Tag Archives: Drew Hart

We Need Each Other

By Maria Hosler Byler, Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Faith Formation at Salford Mennonite

“The extent to which we are surprised by the results of the election demonstrates the poverty of our relationships. The extent to which we don’t understand the need for immigration reform demonstrates the poverty of our relationships.” As I listened to Dr. Christena Cleveland at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s School for Leadership Training (SLT), I was struck yet again by a consistent theme: we need each other, in all our differences, to glimpse the power of God and join in the work of God in the world.

One of the things I love about SLT is that it turns people of authority into students for a few days. The ones I’m used to seeing up front at conference and denominational events are sitting and listening, taking notes and asking questions. At SLT, we participants — the majority of us white church leaders with a significant amount of agency in our daily lives  — learned from keynote speakers Dr. Cleveland and Drew Hart about race in society. We were called to take our turn “at the foot of the table,” as Dr. Cleveland said.  That’s how we really live into Jesus’ upside-down kingdom.

Using illustrations from scripture and their lives, the speakers explored the depth of race’s impact on our society. They explored how our racialized society maintains itself and why it’s so hard for white people to see and confront racism — why we need people with a “view from the underside,” in Hart’s words, to recognize it. They called the largely white audience to recognize how we’ve been socialized into racial bias, and that Jesus never called us to shame but to repentance and new life together.  Dr. Cleveland showed us by example how to notice privilege in our own lives.  We were being tutored in how to reach beyond ourselves as a demonstration of respect and also of our need.

But it’s not just that we need each other’s perspective, or that we need to learn from one another to understand Jesus’ message.  No, we each have a role to play in dismantling racism, wherever we are.  When we’re uncomfortable we can benefit by staying at the table and continuing the conversation.  In fact, that’s what we were doing at the conference: listening, learning, checking our assumptions and discerning our next steps. One conference attendee asked Drew Hart, “What can I do about racism in my predominantly white community?” and Hart responded, “You’re right at the center of the action!”  Throughout the conference I heard calls to learn and act right where we are, building relationships with our literal neighbors.  I attended a workshop where we practiced listening to people we disagreed with.  In another workshop we discussed what it means to “seek the peace of the city” where you are (Jer. 29:7) and spent some time brainstorming for our own contexts.

I left SLT with a clear sense of my need for others’ perspectives, and also of my ability to make a difference where I am.  And I came home with new questions: Who might I need to listen to better in order to gain a fuller understanding of Jesus?  Where might my privilege be causing me to miss an important lesson?  And how can I stay true to what I’ve learned about power and justice right here in my daily life?

For more of this year’s School for Leadership Training check out Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s article: “School for Leadership Training addresses pastoral responses to a racialized and divided America”

Counterintuitive Solidarity

By Jenifer Eriksen-Morales

“Mom, check this out!”  My son called me to share his interest in a TV show. The host, Jeremy Wade, was underwater, speaking through scuba gear, right next to a giant crocodile!  He explained approaching a crocodile from above, below or directly in front, can be quite deadly as one may be mistaken as a threat or prey.  However, when one approaches a crocodile in cool water from the side or back, imitating them by crawling slowly along the sandy riverbed, “I can get quite close to it,” Wade stated as he reached out and touched the crocodile who didn’t even flinch. (Don’t try this!) He went on to say as a result of this encounter he felt safer in the water.  He went on to comment that to learn about Tiger Fish, it is better to use a crocodilian rather than human perspective.   He then floated next to the croc, narrating as the camera panned.  He drew attention to the plants, critters, light and shadows allowing the world to be observed from the vantage point of a crocodile.  I was flabbergasted; Wade wasn’t studying crocs, he was learning about Tiger Fish from crocodiles!  What he was doing was counterintuitive, courageous, and exciting!

I was reminded of a conversation I had with Mike Derstine, Pastor at Plains, that morning.  Over coffee, Mike shared his learnings about counterintuitive solidarity from a recent Webinar entitled “Neo-Anabaptism and Anablacktivism” offered by AMBS and facilitated by Drew Hart and Greg Boyd.

Mike shared his learnings so enthusiastically I was compelled to do a little research.  Hart writes in his blog, “White intuition and experience (limited by homogeneous networks) is signifying one thing while black experience is claiming an alternative reality. What are people who participate in dominant society to do when their intuition and experience contradict the experiences of oppressed people?”  Hart goes on to call for counterintuitive solidarity, by “trusting the historically marginalized and oppressed perception above one’s own… Jesus’ own solidarity performance is a call to discipleship and imitation as a way of being in the world. It is the cure for privileged blinders that leaves people’s own vision impaired and unreliable. The Spirit is pulling all of us to see things “from below” because that is where God has chosen to move, work, and transform the world (1 Cor. 1:18-31).”

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Drew Hart

While Drew’s blog focuses on racism in the United States, clearly his point is relevant in other contexts where people are marginalized and oppressed.  In the statement, “Going to the Margins, Kingdom Mission Strategy,” adopted by Franconia Conference’s delegate body this fall, “We advocate that Franconia Conference be intentional about identifying those on the margins of our churches and society, and provide resources for the work of mutual transformation according to the good news of Jesus Christ. “  I imagine, if we as a conference, as organizations, as congregations, and as individuals are to take this statement seriously, the dominant culture will need to learn the art of counterintuitive solidarity.  We must find ways to create space to get up close and personal, listen well and trust the perception of “the other” enough to begin to see from their vantage point.

drewhartgraphicThe Perkasie congregation is doing this through a 6 week Sunday school study, “Returning Veterans, Returning Hope,” a curriculum provided by Mennonite Central Committee. As part of this, a veteran will come and share his story with the congregation.  Pastor, Wayne Nitzsche comments, “The Perkasie congregation solidly identifies as a Peace church.”  They wonder what it may mean to be welcoming and inclusive of veterans, to journey with them, and by modeling Jesus share his love, healing and hope.  Pastor Wayne also wonders, “What are we willing to learn from Veterans? How do we listen to their story deep enough to see what we can learn from them about courage, and loyalty and discipline? Veterans have something to offer us, if we are willing to listen.”

andrew_huth_fmc_ed_youth_event_082As we go through the steps of identifying and listening to those who have been marginalized, partnering locally and globally, sharing the gospel and planting churches, how might the Holy Spirit be inviting us to explore beyond our patterns, stereotypes and intuition in order to develop alternate ways of seeing and experiencing reality.  What might we learn from another’s point of view?

To read all of Drew Harts Article quoted above visit: http://drewgihart.com/2013/08/07/400-years-of-white-blinders-counterintuitive-solidarity-and-the-epistemological-advantage-of-the-oppressed/.

For more information and to obtain a copy of Mennonite Central Committee’s “Returning Veteran, Returning Hope,” Sunday School Curriculum visit: https://mcc.org/media/resources/1719.

Jenifer Eriksen-Morales is Minister of Transitional Ministries and a LEADership Minister for eleven congregations in Franconia Conference.

KC2015 registration opens; presenters, exhibitors announced

MCUSA-AlanDebHirsch
Alan and Debra Hirsch, currently of Los Angeles, will offer several presentations on church planting and building missional movements.

Although it’s still more than five months away, Mennonite Church USA’s 2015 biennial convention is taking shape.

Registration opened Jan. 15 for the June 30–July 5 event in Kansas City, Mo. Hotel registration opens March 3.

Convention planners are lining up special presenters and exhibitors in addition to a full slate of worship speakers.

Recent decisions made in consultation with the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board have included accepting the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests’ (BMC) application for exhibit space at KC2015, as well as allowing convention planners to work with leaders of the Pink Menno campaign to negotiate rental of a meeting room on site at the convention center.

“My team and I are ready and excited for everyone to join us in Kansas City this summer,” says Glen Alexander Guyton, chief operating officer and convention planning director for Mennonite Church USA. “We want everyone who attends KC2015 to be able to engage in worship and experience the healing power of Christ at some point during convention.”

Speakers Alex Awad, Drew Hart, and Alan and Debra Hirsch will share with participants at KC2015:

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Alex Awad of Jerusalem, pastor of East Jerusalem Baptist Church and a professor at Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine, will be a featured speaker throughout the convention week. Awad and Bethlehem Bible College are longtime Mennonite partners in Palestine.

“Alex Awad is an evangelical Christian deeply committed to Jesus and to the way of peace in the midst of intense suffering and injustice,” says André Gingerich Stoner, director of interchurch relations and holistic witness for Mennonite Church USA. “He and Bethlehem Bible College are a sign of hope. We have much to learn from their witness.”

After KC2015, Awad will travel to Harrisburg, Pa., to participate in Mennonite World Conference’s Assembly Gathered. Awad’s presence at convention is also made possible by support from Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Drew Hart

Drew Hart will be available throughout the convention week, offering several seminars focused on liberation theology and strategies for addressing racism in local congregational settings. Hart is a Ph.D. candidate at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and his research focuses on intersections between black theology and Anabaptism. He is a part-time pastor and a regular blogger for The Christian Century.

Alan and Debra Hirsch, currently of Los Angeles, (photo above) will offer several presentations on church planting and building missional movements. The Hirsches are the founding directors of the Forge Mission Training Network.

Alan also co-leads Future Travelers, a learning program to help churches become missional movements, and is co-founder and adjunct faculty for the M.A. in Missional Church Movements at Wheaton (Ill.) College. He has written The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church, among other books.

Exhibit space granted for BMC
The Brethren Mennonite Council has applied for exhibit space at previous conventions; this is the first year that their request has been approved. Pink Menno applied to be an exhibitor at convention for the first time this year; the group’s request for exhibit space was denied, although convention planning staff members hope to work with the group to negotiate the rental of a meeting room inside the convention center.

“The decision to grant exhibit space to BMC is not a radical one,” says Guyton. “BMC has long been part of our conventions. They are an established organization with clear points of authority. We have had good conversations with BMC leaders about our shared expectations for the exhibit hall at convention.”

All convention attendees are expected to abide by the expectations for convention attendees and exhibitor guidelines.

“Conversations about sexuality are happening all across the church right now,” says Ervin Stutzman, executive director for Mennonite Church USA. “Our leadership team felt it was the right time for the Executive Board to revisit our policies about the use of convention space. We desire to be proactive, rather than reactive, in the conversations that need to take place among us as followers of Jesus Christ.

“This move does not represent a change in our church’s commitments but grows out of our desire to remain in loving conversation with people who have been a part of our church and our conventions for many years. We desire that every person who attends our convention will be treated with respect and care, in the exhibit hall and everywhere else.”

Other approved exhibitors include all of the Mennonite Church USA agencies and higher education institutions, as well as Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, and a variety of other faith-based organizations.

The convention offers programming for people ages 0 and older. Special programs are planned for infants, preschoolers, elementary-school students, junior high youth and high school youth. For more information about convention events and speakers, and to register on Jan. 15, visit convention.mennoniteusa.org.

An Anabaptist “In House” Discussion: Forming a Non-Racist Approach to Ethics and Social Responsibility

Race and Church
Last October, Drew Hart led a conversation at Germantown HIstoric Trust on racism in the church. Drew is working on a PhD through Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia on the intersection of Anabaptism and Black Theology.

by Drew Hart, reposted by permission

I am concerned that many Anabaptists have unconsciously and unknowingly adopted a model for social action and ethics that is problematic because it cooperates with our racialized and unjust society. Therefore, I figured I would offer an “in house” discussion on the subject. This all flows out of listening to the language and comments of my brothers and sisters (though mostly brothers) as they talk about engaging society (or not) in relation to various social issues we are confronted with in the U.S.

More specifically, I have observed many talk about desiring to remain “local”, “contextual”, “on the ground”, and “ecclesially” oriented when it comes to dealing with social realities. Let me be clear, I believe it is essential that we are rooted and grounded in local communities. When I hear these terms being used, it is often done so in great contrast to the Christendom logics for social engagement that is so common in American Christianity. Many seem to only imagine their social options for responding to injustice as being limited to the so-called democratic electoral process. More specifically, every four years, Christians pop blood vessels and gain grey hairs stressing over who the next president will be. This is the only active engagement that they will have socially, so I guess their limited options impose on them a certain manner of stress that cannot be released through daily resistance and activism. So, I am in agreement that our Christian imagination should not merely be defined by citizenship and the options given to the “good citizen.” However, there are also some serious consequences for swinging the pendulum all the way in the other direction, and again, they have racial implications, as well as others.

The first thing we must remember is that we live in a racialized society. By that I mean that race shapes our society’s movements and organization. Basically, race manages us socially and geographically. Unconsciously, most people are “patterned” by race in various ways. Most people go to a church where the majority of people are of the same race. Most people live in a neighborhood where most people are of the same race. Most people attend a school where the majority of people are of the same race. Most of the people that we call to actually chat with are of the same race. Most people regularly invite only people of the same race over to their homes for dinner. Based on race, we often have a sense that we “belong” in certain spaces and not in other spaces. In a sense, race has a sophisticated way of managing us and segregating us, despite that it is not legal segregation. This is no surprise, given that we are working with 400 years of deeply racialized laws and practices in this land. Those types of responses, if not intentionally resisted, will be unconscious and inevitable practices in our society.

If we take seriously the depth of our racialized society, and how it impacts our lives (which I have only unveiled a tiny fraction of), then we must consider the racial outcomes that flow from limiting and only concerning ourselves with “local” & “contextual” realms. For example, lots of research has been done exposing national racial issues that demand massive response.

A perfect example is Michelle Alexander’s acclaimed book, The New Jim Crow. She exposed the national crises and confirmed with data what African American communities have been experiencing and prophetically speaking out against since post-civil rights era. Her simple point is that at every stage of “law and order” from policing, stops, arrests, trials, sentencing, and even after release back into society, the process is racially biased against Black people. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to order it and read it carefully (book discussion groups are being formed right now–contact Samantha Lioi for more information).

Anyway, if you live in a primarily white, suburban, middle class neighborhood that is not vulnerable to these practices and instead actually look to the police and judicial system, expecting it to provide protection and law and order, then what are the implications of deciding to limit your social engagement to your local situation?

You see, by looking down and limiting your social engagement, you create for yourself an artificial social vacuum. It is as though your community and social life has nothing to do with what goes on regionally, nationally, or globally. That isn’t so. The reality is that our way of life always has direct implications beyond our local contexts, because we are interconnected much more than we realize. Only from a vantage point of privilege and comfort, blinded by the logics of dominant culture, can someone think that an ecclesial ethic is sufficient on its own, when it has not taken seriously its own social location and complicity in social systems. This is precisely why historic Anabaptist streams have a complicated history as it relates to slavery and racism in America. On one hand, most Anabaptists did not participate in slavery, unlike almost every other Christian tradition and denomination. On the other hand, unlike the Quakers, many of whom eventually became great abolitionists, Mennonites did very little to actively confront and challenge slavery and later racist manifestations like Jim Crow, Lynching, the convict leasing system, etc. So, it definitely is important to have a formational community that produces people that can resist participating in things like slavery. But it is also important to produce people that are willing to head towards Jerusalem and accept the consequences that come from confronting a social order that does not align with God’s Kingdom.

In 1963, Martin Luther King decided to protest in Birmingham, which was not his actual residency or home. In the process, he was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement over Easter weekend (which is probably the most faithful observance of that weekend that I have ever seen). However, some moderate yet influential white ministers, who were supposed to be “for” integration, critiqued King and the movement while he was sitting in jail. One of the big critiques was that the civil rights movement was moving too fast and was being provoked by “outside agitators.” They argued that it needed to be dealt with by local Birmingham citizens, not outsiders. Dr. King in contrast, understood the danger of limiting one’s social responsibility merely to one’s own local context. Here is just a small portion of his response, in his now famous, Letter from Birmingham Jail:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.[1]

So, in wrapping up, I hope to stretch the focus from merely being ecclesial ethics and local concerns. We do not want to fall back into Christendom logic, where the only options are from the top down, but nor can we disconnect what goes on in Nazareth from what goes on in Jerusalem and Rome. I encourage us all to continue to practice an ecclesial ethic that is simultaneously a socially located and marginalized ethic. I’m not sure the Church collectively can truly follow Jesus faithfully in the world if it isn’t exploring the world from the vantage point of being in solidarity with the crucified among us. And if one suffers, we all suffer, therefore, as King argues, we are no longer outsiders because everyone’s suffering pertains to us.

[1] King, A Testament of Hope, 289–303.

Reflections on the Conversation on Race and the Church

On September 21, Drew Hart and Ben Walter presented a conversation on race and the church at Germantown Historic Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, sponsored by the Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ Peace & Justice Committee.  (Listen to the podcast.)  The following are reflections on this conversation from two men in very different walks of life: Mikah, a biracial young adult who is working with students in north Philadelphia, and Firman, a white pastor of over twenty-five years, ministering in a prosperous, rural setting.

“Take daring and bold steps”

mikahby Mikah Ochieng, Philadelphia Praise Center

Few people can present on the topic of race with such knowledgeable comprehension and articulation that it greatly impacts others, possibly for the first time in their lives, to open their eyes and hearts to new and positive perspectives of understanding the people with whom they come in contact everyday. PhD student at Lutheran Seminary, Drew Hart, achieved this very feat at September 21’s conversation on race at Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust.

I, for one, particularly appreciated the intentional usage of official vocabulary and language that tied thoughts, ideas, and experiences to meaningful terms that are often used in the public arena when facilitating dialogue on the topic of race. I took Hart’s usage of terminology to be a great gesture of introduction into historical and trending issues that evolved out of the topic of race. And maybe because talking about race, ethnicity, or cultural background is typically taboo in the public arena, we might need a good refresher to help us not only be conscious people of a racialized society, but active engagers of racial reconciliation.

Hart shared a glimpse into his story of growing up in a racialized society and being the target of micro aggressions, a term used to describe the subtle, non-verbalized, non-conscious marginalizing actions of others towards people of different races and cultures. Hart calls this a sort of ‘silent-killer’ in the arsenal of 21st century racism.  Like the harpoons of institutional racism, which is typically a covert form of marginalization working in the forms of our society’s institutions, micro aggressions work in such subtle ways as to not be considered existing issues in our society, but can over time, if gone unnoticed, cause great pain to its victim.

Hart tells a really great encapsulating story of when he was attending college at a well-to-do suburban Christian school and he would walk down the main path that went through the heart of the campus. Occasionally, as he would notice, when groups of white students would pass him they would walk near the opposite edge of the path, cast their eyes down or to the side and stop talking. As soon as they had crossed paths the students would go back to their conversations, laughing and joking just as casually as before.

It’s a small act that would seemingly deserve a small amount of attention, but as Hart describes, “It’s like getting a paper cut: it’s annoying at first, but when you keep receiving that type of treatment, a thousand paper cuts really adds up.”

As a biracial young person, that I was able to relate my own experience to Hart’s. I took some time to reflect and I’ve come to the undoubted conclusion that certain micro aggressions have made up the narrative of my life at a similar suburban liberal arts Christian university as well, not least of all the experience of walking along the paths of the campus and the interactions (or non-interactions) that develop between myself and white students.

Paired with micro aggressions are micro affirmations. That is, the reverse of a micro aggression, a subtle acknowledging action of another’s personal value to the other. One might make space for the other through an affirming smile or nod during a conversation that gives the other a sense of value and self-worth.

I take away from this discussion that there is hope for the Church, particularly our Anabaptist tradition, of becoming not only more racially aware, but active in reaffirmation and racial reconciliation. It is my hope, and I know from discussion with others after the event that it is the hope of many others, that the Church would take daring and bold steps to make racial reconciliation a reality in concrete steps.

Just as Hart and his conversation partner Ben Walter emphasized, reconciliation looks like being active listeners and partnering collaborators with those who share different viewpoints and experiences from our own in situations where power is concerned. A particularly pertinent issue might surround the authority of the Church and how it delegates its finances. Here, then, would be required the shared stewardship of resources across racial boundaries so that all represented peoples in the Church have a slice of dignity. It’s a hard bit to accomplish, but we at least have to try.

Firman“The radical nature of hope”

by Firman Gingerich, Blooming Glen

I am glad I attended the “Conversation on Race and the Church” held last week at the historic Germantown Meetinghouse.

Drew Hart’s comments have had me thinking a lot about my Anabaptist theological underpinnings and how they intersect with theological perspectives of people of color.

Drew reminded us that much of Black Theology comes from the perspective of people on the margins.  He correctly reminded us that much of Jesus ministry was birthed and expressed among folks who were oppressed and on the margins.  The Kingdom of God Jesus was calling people to participate in was a kingdom much at odds with the kingdom of the occupying and brutal Roman government.

Drew suggested that if we want to recover vital Anabaptist faith values, it will need to come through stories of people on the margins.  I think he is on to something that we should pay attention to.  Our Anabaptist parents were often marginalized by persecution or rejection.  Life on the margins taught us much about trusting God and the community to uphold us.  Anabaptism from the margins measured faithfulness by how we followed Jesus’ teachings.  Anabaptists were often bold in offering a prophetic witness to the culture that did not know Christ.

For many years I have felt growing tension over this in preaching.  Settled-in people don’t want faithfulness measured by how well we live the Sermon on the Mount.  We white folks often project that our faithfulness is connected to how we fulfill the American dream.  I’m reminded of what Scott Hutchinson, a pastor friend, told our staff several years ago as he was unpacking a Jesus parable to us: “There is no church in North America that would have Jesus of Nazareth as their pastor today.”    Jesus offered hope, new life, and courage to those on the margins of society and saved much of his criticism for those settled in, the religious and political leaders.

With a fresher perspective I’m wondering again how people on the margins can teach me, a white pastor, about the radical nature of hope that Jesus preached to the masses of the Galilean villages.

Several themes from Drew and Ben Walter’s conversation were helpful for again naming perspectives.  I found it valuable to ponder my white guilt, knowing that I believe deeply in the biblical themes that all of us are created in God’s image.  It was also helpful to be reminded that many people of color do not have the same privileges as I do.  I wondered about ways to model the kind of reflecting conversation between Drew and Ben in our churches.

One thing I have little to wonder about is our future.  The Germantown historic meetinghouse was filled, and mostly with folks much younger than me.  The willingness of younger leaders to have this conversation will only help us move more boldly toward the biblical themes that “we are all one In Christ Jesus.”  May we all help grow John’s dream in Revelation 7 where there is a gathered multitude worshipping at the heavenly throne made up of people from all tribes, peoples, and languages.

Conversation on Race and the Church

Race and ChurchOn September 21, Drew Hart and Ben Walter presented a conversation on race and the church at Germantown Historic Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, sponsored by the Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ Peace & Justice Committee.  This conversation connected Anabaptist and Black Theologies and identified areas in which churches participate in both institutionalized racism as well as acts of micro aggression.

Part 1:

 

Download the podcast

Part 2:

 

Download the podcast

“Dominance is a blinder:” Introducing Drew Hart

Drew Hartby John Tyson, summer writing team

Drew Hart’s journey has pulled him into uncharted territory. His theological work is an encounter at the borderlines between black liberation theology and Anabaptism.

Rarely linked in academic circles, Hart argues that the shared pursuit of justice equips these two traditions to be complimentary conversation partners. Although, Hart emphatically adds, “Anabaptism needs black theology more than black theology needs Anabaptism.”

The origins of black theology can be traced back to the publication of James Cone’s Black Theology & Black Power in 1969. Black theology is a multidimensional approach to theological reflection. Born out of the ongoing experience of oppression endured by the African-American community in the United States, black theology draws from Christianity, the Civil Rights movement, and Black Power. Like feminist, womanist, or Latin American liberation theology, black theology communicates that God is partial to the struggle of those who are the most invisible and least powerful in our culture and society.

The tone of black theology is overwhelmingly constructive. The hope of black theology is not only the radical liberation of the African-American community from racial prejudice, but the emergence of a renewed society, one that provides equal power to all.

Hart’s own engagement with black theology began during his undergraduate studies in Biblical Studies at Messiah College. His discovery of Anabaptism came at the tail-end of his Masters of Divinity work at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pa. Now, as a doctoral candidate at Lutheran Theology Seminary in Philadelphia, Hart is focused on creating scholarship that furthers the conversation between the two traditions that have shaped his faith story.

Hart’s desire to draw resonances between black theology and Anabaptism is as promising as it is timely. In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, many Christians concerned about racial justice sought to lament the ruling. Hart has used his vibrant theology blog as a medium to analyze the verdict’s social and political implications in light of Christ’s resurrection and subsequent defeat of the powers of violence. On his blog, Hart writes, “God invites us to be part of his Resurrection world that overcomes the violence and oppression of this current world and to participate in the world to come, where the vulnerability of young men like Trayvon (and our loved ones) will no longer happen.”

As an associate pastor at Lansdale’s Montco Bible Fellowship and a developing teacher, Hart is passionate about helping Christians of all colors follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Indeed, the sub-title of Hart’s blog, “Taking Jesus Seriously,” always means paying attention to – and having the eyes to see – how social power is unjustly determined by race and class dynamics in our present context.

This challenge is especially hard for white Christians, who often take for granted being in positions of social dominance.

“Dominance is a blinder,” says Hart, and the possibility of overcoming racial injustice involves allowing those in positions of social prestige to be haunted by an uncomfortable challenge: “Can we, despite all of our instincts, truly and fully trust the experience of the other?” This question is, for Hart, a question that Anabaptists are uniquely suited to ask as underdogs in the history of the church. Intentionally working to process our social locations through stories and experiences told by the “least of these,” according to Hart, is something Anabaptists have always attempted to do, albeit imperfectly.

As a leader in both the church and academy, Hart is driven by a vision of justice. It is a vision, though, that is energized by a prayerful patience that God’s solidarity with the oppressed and the biblical promise of a reconciled world will overcome injustice. For Hart, the church is “called out” to be an agent of God’s healing so that the watching world might “catch a glimpse of Jesus’ life.” The church’s public witness is most powerful when it engages in, Hart says, “concrete acts of wrestling with a society in relationship to what it might become” rather than accepting what it may be in the present.

In order for the church to bear witness to God’s dream of a just world, the continual work of overcoming internal divisions and tensions is critical. The church worships each and every Sunday under the gaze of a watching world, a world that is increasingly longing for an encounter with the reconciled people of God. With a pastoral spirit and a vibrant theological vision, Drew Hart is a leader who will continue to help us discern how to embody justice in our communities.