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  • Center for African American Theological Studies

    On-line course development framework/description draft

    When the slaves were introduced to Christianity, they brought with them their African “pre-understanding.” Thus it may be said that Africans were not converted to Christianity but that they converted Christianity to themselves….Thus Black Theology is called to be loyal to its African elements if it wishes to be faithful to the black religious experience. The black religious experience has in common with its African roots the concept of the divine as all-encompassing. (Cecil Cone, The Identity Crisis in Black Theology p 42, 114)

    This introductory course of the Center for African American Theological Studies will deconstruct the basic principles which uniquely position the CAATS Africentric theological framework for understanding, developing and engaging in Black Church ministry in the context of 21st century global realities.

    The course is grounded by Cecil Cone’s statement as a foundational inquiry into the relationship between African ontology, philosophy and religious history and the past and contemporary expressions of religious praxis of African people in the U.S.

    The course will outline assumptions of Africentric theological reflection to further introduce and explore religious traditions of other African peoples in the Diaspora, while also examining traditional African religion.

    The African American Church is not and has never been monolithic in its theological perspective. But in the midst of sustained dehumanization, racism and oppression, the prophetic tradition of the Black Church has been distinct, well documented and sustained. The resistance and quest for liberation in the context of the black church prophetic tradition has included the appropriation of the Exodus stories and the Gospel as revealed through the life and ministry of Jesus, Son of God. It is this legacy of the prophetic tradition that grounded the seminal work of James Cone, Gayraud Wilmore, Delores Williams, Jackie Grant and others, transforming systematic theology with the emergence of black liberation and womanist theologies. Subsequent theologians have centered and extended this discourse from an Africentric perspective that is transforming theological reflection into a more global and pan-African context. Those intersections have been specifically examined by the works and ministries of Cecil Cone, Ogbu Kalu, Allan Boesak, Dwight Hopkins, Katie Cannon, Jeremiah Wright, Yvonne Delk, Bernice Powell Jackson, Linda Thomas, Iva Carruthers, Drew Smith, Josiah Young and L. H. Whelchel.

    Collectively this body of scholarship, in juxtaposition and conversation with indigenous African traditional religion, spirituality and culture has evolved into an Africentric theological framework or hermeneutic through which to examine Biblical text, preach the Christian gospel, develop pastoral and practical ministries and engage in ecumenical and interfaith communion.

    The critical question that emerges is what does it mean to be Black and Christian in a global context and how do African descended persons the world over embrace their sense of humanity and the imago dei. This course will provide students with an opportunity to explore and share their personal experiences and theological beliefs in the backdrop of the prophetic tradition and history of the Black Church.

    Other Questions/Central Quote

    What does Black theology have to say about the fact that two-thirds of humanity is poor and that this poverty arises from the exploitation of the poor nations by rich nations? What, then, is the implication of the Black demand for justice in the U.S. when related to justice for all the world’s victims? What has our experience taught us that would be useful in the creation of a new historical future of all oppressed peoples? James H.Cone

    Basic questions emerge which include: What are the challenges of living out Christian witness in the midst of today’s systems of oppression against God’s people? How does the black church claim to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly in the midst of today’s realities? What is Black church praxis?


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