New Brunswick Theological Seminary is an institution that embraces diverse cultures, ethnic backgrounds, denominations, and traditions. 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 making a public commitment to anti-racism and anti-racist acton. The seminary formed an Anti-Racism Transformation Team (ARTT), comprised of students, alumni/ae, faculty, and trustees to take an active and critical look at the full life of the seminary to identify, confront, and correct any areas where institutional racism was present.
“If racism is to be understood fully, then it must be viewed as occurring within individuals as well as within institutions and the structures of society. At NBTS, the work of Anti-Racism Transformation is seen in the highly intentional commitment of the seminary to actively dismantle institutional racism at every level of seminary life.”
Today, NBTS’ Commitment to Anti-Racism & Confronting Power & Privilege is found in all elements of our life and work together.
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 structures 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.
The history and context of this work at NBTS
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 happened in the first ten years since the inception of our anti-racism transformation work?
- Board of Trustees voted to confront racism in the seminary, church and society as part of the seminary’s strategic directions (2007)
- Board revised its own process for nomination of officers to incorporate the views of persons of color (POC)
- The question “How does this benefit Whites or disadvantage Persons of Color?” was asked during the Land Use negotiating process to include the anti-racism perspective
- 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 Curriculum Committee discussed and implemented the anti-racism perspective in all courses
- Intentional multicultural worship services offered, resulting in the inclusion of the multicultural dimension in all campus services
- Discussion by the faculty lead to the taking down of many of the Library’s portraits due to their monocultural nature and it’s relationship to the schools pedagogy
- Faculty most ethnically diverse in the history of the seminary
- First African-American Academic Dean hired (2012)
- Four persons of color (POC) hired to tenure track positions in a five year span
- Several persons of color (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 are included in faculty discussions surrounding curriculum revision (2015)
- First African American granted an honorary doctorate from NBTS (2013)
- First female to receive an honorary doctorate from NBTS (2013)
- Doctor of Ministry cohort examines the New Jim Crow: American Prison system
- Board discussion around investments of NBTS endowment in prison complex industry
- First Asian granted an honorary doctorate from NBTS (2016)
- Research in partnership with Rutgers University how the two institutions and its officers benefitted from slavery result in the publication of Scarlet and Black (2016)
- Course “Slavery and Justice” taught by two NBTS professors.
- Talks with Payne Theological Seminary Board and Administrators about joint projects and educational collaborations initiated; AME Institute makes its home at NBTS
- NBTS Board voted to undergo ARTT training and make it a requirement for all new board members in the future (January 2015)
- First African-American President of the seminary (2017)
- Race, Class, And Gender course implemented as required course throughout M.Div., MA and D.Min. curriculum (2018)
The work continues in the 2020s and beyond
Public Statement reaffirming our ongoing commitment to antiracist action
SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
We, the faculty of New Brunswick, recommit ourselves and our seminary community to antiracist action. We stand against white nationalism and white supremacy. We strive to root out the pervasive anti-Black racism that pervades the institutions of law, policing, overnment, commerce, education, and even religion in the United States and that have oppressive extensions throughout the broader world. We have made antiracism statements before, but strive to press beyond words into antiracist action. Let us lament, speak truth to oppressive power structures, organize within our institutions, and agitate, or in the words of John Lewis, “get into good trouble,” at every level of society in the pursuit of justice. We encourage all persons of faith to join in antiracist actions to bring about a more just world.
– The Faculty of New Brunswick Theological Seminary