The Power to Reshape Brokenness

By: Dori Baker
December 02, 2014

Once again, an FTE scholar has reminded me how very grateful I am to be a small part of the work of this organization.

I struggled to get out of bed today; jet lag, the onslaught of a common cold and deep grief about the injustices leading to Michael Brown’s death held me in a fog.

So I stayed in, made coffee, and read “Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance” by FTE Alumnus Reggie Williams.

It is a compelling book that gives an historical lens to understand how Christianity in America has come to be so divided along political, racial, and socio-economic lines. It also gives flesh to a lovely historical precedent for new ways of being, born when people step across would-be borders of race and culture through friendship. Bonhoeffer’s time in the U.S. was spent teaching Sunday School to young men in Harlem, leading a weekly women’s Bible study, and sharing meals in the homes of people who “put him in contact with the understanding of the sacred for a community of African Americans in a period of transition and crisis.” These relationships completely reshaped his thinking, leading to a theology of the Christ of suffering, rather than the Christ of glory.

Bonhoeffer’s time in Harlem gave him the life experience he needed to create a church movement that confronted Nazi Germany. While much of that story was already known, Dr. Williams’ book gives us a close-up look at the brief period of relationships and thought-migrations that made Bonhoeffer’s theological genius possible.

Once again, an FTE scholar has reminded me how very grateful I am to be a small part of the work of this organization.

Knowledge is constructed on a daily basis by those whose work we support. This is knowledge that would not exist otherwise, because structures of the academy work against its production. This is knowledge that has real power to shape the imaginations of the young preachers, teachers, activists and ministry innovators we meet through our work. And this is knowledge that has power to reshape the brokenness we see in the news — today’s news.

President Stephen Lewis said this during FTE’s Annual Alumni Reception, “All of you matter. Your work matters to communities like Ferguson across the country where structures exist that threaten human flourishing.”

I head into the beginning of Advent present to the pain of Ferguson, but also with a deep sense of gratitude for the past year of work that we have done together – for the past 60 years of work we have done together.

Tags: Inspired Leaders, Thinking Out Loud


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