Three-year, $250K effort is led by Dean Javier Viera and Professor Nancy Lynne Westfield.

LD_090717_THEO_Westfield_Lynne_0300_F
Nancy Lynne Westfield is faculty director on the project.

December 2017 – Drew Theological School will teach students and faculty how to publically tackle societal challenges with “spiritual wisdom, prophetic courage and hope,” thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Luce Fund for Theological Education.

The grant will fund a three-year Public Theology Initiative led by Dean Javier Viera and Professor Nancy Lynne Westfield, who’ll serve as faculty director on the project.

“The initiative will provide a comprehensive opportunity for our students and alumni to enhance their skills for doing justice beyond the sanctuary walls,” Westfield said. “Many of our students come to seminary instilled with an interest in—even a track record for—ministries of social protest and civic accountability in our democracy. This project will give new and needed opportunities for students to participate in new partnerships and collaborations for socially transformative efforts.”

Specifically, the grant enables the school to bring justice artists and the leaders of grassroots organizations and Christian social movements to campus to speak, work with students and faculty and teach the skills and practices necessary for courageous, principled leadership in the public square.

At the same time, such organizations and artists will provide internship opportunities for students. In addition, all efforts related to the initiative will be highlighted on a website dedicated to public theology.

Long term, the initiative will lay the groundwork for developing public theology degree programs. As such, the project dovetails nicely with a major curriculum transformation that’s already under way at the Theological School. What’s more, the Public Theology Initiative exemplifies the school’s mission of empowering “creative thought and courageous action to advance justice, peace and love of God, neighbor and the earth.”

Viera hopes that the project will help equip students, faculty and alumni of the Theological School for the new and increasingly complex demands of public religious leadership. Moreover, he envisions the initiative helping to strengthen the resolve and commitment of congregations to be actively engaged in the work of advocacy and solidarity by providing necessary resources and training to address local concerns. In sum, he added, “We want to inspire, prepare and equip our students for the work of justice in the public square.”

The Luce Fund for Theological Education, an initiative of the Henry Luce Foundation’s Theology Program, helps schools create new teaching models, conduct research, develop leadership and design educational programs. As a grantee, Drew Theological School is in select company. Just nine schools received Luce Fund grants this year.