School of Theology Course Asks:
An Anti-Racist Gospel?
The redesigned Master of Divinity degree program in CTS’ School of Theology prepares graduates for multiple kinds of ministry and community leadership. It trains leaders formed in faith who are prepared to address the educational, social, economic, and technological shifts in theology and the church. Courses cover diverse topics like trauma-informed leadership; gender, sexuality, and theology; teaching and learning in community; interfaith collaboration; global wisdoms; and theological social ethics. THEO B620: An Anti-Racist Gospel? is one such course that blends a strong theological foundation with relevant real-life application.
This interdisciplinary course explores a core question that informs the entire MDiv degree: how can we engage in theology and ministry in ways that combat White Supremacy? Biblical, theological, historical, and practical foundations are investigated throughout the course. Its objective is to familiarize students with problematic and corrective biblical, theological, and ethical hermeneutics and practices that encourage and sustain a commitment to anti-racism.
In Spring 2024, the course is co-taught by Rev. Dr. Amy Lindeman Allen (Indiana Christian Church Associate Professor of New Testament) and Rev. Dr. Nick Peterson (Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Worship). “While I have taught courses that explore the function of racialization in Christian thinking and practice, I have not taught a course that so readily engages the long arc of Christian thought and practice with racist and anti-racist ideologies. Additionally, courses dealing with themes germane to this class have been electives in other places I’ve taught. It says a lot that CTS has this kind of course as a requirement for anyone seeking a professional degree for ordained ministry,” says Peterson.
Dr. Allen adds, “I’m excited to work with Dr. Peterson and engage the multiple intersections between our respective work in bible, liturgy, and culture. Attending to these intersections at such a critical juncture, exposing and understanding the roots of racism in major threads of biblical interpretation both in the academy and the church, is timely and important work that is necessary for me as a White scholar who seeks to live my commitments to human dignity and justice to engage. Additionally, I’m hopeful for and energized by the challenges and possibilities of anti-racist work in biblical studies and the church as we re-vision these questions together with our students.”
The course exposes students to an impressive list of guest speakers throughout the semester, including Kerry Connelly, Josh Riddick, Dr. Caryn Tamber-Rosenau, Mother Ruby Sales, and Dr. Leah Gunning Francis. Each of these guests has been invited to help students envision different ways, in different contexts, to bridge the divide between theory and action when it comes to anti-racist ministry and scholarship.
When asked why this course is important for theology students, Allen shares, “In a statistical study conducted by Robert P. Jones and published in his book, White Too Long (2020), he names association with a Christian church as a positive predictor for racist actions and attitudes among White people. In other words, if you know nothing else about me other than that I am White, the fact that you learned I also attend a Christian church would, statistically, increase the likelihood of me embodying racist actions and attitudes. White theology students need to confront the reality that, intentions aside, racism is embedded in the Christian intellectual history of American society. As thought and ministry leaders, it is our job as Christian educators to equip them to recognize and work against these death dealing wrongs. At the same time, however, it is also important for theology students of all races to gain the language and background history to resist White supremacist authority.”
Dr. Peterson believes the course is timely, relevant, and necessary for contemporary theologians. He summarizes its import in his own words, saying, “Theology has done a lot of damage in our world. We must be honest and straightforward about how theology supports and produces injustice and degradation. While we cannot repair the damage done by centuries of bad theology and practice, we can work to embody theological orientations that do not perpetuate that harm. THEO B620: An Anti-Racist Gospel? is a step in that direction.”