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The 2014 Black Theology and Leadership Institute

 

Highlights from Black Theology and Leadership Institute 2014

Yolanda Pierce

This summer, I was selected to attend the annual Black Theology and Leadership Institute (BTLI) at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Yolanda Pierce – the Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Studies and Literature and Liaison with the Princeton University Center for African American Studies – has managed to create a think-tank of fellow leaders and theologians within the black church. The week-long event consisted of lectures, nightly chapel services fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, cohort sessions with theologians-in-residence, and more.

GregEllison

Gregory Ellison

“If we want people to receive water from our overflowing fountain of knowledge and ideas, then we have to bring it in a cup they recognize.”
—John W. Kinney

Dr. Pierce began the session with her lecture entitled, “The Occasion: ‘Telling the Truth and Shaming the Devil’”. She confronted the expectation that a prophet does not and should not face persecution. Of course, we are familiar with the Scriptural adage that ‘we are not to touch God’s anointed’ (Psalm 105:15 and 1 Chronicles 16:22). However, there are times the prophet experiences the persecution within him/herself. The battle is accepting the fact that God is the God of the oppressed, as well as the oppressor. How do we preach this tension? Well, this tension is where God resides. In the end, the entire world is suffering because the prophets will not get in their place and call forth liberating theologies instead of the stain-glassed doctrine and steepled theology that relies on the hopelessness of the people that enter the door.

JonathanWalton2014

Jonathan Walton

Bishop Yvette Flunder’s lecture on sexual justice involved challenging leaders to rethink the praxis that limits who can sit at the table theologically. What I enjoy most about BTLI is that there were varying positions on major issues but we all had respect for one another’s evolving theology. The following day, Prof. Dr. John W. Kinney confronted the agendas of black theologians and preachers who are completely out of touch. He admonished preachers who ignored the advancement of the people within the pews. He then went on to suggest that “If we want people to receive water from our overflowing fountain of knowledge and ideas, then we have to bring it in a cup they recognize.” If black leaders and theologians are going to solve the issues of racial injustice in society, then we must restructure our presentation and attitude towards the congregation. How can this occur when we get mad at the congregation for not receiving the sermon, instead of questioning our own delivery? Prof. Dr. Gregory Ellison decided to shake things up. We participated in what he calls “Fearless Dialogues” (www.fearlessdialogues.com). This involved the entire group engaging in a role-play experience that created space for hard conversations concerning varying situations that effect everyone. The goal was to help us see the gifts in others, hear values in stores and work toward transformation and change in self and others. Prof. Dr. Jonathan Walton challenged our hermeneutical lens and dared us to construct a genuine approach to reading and preaching the biblical text. Prof. Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas lectured on the problems of Social and Gender Justice in the black church. While teaching young girls to remain abstinent and being lax on the same issues for young boys, we are indeed perpetuating a rape culture within the pews. She maintains that “Our clarifying task as leaders is: will you be on the side of right or popular? Make up your mind.” We ended the week with Dr. Walter Fluker’s lecture on the beloved community and our responsibility as leaders to navigate the traffic at the intersection that requires a skill set that leaders must learn – “we must look, listen and learn.”

BLTI14 was a huge success. The conversations continued into the late hours and most of us remain in conversation daily via social media. I highly recommend fellow Pentecostals to apply and glean from the knowledge, networking and resources available at BTLI – July 11-18, 2015. You will not be the same.

YvetteFlunder

Yvette Flunder

WalterEarlFluker

Walter Earl Fluker

StaceyFloyd-Thomas

Stacey Floyd-Thomas

 

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Category: Church History, Summer 2014

About the Author: Candace M. Laughinghouse, Th.M. (Duke Divinity School), M.Div. (Candler School of Theology), is a Ph.D. candidate at the Regent University School of Divinity.

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