Course Description & Core Components

Course Description and Core Components

This course will be an intensive Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) immersion experience for seminary or divinity/theological school students who wish to engage and cultivate necessary prophetic voices with communities on the margins of theological education—in particular, those communities contending against systemic injustices perpetuating the intersectionalities of racist and economic struggles that directly impact children and youth. The CDF immersion conference provides an alternative or liminal space to study justice ministries. We will consider and challenge Biblical and theological assumptions justifying institutional complicity with oppressive systems that create insular maintenance of churches quite disconnected from folks on the margins. We will examine the present nature of theological education and consider pressing questions regarding public theology and contextual practice. The foci of this course underscore partnerships with local communities working with CDF, collaborating with those who are engaged directly in the struggles for social justice. We study, “How do we construct narratives of learning and justice ministries at the center of our theological training?” We also explore, “What is our theological voice in the public square; what are the possible roles of public theology?” This course will include contextual learning and research in forming public leaders to facilitate collective organizing/re-organizing of churches as justice-making communities to extend beyond the immediate concerns of philanthropy.

Learning Goal and Learning Objectives

To reframe and to transform religious leadership in view of the sacrality and integrity of youth in our commitments to justice making—that is:

  1. To build our understanding of the range child advocacy and to articulate theological, biblical, and historical mandates for child advocacy ministries
  2. To explore the theological foundations for justice and preaching ministries in the effort to build partnerships among faith communities and traditions, including with interfaith communities, and to build theological frameworks for these partnerships
  3. To cultivate contextualized teaching and learning that includes social analysis and interdisciplinary approaches involving theological, biblical, historical, political, and experiential studies, and practices of ministry (e.g. black preaching, pastoral and prophetic care ministries)
  4. To introduce to students a range of nonviolent direct action organizing principles and to equip students with organizing models for collective action in congregational praxis and public theology

Questions we will explore include

  • Who are we in justice work, God’s work, in our communities?
  • What structures perpetuate poverty?  Mass incarceration?  Systemic oppression?
  • What theologies perpetuate poverty, mass incarceration, racism, oppression?
  • How can we move faith communities from charity to justice?
  • How can we develop strong and effective interfaith partnerships to seek justice for all of our children?
  • How do we listen to and learn from and with young people? What can we learn from their stories and leadership?
  • How can we work through collective nonviolent direct action organizing to disrupt and dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline?
  • How do we become partners WITH instead of planning programs FOR young people who are wounded by the structural violence of poverty, racism, inadequate public education, zero tolerance discipline policies and the juvenile justice system?