Dean Leah Gunning Francis was recently interviewed about the importance of engaged teaching and scholarship by Dr. Nancy Lynne Westfield for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning’s podcast series, “Dialogue on Teaching.” The interview covered many of the complexities of our current moment, their relevance for teaching and learning in the classroom, and Gunning Francis’ own distinct approach to education. The interview provides fascinating insight into Gunning Francis, and it further reveals the commitment of the CTS faculty and administration to rigorous and relevant scholarship and leadership in the church and the community.
The interview was framed by a discussion of the multiple crises or “pandemics” we’re now facing—including both COVID-19 and the ongoing racial inequities in the United States—and broadened to consider role that context and contemporary events might play in the seminary classroom. Advocating for a profoundly engaged learning environment, Gunning Francis spoke about a calling “to lean all the way in” to what is happening in the world and ask, “How do we think about our roles as teachers, as scholars, as writers…in a holistic way?”
Connected scholarship and community engagement have long been a part of Gunning Francis’ vocation as a seminary professor and dean. In the interview, she discussed her book, Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community, which is an on-the-ground study of church and community leadership in the movement for racial justice that followed the 2014 killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, MO, police officer. Gunning Francis has been involved in numerous grassroots movements for social change, and she spoke in the interview about seeing herself as a “scholar-vist,” simultaneously engaged in the work of the academy and directly involved in the struggles for justice in the community.
In the podcast, Gunning Francis discussed her own pedagogical approach, which she referred to as a “liberative praxis of education.” She concluded by urging scholars and teachers to be present with and work alongside their respective communities, and that doing so is necessary for building “the Beloved Community…in the 21st century.” Listen to the full interview here.
Also included in the December 2020 Christian Theological Seminary Connection
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