The 2016 Election and Drew Theological School: A Call and Response
Seminary helps bring the campus community together.
November 2016 – Drew Theological School is playing a key role in addressing the raw feelings around the 2016 presidential election.
The day after the election, the school’s daily worship service in Craig Chapel focused on prayers for the nation and a call to action on behalf of the country’s most vulnerable. The day after that, seminary professors took part in a university-wide panel discussion at Crawford Hall with faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. Dr. Javier Viera, dean of the Theological School, moderated the discussion.
In addition, the Theological School is planning a teach-in to address racial, class, gender and educational divides in the U.S. The daylong event will feature Visiting Professor Willis Johnson and other faculty and take place early next semester, according to Dean Javier Viera.
In a note to students, professors and staffers at the seminary, Viera stressed the need to unite and provide moral leadership after a vitriolic and divisive presidential race, regardless of whom you supported.
“In its aftermath, we needed to join together for communal prayer, to reflect and discuss and to find ways to ensure that we are able to bring our communities together when it seems so much is tearing us apart,” Viera wrote.
“We’re part of a community of scholars and practitioners whose responsibility it is to lead in moments like this. Our leadership must be thoughtful, informed, faithful and prophetic; otherwise we simply add to the din that has drowned out reason and respectability as part of our common discourse.”
Students who participated in the worship service—which was planned before Election Day—came away with a sense of hope amid the broader discord. Led by Traci West, the James W. Pearsall Professor of Christian Ethics and African American Studies, and students in her God and Politics course, the service featured personal statements, prayer and music.
West delivered a rousing call to worship that welcomed all people, acknowledging that those who had gathered in the sacred space supported different candidates, represented diverse political ideologies and yet prayed to the same God.
“What I find most meaningful about my role as a professor at a seminary is the opportunity to guide, encourage and challenge my students to provide wise and prophetic Christian leadership for their communities precisely at moments such as this one,” said West. “It’s an awesome privilege for me to be able to do this work.”
Gerard Jameson, one of the student speakers, said, “We all preached from the same text, which is the story of the Prodigal Son. For my part what I tried to emphasize was the fact that in the story, there is no resolution. We don’t know if the older brother goes back into the house to be reconciled with his younger brother who left.
“All we know is that there’s tension,” added Jameson, who is pursuing a master of sacred theology. “We’ve got to sometimes live into the tension. The story hasn’t yet been written. As Christians and as followers of Christ, we have opportunity and the power to help write a story of unity and to help write a story of togetherness and restoration.”
Another student speaker, Diane Anderson, said, “My message was basically, we’re going to have to write this narrative ourselves. This is not for someone else to write for us. We’re not waiting to get permission. We need to do what we need to do as human beings.
“And the way we treat one another, how we respond to the needs of others and the needs of the earth—the government doesn’t legislate that. We do that. We decide that,” said Anderson, who’s pursuing a master of divinity.
As a result of the service, Anderson is “feeling empowered and stronger because it’s not about a President Clinton or a President Trump. It’s about the human beings in this country—especially Christians—rising up, being the light, being the help we need for one another and caring for our neighbors.”