is precisely that colonial imaginary that becomes the Christian imaginary that we have, right. This imaginary is deeply grounded in racial hierarchy. I think that, that matters then, extending it to our current discussions, one of the things that I think the report does well, and the theological reflections piece hopefully does well, in is saying then that this historical legacy, this imaginary persists, right, and so how do we continue to be vigilant and how do we, what are the ways in which we are open to certain kinds of internal critiques of this kind of colonial imaginary that, you know, students coming in and studying and going out into parishes, they may not even realize, it's operating, right, inside of Christian practice itself. So, this is the first point that I wanted to emphasize is wrestling with the structural racism, what has transpired at Princeton Seminary, with Princeton Seminary mirroring a broader American problem that this is fundamentally a theological problem. Something is broken within our theological imaginaries about God and the world around us. And then, the second one, second point of emphasis, in reading this report, we don't want to make the fatal flaw of saying that was them, then. I just can't imagine, I just can't get over what they did and how could they do that? I think that's a very sort of easy ethical position to take. Right? That we don't sit outside of this history, but we sit within this history, right? We sit within this history. We are this history and that's why, in part, we're gathered. That the historical legacy lingers and it still affects our institutional life, that's partly what President Barnes said when he first opened up this plenary. So, it seems to me that in light of that, that this historical legacy is still alive. It still moves and breathes and it has its being today in our various institutions and practices. What do we do, how do we think about the present and the future of Christian practice in light of that? How do we think about repentance, since you know in part, this is what we're naming in the theological reflections piece, repentance. And, I'm really struck by Theodore Wright, and this is actually in a conversation I was having with Gordon, so really part of this is sort of collective thoughts that we were having as we were talking. Theodore Wright is an abolitionist who keeps in contact with his professors. The question is what, how might Princeton Seminary have been different had the Theodore Wrights been listened to? What might have been different if the kind of theological world view, the kind of imaginary that Theodore Wright was sort of lodged within, right, would have been, would have been given a voice? And even thinking of William Lloyd Garrison because he was brought up, right, and I remember Gordon asked, as we were talking, asked the question there were white voices at that time that got it right, that understood what was at stake, and the question is what was it about them, right, that allowed them to get it that others didn't get? This is a common call that a number of postcolonial and liberationists and African American, Latino, Latina, and other kinds of theologies have been doing for decades, but that is listening to the fringes, to the marginalized of society. Having a kind of intellectual and spiritual humility about what we possibly are getting wrong. And what we're possibly getting wrong it's a profound humility. Right, and that's from the administration to the faculty, you know faculty are formed in a particular kind of way within the academy and that can be difficult at times. But, a kind of humility that says, maybe there's something that we have wrong and how do we turn to the edges, to use Yvette Flinder's language, the edges of society, and have kind of an edge theology to hear what we're missing or what we're getting wrong. I think that that's a really important spiritual posture. Right? It is about information, but to me it's fundamentally part of what the gospel is truly about, is about a certain kind of disposition. It's about the implication of particular kinds of virtues that allow for that radical kind of openness towards love and inclusion and justice. So, out of all that was discussed in the theological reflections piece, I think that these two things, the problem of structural racism in this country and Princeton's participation in it as a theological problem, but then also how do we wrestle and deal with our continued complicity and how do we attune our ears to what others are saying today within the institution, even from without that can help us turn the kind of, turn the corner in the way that we need to. Thank you. (applause) - I approach this with trepidation, my spouse and I were having a conversation and she talked about the weightedness of the report. The report does have a weightedness and I can imagine here today there's a series of emotions and feelings. I'm doing a pastoral reflection, one of my many jobs, right. Feelings of anger and angst, feelings of shame and guilt, feelings of discomfort, these feelings that are temporary right now, but for some of us these feelings will go away when we walk out of the room. Slavery report can easily in this work that we're doing and have been doing can easily be dismissed by some of us based on historical distance. Hence, there is an unspoken perception that the report is an institutional artifact that chronicles the past cultural norms, contextual realities, and atrocities of a past era just to be tucked away into the library and forgotten. The danger of today is the intellectualizing of racial problems. The danger of today is banter and discourse without tangible efforts to deal with the power dynamics and the habits and perspectives and attitudes and behavior that got us all into the room. The danger today is to gaze on human suffering from the position of privilege and historical distance. I call it kind of an inverted voyeurism, right? Voyeurism on suffering. The danger today is to do a theological tango that dances around the issues of white normativity and structural racism because we recognize that the dance will end when the events end. But yet, these implications of slavery and racism live in our presence. The yeast of hatred continues to rise and there is a daily bread at the table of white supremacy. But yet, the cross and the tomb sits behind in the distance. But, these implications, they affect us here at Princeton Seminary. We've been talking kind of domestically, nationally, but they do affect us here on this campus. These implications showed up this racialized past about 3.5 miles away, that's distance, at CRW this past summer in the form of a racial slur directed at an African American student. These implications affect us. These implications show up in tensive precepts every time James Cone is assigned. These tensions show up when faculty refuse to talk to students regarding a grade. Oh, it's really quiet. These tensions, based on our past, show up every time that students refuse to look at each other in the eye and gaze at the ground because we don't want to acknowledge each other's being. These implications have even arisen with me on a basketball court at the Seminary gym when a student from Texas called me a boy. And it was not restraint, and it was not the fruit of the Spirit, or self control, it was students holding me back from laying hands on him. These implications, they haunt us like Charles Taylors, they haunt us. These hauntings, these visitations from the specter of antiblackness, the ghosts of Jim Crow in new forms, and the presence of white power in political discourse. How should we respond? Because we've heard the information, the theological, we know the history, but how should we respond as a community? Not other seminaries, not Princeton University, not Harvard, not Brown, but how should we respond? The first thing we should do is we should resist the historical pattern of gradualism as a reasonable response to racism. Gradualism is not just theoretical, it's a policy. Gradualism as Dr. Bunch would note in another class, I'm using this particular phrase, does not reach the higher goals and virtues. Gradualism values the comfort of those in power over the plight of those enduring the implications of racism. Gradualism, I believe, evinces a lack of moral courage and it is devoid of love. It is pragmatism without love and the absence of goodness. I would argue that gradualism is a form of social Darwinism. Let that sit in for a second. New York Times has this wonderful article that talked of the fraught racial history of Princeton, right? We're talking about gradualism. It says this, Princeton has a reputation of being a moderate place where northerners and southerners just get along. PTS is a middle ground. The middle ground can be good and it can be a wonderful place to learn because of the freedom of diversity and perspectives and ideas are able to augment and ferment here, therefore, we can have rich, robust conversations. But, in addition, being a middle ground is a dangerous place because it's a place where students who have hubris and hatred in their hearts can hide in a safe haven in this place and it never comes out. The middle ground in some measure is connected to Princeton's institutional identity. I remember when I was looking and exploring theological work and Princeton was one of the choices, a former president from years and years ago, he really used it as a recruiting tool, that Princeton is the middle ground. It was an identifying marker, an institutional marker of its identity, but in some measure, that middle ground can be a dangerous place because it's the place that we go nowhere. And my feel, pastorally, is this, that our conversation goes nowhere. That we just talk and talk and talk for a peace, but it's a fake peace, it's a pseudo-peace. It's what Dr. Martin Luther King referred to as a negative peace with the absence of tension. But, we need a positive peace with the presence of justice. We have to resist merely listening to the report and hearing it. Because hearing implies that we've not only gained information, but there is something that in us that motivates us to do something differently, that we have radical change here on this campus. You can't talk about a campus you don't love. This is home for me with all its ugly and all its good, and all its bad, God sent me here and it's home, just like it's home for you. And, you've got to love that which you love to want to see it be better and do what God would have it to become. We've got to confess and we've got to repent. This is a public ceremony, see Jesus is calling on the main line, tell him what you want. (audience laughs) I've got a couple of minutes, I'm flying. (laughs) You've got to repent. One writer said the church's integrity problem is the misconception that we can add Christ to our lives but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior. It is revival with reformation and without repentance. Repentance involves a turning to God, a new manner of thinking, renouncing old practices, turning from our idols, abandoning our tainted motivations and deeds, and being radically changed. The question today is this, do we want radical change or do we want to be gradual? The report is a confessional document, where we confess our sins to God and to neighbor for those who we have wronged. The danger today is this, that we'll leave here and we'll want cheap reconciliation. We've got to resist it. Cheap reconciliation is comfort, wanting the conversation to end, want it to get over, and moving on with our life. But pain can't be gotten past so easy for those who it's been inflicted on. We cannot move past cheap benevolence where I'm just helping you. God helps us. We are in solidarity together and we need this place to be a place where love and truth-telling and the unmasking and the dismantling of justifying narratives and that God hammers the altars of our idols that we worship. We've got to look at theological language. Dr. Yolanda Pierce said that theological language continues to follow the assumptions of racial assumptions from an earlier age. Interestingly, she said that in the Kuyper Conference. That's a whole other story. (audience laughs) So now, where do we land the plane? King had a dream, but I want us to use our imagination. Let's imagine an ethos at Princeton that's different from the past. An ethos that means that our symbols and our language and our beliefs and attitudes, our racial identifying markers are different from our past. I've got a dream that our education does not form and reinforce racism and white supremacy and white normativity in us anymore. But that we look at our curriculum and look at our pedagogy and begin a new type of formation that forms us in ways that's so different that the world marvels about Princeton's seminary. I hope that we can put some restorative practices in place and get to the bottom of things and make some things right. Because restorative practice, they hit your pocket, they hurt, a quiet sacrifice. And let's not be like a rubber band. You know what a rubber band is? I see this all the time in class, I've been here too long. We talk, talk, talk, talk, talk and our rubber bands stretch and then we begin to make these justifying narratives of, well I won't be in those places when I serve. And when we get back to our congregations after we get this wonderful Princeton education, all we do is morph back into the ethos of that church and our old self. And the challenge is to repent, all of us. Repent of our bitterness, repent of our practice, and institutionally repent, and we've got to get it right or we won't make it. I'm done. (applause)

See also


  1. ^ a b "National Faith-Related Accrediting Organizations 2010-2011". Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Archived from the original on 2012-04-06. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
  2. ^ a b "Accrediting Agencies and Associations Recognized by the Secretary" (PDF). US Department of Education. p. 329. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
  3. ^ a b "Overview". Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Archived from the original on 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  4. ^ "The Association at a Glance". Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Archived from the original on 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  5. ^ Miller, Glenn T. "A Community of Conversation: A Retrospective of The Association of Theological Schools and Ninety Years of North American Theological Education" (PDF). ATS. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Commission on Accrediting". Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Archived from the original on 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2009-08-21.

External links

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