Progressive Bishop William J. Barber II headed to Yale

Bishop William J. Barber II, co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign and renowned civil rights leader, will become the director of Yale Divinity School’s new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy.

Barber, a Disciples of Christ pastor and bishop with the Fellowship of Affirming Bishops, will start teaching next month.

Through the center, Barber said he wants to organize a “major gathering” every two years that will bring together scholars, activists and clergy to discuss pressing issues.

The goal of this center will be to prepare a new generation — what we call moral fusion leaders — that are going to be active in creating a just society both in the academy and in the streets,” he said, Religion News Service reported.

“I want to share what I have learned. I believe one of the critical keys in this society is for pastors to understand how to be engaged in pastoral care, the priestly function of the pastorate, but also to be engaged in prophetic and public policy. All three of those things must go together.”

He has previously taught at Duke University and the Union Theological Seminary.

Greg Sterling, the divinity school’s dean, said he was “thrilled” to have Barber on the team.

“Dr. Barber’s work and service are in the tradition of public witness that produced Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, Walter Rauschenbusch and Howard Thurman, Ida B. Wells and Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, and Abraham Joshua Heschel,” Sterling said in a news release.

“Establishment of the center at YDS is an opportunity to deepen our relationship to a historical moment that revives nearly two centuries of social justice tradition to meet the complex social realities of our time.”

The Center for Public Theology and Public Policy states that it is “a hub for the study, research, and practice of framing and implementing moral public theology in the 21st century.”

“Our work is rooted in the philosophy of moral movements that have strategically and successfully used theology as the basis for challenging social and economic injustice in society. We work at the intersection of faith, moral values, law, social movements, and social transformation.”

Its mission includes:

-Preparing a new generation of moral leaders to be active participants in creating a just society using the academic, practical, and research tools of past and present social justice movements.  

-Examining and teaching the theory and practice of public theology and the principles and strategies of transformative social movements.  

-Providing students with opportunities for practical experience in movement building work and public ministry. 

-Cultivating research at the intersection of theology and public policy, critically framing public policy issues as moral issues and creating moral public policy solutions in collaboration with scholars, faith leaders, economists, lawyers, and the community. 

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