Anti-Racism Transformation Team
New Brunswick Theological Seminary is an institution that embraces diverse cultures, ethnic backgrounds and denominations. In 2007, in an effort to promote understanding and confront some of the subtle, and overt forms of racism, the Seminary took the bold step of forming an Anti-Racism Transformation Team (ARTT). This team is comprised of students, alumni/ae, faculty and trustees.
“If racism is to be understood correctly then it must be viewed as occurring within individuals as well as within institutions and the structures of society. At NBTS, the Anti-Racism Transformation Team is the highly intentional commitment of the seminary to actively dismantle institutional racism at every level of seminary life.”
To more fully understand our diverse community one needs to return to the late 1970s when the seminary explored and implemented an evening program in theological education. This program, entitled the “Evening Theological Extension Program” (ETEP), was first housed at the First Reformed Church in Queens, NY, and then moved to St. John’s University on or about 1985. As evening students began to flood into the program, our seminary that was almost exclusively white, male, and RCA, became richly diverse. Second career and bi-vocational students found NBTS to be a place and community in which theological education was accessible and contextually focused. While there was deep appreciation for the new diversity on campus, the seminary was regularly struggling with what it meant to be both Denominationally (RCA) focused and Ecumenically sensitive.
In 2005, a student wrote to the Board of Trustees and challenged it to more intentionally reflect on institutional racism. The Board formed an action committee to explore the need, and then approved a vision that committed the institution to a twenty year plan to confront institutional racism at NBTS and to transform it into a community that was radically inclusive and justice focused. The Anti-Racism Transformation team was then formed and has met regularly to challenge the seminary to grow into a new identity. Some of the accomplishments of the team and the seminary are listed below. A survey of the 200 students, staff, faculty and trustees who have undergone the intensive two and half day training reveals that the institution is perceived as moving forward with clarity and courage in response to this focus.
This empowering vision has encouraged mutual support and accountability in overcoming the roots of racism, which are deep in our culture. This commitment to justice will help develop growing trust and a willingness to risk.
What Has Happened Since The Inception of ARTT?
- Board of Trustees voted to confront racism in the seminary, church and society as part of the seminary’s strategic directions
- Board has revised its own process for nomination of officers to incorporate the views of persons of color
- Perspectives of anti-racism have been inserted into the Land Use negotiating process (How does this benefit Whites or disadvantage Persons of Color)
- Staff Diversity & Multicultural Competency Policy has been instituted
- Library acquisition of works related to multiculturalism and anti-racism increased
- ARTT members collaborated with RCA on three-part Panel Discussion on the Belhar Confession and its relation to anti-racism
- NBTS was invited to participate in the Association of Theological School’s Consultation on Race and Ethnicity (CORE)
- Curriculum Committee implemented a two-credit course concerning anti-racism which is now a required three credit course in the revised M. Div. curriculum. The committee is discussing to how to make the entire MDiv curriculum anti-racist.
- Intentional multicultural worship services have been offered, one result of which is that other worship services on campus now include multicultural dimensions
- Discussion of the monocultural nature of the Library’s portrait collection and the collection’s relationship to pedagogy has caused the Faculty to decide to take the portraits down at the time of the construction of a new building and for an intentionally diverse committee to recommend the art that should be utilized in the new building and library
- Most ethnically diverse faculty in the history of the seminary- a majority of the faculty (Fall of 2013)
- Hired First African-American Academic Dean (2012)
- Second African-American granted tenure in the 229-year history of NBTS (2012)
- Third African-American granted tenure (2014)
- Four POC have been hired to tenure track positions in the last five years
- Seven POC are teaching required courses
- Two faculty and 10 students participated in a Sankofa journey to Civil Rights sites in the South in September of 2012
- Issues of race, multiculturalism and power will be included in faculty discussions surrounding curriculum revision, expected to occur later this year
- Doctor of Ministry cohort examines the New Jim Crow: American Prisons
- Courses offered in Gospel Music by African-American faculty
- First African-American will receive an honorary doctorate from NBTS (2016)
- First African-American hired as the Director of Sage Library (2016)
- Begun to research in partnership with Rutgers University how the two institutions and its officers benefitted from slavery, and what to do with the information
- Course taught by the Dean and Dr. John Coakley entitled, “Slavery and Justice”
- Talks with Payne Theological Seminary Board and Administrators about joint projects and educational collaborations
- NBTS Board voted to undergo ARTT training and make it a requirement for all new board members in the future (January 2015)
An Anti-Racism Statement from NBTS Board of Trustees
We, the Board of Trustees of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, have decided to take a stand against racism and insidious structure of privilege and power. We are committed to identifying and dismantling all such structures in this Seminary. We make this commitment in full knowledge and understanding that it will involve uncomfortable and painful self-examination, both personal and corporate, and that it will require deep and difficult changes at all levels of our beloved institution, including this board. We are humbly yet firmly convinced that in making this commitment we are being led in Spirit, we are demonstrating obedience to God’s will and plan, and we are following the example of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior.
We pray that God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer will redeem our sins and guide, bless and help our creative efforts to let God do a “new thing” at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.