During the last week of classes of the 2020-2021 academic year, Bethany Seminary students had the opportunity to attend a multi-seminary conversation entitled “Igniting Antiracist Activism,” featuring Dr. Drew G.I. Hart. Bethany students joined peers from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey.
Dr. Hart is an assistant professor of theology at Messiah University and author of Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (Herald Press, 2016) and Who Will Be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance (Herald Press, 2020). He served as a pastor for ten years, and is active as a blogger and podcast host. Dr. Hart’s presentation explored the role of white supremacy, colonialism, and patriarchy in the Christian church, and offered suggestions for how congregations can become antiracist.
Bethany President Jeff Carter says that this session is one response to a call from students for a more diverse learning environment that includes the voices of Black scholars.
“All of us were grateful for Dr. Hart’s insights on antiracist activism. We were delighted to partner with our colleagues and peers at McCormick and New Brunswick for a great conversation. It is important for us to consider what actions we can take to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive seminary, and how we can make a positive difference in the future of the Church. This event was a step in the right direction.”
Students appreciated the opportunity to learn from Hart.
“It is always a pleasure to hear Drew Hart offer his prophetic voice about how we can be followers of Jesus in the world today,” notes Jason Haldeman, a master of divinity student who serves Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren as minister of faith formation. “He reminds us that Western Christianity has played a role in spreading white supremacy and colonization, as such, the church of today needs to be active and deliberate in doing work that is anti-racist and decolonization.”
“Sessions with Dr. Hart always seem to be provocative as he wrestles with the biblical narrative in an innovative way. New light breaks forth from scripture in the way Dr. Hart examines the Barabbas character beside Jesus on the cross,” says Richard Wehrle, a master of divinity student who serves Midland (Va.) Church of the Brethren. “The one thing that stood out the most was the statistic that Dr. Hart pointed to, that it takes only 3.5 percent of the population to create change in a society if it is sustained, creative, strategic and active in nonviolent ways.”
The webinar with Dr. Hart is part of a larger effort on behalf of the Seminary to become an antiracist institution. In recent months, employees participated in anti-bias training led by Dr. Menje Parker of Indiana University East. The Board of Trustees also attended a special session with Dr. Hart, and they created a new committee focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.
You can view the session here.