You have been instrumental in helping to provide a deeply grounded theological education for our students in these perilous times. Your steadfast support makes all the difference. Can we count on you for an end-of-year gift to help our students thrive in their studies and ministries?

In 1623, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony declared that we should “render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings.” This coming week we will celebrate our 397th Thanksgiving Day since Governor Bradford’s declaration. The governor arbitrarily chose the fourth Thursday in November, an ordinary day, to remind us to say "thanks" on a daily basis for the bounties God has heaped upon our lives.

It has been a tumultuous year for everyone.  The global pandemic, our national elections, record hurricanes and fire, social protests, including the black lives matter movement, all revealed much about the soul of a nation. Basic vulnerabilities offset by remarkable resilience made the BST mission statement come alive in fresh new ways: BST is a laboratory for creating Christian communities of Christian hope, justice and reconciliation.

Responding to the Cry for Hope from Palestinian Christians, FOSNA is inviting Christian leaders across the U.S. to commit their congregations to "Preach Palestine" on November 29th by incorporating Palestine into their worship service. The goal is to encourage 100 churches to incorporate Palestine in their Advent worship service with the Keep Awake: A Call to Preach Palestine initiative! November 29th is the first Sunday in Advent, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The co-leader of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) Clergy and Seminary Action Council is Allison Tanner, a two-time graduate from Berkeley School of Theology with a MA (’98) and MDiv (’00).

The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) has released the most recent information (as of Nov. 6th) for member schools intent for Spring Classroom Plans.

INSTITUTION SPRING 2021 PLANS
BST Remote start, possible change if conditions warrant
CDSP Remote start, possible change if conditions warrant
DSPT Remote start, possible change if conditions warrant with option to remain remote if desired
GTU Remote instruction
JST-SCU Remote start, possible change if conditions warrant
PLTS-CLU Face to face when possible, if permitted
PSR Remote instruction
SFTS-Redlands Remote start, possible change if conditions warrant with option to remain remote if desired
SKSM Remote instruction

For more information please visit https://www.gtu.edu/coronavirus-resources-gtu

Greetings from the Division of Institutional Advancement at Berkeley School of Theology (BST)! It is indeed a pleasure to share some of the great things that are happening at the seminary. We have successfully kicked off another academic year in the midst of the global pandemic. The seminary has adopted the theme “BST, All Things New”which projects the perspective that we are not conducting the business of theological education as usual. The four academic tracks are creative church and community, spirituality and resilience, justice and reconciliation and border-crossing.

Greetings from the Office of Admissions at Berkeley School of Theology! We are excited that you are considering BST as your valued next step in theological education. We have several graduate-level programs across a variety of disciplines specifically designed to meet and exceed your academic expectations.

On behalf of the leadership team, Berkeley School of Theology would like to express our deepest gratitude for those who participated in the first-ever IMPACT Day. The goal was to raise scholarship dollars to support currently enrolled and incoming students that have a passion and desire to pursue a theological education.

The time has come to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for fiscal year 2021/2022. To qualify for federal aid (grants, loans, etc.), you must meet certain eligibility requirements such as U.S. citizenship, as well as being enrolled and/or accepted into an eligible degree or certificate program.

Berkeley School of Theology (BST) alum Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri (M.Div ’04, D.Min ’17) has been called to serve as the new Associate General Secretary for Mission Resource Development for ABCUSA starting on January 1, 2021. Dr. Onwubuariri has served as Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin since 2014, and previous to that position she served as the Director of Admissions at American Baptist Seminary of the West, currently known as Berkeley School of Theology, for 5 years.

Berkeley School of Theology (BST) alum Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri (M.Div ’04, D.Min ’17) has been called to serve as the new Associate General Secretary for Mission Resource Development for ABCUSA starting on January 1, 2021. Dr. Onwubuariri has served as Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin since 2014, and previous to that position she served as the Director of Admissions at American Baptist Seminary of the West, currently known as Berkeley School of Theology, for 5 years.

October 16, 2020 has been deemed as BST IMPACT Day. BST is striving to make an impact on student scholarships. We want to ensure that in the midst of COVID-19, we can offer scholarship funds to currently enrolled students for the spring semester and future semesters to come. We realize that the global pandemic has affected each of us in various ways. BST wants to ensure that students can continue to pursue a theological education. Therefore, we are asking all constituents to assist us in raising $35,000 in one day: October 16, 2020.

Donations can also be mailed to Berkeley School of Theology, 2606 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94704. Any questions about donations can be submitted to: Lori Spears at lspears@bst.edu or 510.841.1905 x239.

In the closing days of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we do well to consider the overlap of this month with the High Holy Days of Jewish faith. Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) bookend the highs and lows of the ten Days of Awe, capturing our own emotional register of late. This set-aside time invites personal and social introspection and repentance in order to invoke forgiveness, healing, and hope for a better future.

As COVID-19 continues to attack Hispanics (and other people of color) in proportions that mortally expose systemic class and color bias in our culture, it’s hard to feel God’s healing and liberating presence. We’re overcome with anger and frustration over police brutality and racist terrorism meted out by roving white nationalists. We suffer horrible losses from fires and floods all over. We’re weighed down by profound political division as we head into an election fraught with misinformation and voter suppression. Days of Awe, indeed! In times like these, we do well to look to those who inspire hope and perseverance in the face of brutal reality. One such person of mythic fame throughout Central and South America is virtually unknown to far too many of us north of the Rio Grande. Her name is Gabriela Mistral.

The faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees of Berkeley School of Theology wish to express heartfelt congratulations to the graduating class of 2020. We were hopeful that postponing the official graduation to fall 2020 would provide opportunity for an in-person celebration of your work and success. But as we all know that simply is not possible at this time. Nonetheless, we celebrate with you at a distance and honor your years of hard work and commitment that have brought you to this place.

You are a unique group graduating in a very unique time. As such, you have been called to a very special type of ministry – called to be part of creating that which comes next. Ministry during COVID 19 has required a nimbleness of spirit and a transformation from what we have known. Life after COVID 19 is still unknown. The future will require resilience, imagination, and creativity. And we know that you are up to the task, for you have been trained for this very moment.

As you move forth into the world, as you move forward in your ministries, be mindful that you are, and always will be, part of the BST community. You will be in our thoughts and prayers and we will be eager to keep up with your ministries.

May the grace of God be with you as you step into the next phase of your lives.

Love and best wishes,
Your BST Community

Behold, all things at Berkeley School of Theology are new! Well, almost and not really. Even as we proclaim, “BST All Things New!” as our theme for 2020-2021, we are mindful of the stress and strain of living through a global pandemic alongside political and social unrest. We are also aware, however, that even in our darkest days, babies are still being born, a single candle still provides light, and creation still buds sprigs of new life – all in protest against death, itself. And, yes, we are aware that when we chose as our theme text, 2 Corinthians 5:17, where the Apostle Paul encourages the newly formed Corinthian church that “in Christ, all things are made new,” his words clash with the old sage writing in the Book of Ecclesiastes (1:9), “there is nothing new under the sun.” Taken together, we think both Paul and the sage are right.

Let’s take the human body, for example. Almost every single one of our nearly 60 trillion cells in our bodies are renewed over the span of our lifetimes. Red blood cells live about 4 months, skin cells about 2 weeks, colon cells only 3 days, and heart cells 40 years. It’s just a matter of time that, bodily speaking, we are wholly new creations. Estimates suggest this near total renewal happens about every 7-10 years. And, yet, we also know that nearly all the elements of the human body that make up our cells are from those periodic chart elements that you memorized in high school chemistry. The source of those elements are supernovas and stars colliding in the Big Bang nearly 13 billion years ago. So, quite literally, we are millenniums-old stardust, too.

To say that we live in turbulent times would be a significant understatement. Covid-19, social unrest, geopolitical instability, fires, hurricanes, and the list goes on. And while that list feels like more than enough to push us all over the edge, these are only the things outside of us. Families, work, school, medical issues, and various other aspects of life add on to the stresses we already swim in. So in a world where it seems like everything and anything is careening out of control, what do we do and where do we turn?

In Psalm 125 the psalmist paints a picture of where we find our help in times like those we are in today. We trust in God, the almighty God who loves us as His people and surrounds us completely.

The incoming class of 2021 will begin their theological educational experience on September 8, 2020. We are delighted to welcome the new students in various programs including the Doctor of Ministry, Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, the Bachelor Equivalency programs, and the Public Theology Certificate Program. The new class members are the first cohort that will enter during the COVID-19 pandemic and will join the current student body as we practice remote learning. Berkeley School of Theology is blessed to have students from each time zone: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific as well as Kigali, Africa joining the family.

On Thursday, August 27, the incoming class participated in orientation to assist in getting them acclimated to Berkeley School of Theology. They were warmly welcomed by President James Brenneman, PhD, who reminded them of the important spiritual and academic journey they were entering at a critical moment in history. He encouraged them to embrace this opportunity to translate their BST education to impact the church and world for the better. The student representative of the Board of Trustees, Nathan Brittsan, provided insight on the life of a student at BST. Additional information was given by the various offices to include: course registration, financial aid and student billing. The Dean of Academics, LeAnn Snow Flesher, PhD, provided an extensive overview of what incoming students can expect as it relates to academic integrity, the usage of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) library and the new curriculum. Additionally, they were fortunate to get an overview of digital learning from Diandra Erickson, PhD from the GTU. Overall, there was a wealth of information sharing that assisted the incoming class of 2021 in getting acclimated to Berkeley School of Theology. We are delighted to have them join the family!

Welcome to the Incoming Class of Berkeley School of Theology, 2021!

As you embark upon the next chapter in your life, we are excited that you chose Berkeley School of Theology. You are entering during an extraordinary historical moment, as the first class under the name of Berkeley School of Theology. We welcome you with open arms and pray continued success and blessings over your life as you embrace your educational experience. Orientation is confirmed for August 27, 2020 in a zoom platform. Additional information will be forwarded to you as it relates to the time, zoom link and necessary materials to prepare you in advance. If you have any admissions or financial aid concerns, feel free to contact Lori Spears at lspears@bst.edu. If you have questions regarding courses or curriculum, contact your advisor or the Dean, LeAnn Snow Flesher, PhD at lflesher@bst.edu. We wanted to take one brief moment to say WELCOME to the Berkeley School of Theology! We look forward to learning and growing together.

Does faith or religion even matter anymore? Does religious study do anything more than simply divide an already divided culture? Does studying theology in a pandemic help anyone? Does theological inquiry and training truly create authentic moral leadership at a time when we see so little of it around us?

These and similar questions were answered for me some years ago when I was on a routine doctor's visit and received some shocking news. It wasn't a new diagnosis. Rather, my doctor announced that he was leaving his profession to study to become an Episcopal priest. Flabbergasted, I asked, "You mean you are leaving a profession that others believe to be the pinnacle of medical practice, to study theology?" He responded, "Yes."

"Why?" I asked.

Rick Mixon and Daniel Pryfogle co-lead a three-part online conversation on “Congregational Death/Community Life.”

Sympara cofounder Daniel Pryfogle and pastor/counselor Rick Mixon take up these critical questions in a time when thousands of religious communities are going out of business while many more hang on. In a series of live online conversations, Daniel and Rick explore the difficult work of death that is essential for life through a rich composting of psychology, theology and personal history. Each session includes a Q&A.

American Baptist Seminary of the West would like to extend a very special thank you to all of our constituents for participating in the first giving challenge of the year, during a global pandemic. Your consistent giving has truly been a blessing to the seminary, especially as it helps to fund operational expenses and student scholarships. The goal was to raise $100,000 during the month of June. We were successful in exceeding our goal! With the giving challenge we raised $83,789 in cash and $150,000 in an estate gift. Your liberal giving will help to ensure that the seminary remains stable during these pandemic times and beyond. "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive;'" Acts 20:35. Thank you for being a blessing!

On Juneteenth (June 19th) we celebrated a holiday lauding the deeply held ideal of freedom, and this weekend, we will do it again for Independence Day. In highlighting Juneteenth, what for many white Americans was an unknown holy-day, The New York Times (6.21.20) asked some renowned African American journalists, authors, educators, a food editor, a novelist, a historian and a poet to answer the simple question, "What is Freedom?" All were women!

In a world where freedom has been mostly defined and defended in mythic terms by (white Christian) men, where freedom’s protection and preservation has justified almost every war, police action, right to bear arms and economic inequity, I was curious to hear what women, black women, might have to say about freedom.

August 9, 2019 ~ BST

We are always excited by new international and new immigrant students who come to study, learn, and share in the world-house of learning that is BST. This year is no exception. Sadly, though, in recent years the number of new international students coming to the U.S. institutions of higher learning, especially, small colleges and seminaries, has declined significantly. It seems U.S. policies to erect ever higher walls of separation, alongside an increase in hostile sentiments toward those who are different, has accelerated this decline.

It saddens me to see us arguing over building a 2000-mile dividing wall between us and Mexico. I’m even more saddened by the fact that if Jesus were living today in the Holy Land of his birth, he could not travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem (6 miles) or from Bethlehem to Nazareth (70 miles) without special permission because of a 30’ high, 430-mile wall, dividing the Holy Land in two. Jesus would not be allowed to visit the place where the Temple once stood and could only pray on one end of the Western Wall that still divides Jews, Muslims, men and women, today. Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians (2:14) about “dividing walls of hostility” separating the Jews and Gentiles of his day, unfortunately, still apply to modern-day Jews and Palestinians living in the Holy Land.

Some of us remember with joy that day in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan stood at the Berlin wall and cried, “Tear down this wall!” Three years later, the wall was demolished; East and West Germany were united once again. Walls can, indeed, be demolished! Up until just ten years ago, there were only seven dividing walls remaining in the world separating national boundaries. Since then, 70 walls between national borders have been built. The trend is going in the wrong direction.

I’m sure Paul would be heartbroken to see such “dividing walls of hostility” still existing in Israel/Palestine, today. He would be brokenhearted to see the “dividing walls of hostility” being built between us here in the U.S., and between us and new immigrants, international students, and others with whom we may disagree. Apostle Paul claims that Christ “our Peace” came to “tear down the walls of hostility” between us. If such a Christ were among us today, I’m sure he too would cry out, “Tear down these walls!” Or, perhaps, he would graffiti the words, “Make Hummus, Not Walls,” I saw painted on the wall dividing Bethlehem from Jerusalem. He would surely declare with St. Paul, that in Christ, we are “no longer foreigners or strangers or immigrants, but fellow citizens with all God’s people; members of God’s household!”

At BST, against any and every wall of hostility that would separate us from one another, we cry out in Christ’s name, “Tear down these walls!” At BST, we welcome into our world-house of learning all current and possible future citizens of the household of God. We rejoice, again this year, as students come from across the street and around the world: “Welcome to this corner of God’s universe. Welcome to your BST family!”

Make Hummus Not Walls by Dr. James E. Brenneman, BST President

July 12, 2019  ~ BST

Katie Choy-Wong (1980) A “Celebration of Ministry” retirement worship and luncheon was held on June 8 at Iu Mien Friendship Baptist Church in Richmond, CA. Katie’s ministry path covered many facets of serving God and community. She is retiring from serving as senior pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Castro Valley.

Sandra Lee (2004) will be the project director for a 2019 Vital Worship Grant, awarded to Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church (LABC) from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. The grant will assist the congregation in exploring the connections between the scriptures and Lakeshore’s social ministries, deepening their spiritual and theological understandings, while also creating new songs and prayers for use in Sunday worship. Rev. Dr. Jim Hopkins (1983, 2007) is pastor of LABC. Rev. Dr. Nancy Hall (1980, emerita professor) will serve as a consultant on the project.

Ada Omekenyi (2019) ordination service and celebration was held April 6 at New Life Christian Fellowship.

David Robinson (1977) will retire as Executive Director of the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy of Santa Clara county on August 1.

Tanisha Sparks (2012) received her DMin degree from the Candler School of Theology of Emory University on May 13, 2019

Marcus W. Van Hook (2019) was this year’s winner of the Romney Student Preaching Award. This award is given annually by the Seattle First Baptist Church as part of the Rodney R. Romney Legacy Fund.

Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins (1975) is the mayor of Collegeville, Pa. Elected on November 7, 2017, he is the first African American and the first Democrat ever elected to this office in the history of this borough in Montgomery County, Pa. He is also Co-Executive director of the New Baptist Covenant and organization started by former President Jimmy Carter to help heal racial and theological divisions.

July 12, 2019  ~ BST

Nancy E. Hall, DMin honored with emeritus status at 2019 Graduation

Dr. Nancy Hall’s position as Director of Contextual Education and Associate Professor of Ministry & Congregational Music will be discontinued as of June 30, 2019. In honor of Dr. Hall’s 27+ years of service at BST the Board of Trustees voted on Saturday, April 28, 2018 to confer upon Dr. Hall Emeritus status with all rights and privileges thereunto appertaining (or in other words “that go with it”); to begin July 1, 2019.

Dr. Hall began her teaching career at BST as an adjunct professor of worship in 1989 and began her work as Acting Director of Contextual Education (then called field education) in 1993. On July 1, 1994 Dr. Hall became a regular employee of BST taking over the Field Education program upon the partial retirement of Dr. James Chuck and has served in this capacity and as a member of the regular faculty until June 30, 2019. In addition to her seminary responsibilities, Dr. Hall, an ordained minister with the American Baptist Church USA, serves as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Berkeley, CA.

Dr. Hall began her academic training at San Diego State University from which she graduated in 1974 with an BA in Music. She went on to complete the California Teaching Credential in 1975 and taught briefly in the public-school system. In 1980 she graduated from BST with an MDiv and took course work in the GTU MA program in Religion and the Arts between 1980 and 1981. In 1995 Dr. Hall graduated from the San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) DMin program. Her dissertation title: In Living Echoes: Women’s Faith Journeys in Song – from which she created a one woman show that highlighted 19th and 20thcentury female hymn writers: Fanny Crosby and Georgia Elma Harkness.

Nancy currently serves as Vice President on the Advisory Committee for the GTU Center for the Arts and Religion, and as chair for the Professional Advisory Council for the SFTS Clinical Pastoral Education program. She is a member of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada and served as Editor of its Journal titled The Hymn for several years between 2007 and 2011. Throughout her career she has published various articles related to hymnody and co-authored A Manual of Worship (Judson Press) with John Skoglund in 1993 and most recently published The New Manual of Worship (Judson Press) in April of 2018. Through her years at BST Nancy has taught various courses on worship and hymnody including: “Singing Through the Church Year,” “A Cry for Justice in Hymnody,” “How Hymns Shape Worship and Faith,” and “Then Sings my Soul.” As you can see, Hymns are her thing!

Over the years Dr. Hall has worked with hundreds of students helping them create internships, reading reflection papers, and, perhaps most importantly, ENCOURAGING them along the way. One might also say ‘students are her thing!’ Hymns and students!

As part of the graduation festivities of 2019 the BST community celebrated with Dr. Hall the conferring of Emeritus Status for her 27+ years of excellent service to the BST Students and Community as well as the greater GTU community.

July 12, 2019  ~ BST

Nancy E. Hall, DMin honored with emeritus status at 2019 Graduation

Dr. Nancy Hall’s position as Director of Contextual Education and Associate Professor of Ministry & Congregational Music will be discontinued as of June 30, 2019. In honor of Dr. Hall’s 27+ years of service at BST the Board of Trustees voted on Saturday, April 28, 2018 to confer upon Dr. Hall Emeritus status with all rights and privileges thereunto appertaining (or in other words “that go with it”); to begin July 1, 2019.

Dr. Hall began her teaching career at BST as an adjunct professor of worship in 1989 and began her work as Acting Director of Contextual Education (then called field education) in 1993. On July 1, 1994 Dr. Hall became a regular employee of BST taking over the Field Education program upon the partial retirement of Dr. James Chuck and has served in this capacity and as a member of the regular faculty until June 30, 2019. In addition to her seminary responsibilities, Dr. Hall, an ordained minister with the American Baptist Church USA, serves as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Berkeley, CA.

Dr. Hall began her academic training at San Diego State University from which she graduated in 1974 with an BA in Music. She went on to complete the California Teaching Credential in 1975 and taught briefly in the public-school system. In 1980 she graduated from BST with an MDiv and took course work in the GTU MA program in Religion and the Arts between 1980 and 1981. In 1995 Dr. Hall graduated from the San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) DMin program. Her dissertation title: In Living Echoes: Women’s Faith Journeys in Song – from which she created a one woman show that highlighted 19th and 20thcentury female hymn writers: Fanny Crosby and Georgia Elma Harkness.

Nancy currently serves as Vice President on the Advisory Committee for the GTU Center for the Arts and Religion, and as chair for the Professional Advisory Council for the SFTS Clinical Pastoral Education program. She is a member of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada and served as Editor of its Journal titled The Hymn for several years between 2007 and 2011. Throughout her career she has published various articles related to hymnody and co-authored A Manual of Worship (Judson Press) with John Skoglund in 1993 and most recently published The New Manual of Worship (Judson Press) in April of 2018. Through her years at BST Nancy has taught various courses on worship and hymnody including: “Singing Through the Church Year,” “A Cry for Justice in Hymnody,” “How Hymns Shape Worship and Faith,” and “Then Sings my Soul.” As you can see, Hymns are her thing!

Over the years Dr. Hall has worked with hundreds of students helping them create internships, reading reflection papers, and, perhaps most importantly, ENCOURAGING them along the way. One might also say ‘students are her thing!’ Hymns and students!

As part of the graduation festivities of 2019 the BST community celebrated with Dr. Hall the conferring of Emeritus Status for her 27+ years of excellent service to the BST Students and Community as well as the greater GTU community.

6/5/2020 ~ BST

In spring 2020 BST offered a course entitled “Reception History of the Bible” in which the class read Black and Slave by David M. Goldenberg; a study on the evolution of the double curse of Ham, i.e., that Ham and his decedents were cursed to be black and a slave in perpetuity as found in Genesis 9:25-27.  However, a close reading of this biblical text reveals that Canaan, not Ham, is the one cursed and that he is cursed to serve his brothers, Shem and Japheth.  The tale is in fact an etiology created to justify the enslavement of Canaanite peoples after Israel became the political power in the land.

Goldenberg’s book carefully tracks the development of the double curse of Ham theory (that Ham and his decedents were cursed to be black and slave forever) and notes its inaccuracy as related to the story in the Hebrew Bible as well as its impact around the world. His research has shown the most extreme application of the double curse theory has taken place in the United States of America, especially in the southern portions, from the 1600s to the present day.

The truth is that the Bible can be made to say almost anything someone wants it to say.  The question is: “are we reading for the purpose of domination or liberation?”

On June 2, 2020 the Society of Biblical Literature published the following statement:

We protest the actions by the president of the United States, who, on the evening of 1 June 2020, called for military action against US residents on US soil, had peaceful protesters tear-gassed out of his way, stood uninvited before an Episcopal parish, and waved a Bible.

We call out the president for abusing what is for many a treasured spiritual resource and symbol, and we deplore his violation of sacred space.

We call out political leaders to engage the Bible in thoughtful and responsible ways. The Bible should not be brandished as a weapon to attack humanity or to violate the dignity of the human spirit. We commit to the work of studying and exposing how the Bible has been and continues to be used in this way.

Black Lives Matter.

Today science tells us that we as a species have been estimated to share 99.9% of our DNA with each other.  The few differences that do exist reflect differences in environments and external factors, not core biology.  Race is a social construct not a biological attribute.  https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/Genetics-vs-Genomics.  We are taught to love and hate through a process of socialization.  

Eons ago the author of Genesis said this about humanity:

So, God created humankind in his image,

In the image of God he created them;

Male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27; NRSV)

Several centuries later the Apostle Paul said this about humankind:

There is no longer Jew or Greek,

There is no longer slave or free,

There is no longer male or female;

For all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NRSV)

Yet, today with all of our “progress,” with all of our “scientific knowledge,” with all of our “technological advances” we have not yet achieved the level of wisdom that we find in the two biblical passages cited above.

Reading the Bible for a message of liberation is a choice. Loving humanity in all of its diversity is a choice.

Let us choose Liberation and Love.

6/5/2020 ~ BST

In spring 2020 BST offered a course entitled “Reception History of the Bible” in which the class read Black and Slave by David M. Goldenberg, a study on the evolution of the double curse of Ham (i.e., that Ham and his decedents were cursed to be black and slaves in perpetuity as found in Genesis 9:25-27).  However, a close reading of this biblical text reveals that Canaan, not Ham, is the one cursed and that he is cursed to serve his brothers, Shem and Japheth.  The tale is in fact an etiology created to justify the enslavement of Canaanite peoples after Israel became the political power in the land.

Goldenberg’s book carefully tracks the development of the double curse of Ham theory (that Ham and his decedents were cursed to be black and slaves forever) and notes its inaccuracy as related to the story in the Hebrew Bible as well as its impact around the world. His research has shown the most extreme application of the double curse theory has taken place in the United States of America, especially in the southern portions, from the 1600s to the present day.

The truth is that the Bible can be made to say almost anything someone wants it to say.  The question is: Are we reading for the purpose of domination or liberation?

On June 2, 2020 the Society of Biblical Literature published the following statement:

We protest the actions by the president of the United States, who, on the evening of 1 June 2020, called for military action against US residents on US soil, had peaceful protesters tear-gassed out of his way, stood uninvited before an Episcopal parish, and waved a Bible.

We call out the president for abusing what is for many a treasured spiritual resource and symbol, and we deplore his violation of sacred space.

We call out political leaders to engage the Bible in thoughtful and responsible ways. The Bible should not be brandished as a weapon to attack humanity or to violate the dignity of the human spirit. We commit to the work of studying and exposing how the Bible has been and continues to be used in this way.

Black Lives Matter.

Today science tells us that we as a species have been estimated to share 99.9% of our DNA with each other.  The few differences that do exist reflect differences in environments and external factors, not core biology.  Race is a social construct not a biological attribute.  https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/Genetics-vs-Genomics.  We are taught to love and hate through a process of socialization.  

Eons ago the author of Genesis said this about humanity:

So, God created humankind in his image,

In the image of God he created them;

Male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27 NRSV).

Several centuries later the Apostle Paul said this about humankind:

There is no longer Jew or Greek,

There is no longer slave or free,

There is no longer male or female;

For all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 NRSV).

Yet, today with all of our “progress,” with all of our “scientific knowledge,” with all of our “technological advances,” we have not yet achieved the level of wisdom that we find in the two biblical passages cited above.

Reading the Bible for a message of liberation is a choice. Loving humanity in all of its diversity is a choice.

Let us choose Liberation and Love.