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Draw the Circle Wide
I was honored to be invited to be a panelist along with Drs. Stacey Floyd Thomas, Miguel De La Torre and Edwin David Aponte at Drew Theological Seminary. The panel “Draw the Circle Wide” covered racial justice within theological education and was part of Dean Aponte’s installation events. We have a lively discussion on whiteness, racism in the academy, White Jesus and White theology. The provocative discussion ended on hope and what hope is not.
The two day installation event was well attended by colleagues, friends, family and leaders from around the country. It was like a big reunion to celebrate a scholar, a professor, a colleague, a dean, and a friend. Dean Aponte has led a wonderful scholarly, administrative and church career and has been effectively able to connect the church and academy. It was a true joy to be part of his historic Installation Service and to witness him become the 14th Dean at Drew Theological School and their first Presbyterian Dean.
Below is an excerpt from the Panel from Drew Theological School’s Newsletter:
“I find myself in a tremendous struggle,” said De La Torre when asked what comes to mind when thinking about decentering Eurocentrism. “I wonder if Christianity itself is part of the problem. Christianity is so corrupted by the colonial process, can we really decenter Eurocentrism while holding onto Christianity?”
“Christianity is a problem because of the long history of whiteness,” said Kim. “Once we understand the spirit is present within us, then this lived theology where people have different religions syncretizing is not a problem.”
“I admire Drew because you are so diverse—putting anti-racism at the forefront,” continued Kim. “When you work in theology, everything is intersectional. Our work on all of this is our lived theology.”
“While some people might believe in the white Christ, it’s the Black Jesus I hold onto,” said Floyd-Thomas. “If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that work isn’t where you go, it’s what you do. To live is a sacrament, to live is to do divine work.”
“To know Edwin David Aponte is to know someone who is always drawing the circle wide,” she said. “We need the transformative justice that he has brought in the wide girth of his service and his ministry. We need to make sure that what we preach becomes policy and what we individually experience changes the structure of our communities.”
“In trying to decentralize Eurocentrism, the importance of paying attention to lived religion—what people actually do in their daily lives beyond what the official establishment has to say—is one place where we have the examples and inspirations of what can be done,” said Aponte.
“In decentralizing Eurocentrism, as we encounter more and more lived faith outside of Europe with communities that have already begun how to figure out how to decenter Eurocentrism—let’s ask and learn from them,” continued Aponte. “We fall into a trap when we think that we need to fix this on our own. We need to humble ourselves, let’s ask them.”
The conversation turned to hope, and what hope means to the panelists.
“I am deeply hopeless,” said De La Torre, referring to social injustices and the climate crisis. “I choose to believe in a God that may or may not exist. I fight for justice because it defines the faith I claim to have, but more importantly, it defines my very humanity. What matters is am I faithful to what I say I believe in. In the midst of the hopelessness, it has been tremendously liberating because I am no longer the savior trying to fix things.”
“I live with so much hope that I can try to change so much of the wrong in this society,” said Kim. “For me, hope is not this optimistic thinking, it is a push towards working for social justice.”
“Hope makes you push past the hurt,” said Floyd-Thomas.
I will be speaking at Asbury Theological Seminary, April 26th on my book, Invisible.
I am honored to be a keynote speaker at Princeton Theological Seminary’s “A Time to Heal”, May 2-4, 2023. Please join me there and register today.