Christian Theological Seminary joins our academic and church communities around the world in mourning the death of Rev. Dr. James Hal Cone. Known as the “father of black liberation theology,” he served most of his career as a distinguished professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York and was the author of a number of seminal texts introducing black liberation theology to the wider church and academy. Such titles as “Black Theology and Black Power,” “God of the Oppressed,” “The Spirituals and the Blues,” and “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” have been renowned in theological circles, with the last one having just won the prestigious 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, a joint award from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville. Earlier this month he was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honor earlier received by former President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and author and educator Ta-Nehisi Coates.
As a teacher, Cone mentored hundreds of graduate students, many of whom went on to foster powerful schools of liberatory theology of their own. Womanist theology, which theologizes from the intersectional vantage points of black theology and feminism, was largely founded by his doctoral students, and he counseled theologians in Latin American liberation, queer, disability, and minjung theologies as well. He argued consistently that theology finds its worth in its ability to speak a word of hope and prophetic resistance to evil on behalf of the marginalized in our world, since God is not impartial but rather an active source of life in the struggle for justice and wholeness.
Christian Theological Seminary proudly awarded Dr. Cone an honorary degree in 2009. We mourn the loss of his prophetic voice even as we rejoice in the ways in which his legacy will continue to inspire the prophets of the future. Rest in power, James H. Cone.
Please join us on Monday, May 7, 2018 in our cafe as we join to watch the livestream of Rev. Dr. Cone’s Memorial Service at Riverside Church in New York.