We live in a time of crisis. From the systematic breakdown of democratic institutions, the unrelenting onslaught of white supremacist violence, and the strategic disenfranchisement of minoritized communities to the rising tides of climate change and the resurgence of nationalist rhetoric, this is a moment of social-historical transition and shifts in power. The effects of this multifaceted crisis are lived and borne by real bodies and communities, real lands and waters.
As teachers of theology and religious studies, we also teach in a time of crisis. This raises questions about the purposes of theological education in this time, as well as the pedagogical strategies best suited to this moment. In short, this crisis is itself a "teaching moment," one that requires careful discernment about the use of power, the relationships between theological education and civic engagement, and the vocations for which we prepare our students.
In fall 2018, a group of eight early career theological educators, convened by the Louisville Institute's Vocation of the Theological Educator program, discovered a shared interest in exploring the role of theological education in this time. To frame our engagement, we turned to the action and reflection methods that feminist, womanist, and liberation thinkers have long proposed: methods that approach theological education as "round table talk," which spirals continually between context and tradition, action and reflection (Letty Russell), methods that empower communities to "say a true word" together for the sake of transforming the world (Paulo Freire), methods that contribute to an "emancipatory praxis" for [End Page 159] the sake of human liberation and creaturely flourishing (Katie Cannon).1 Together, we committed to a year-long process of bringing such pedagogical practices into our own classrooms and reflecting together on what we were experiencing and learning about teaching in and to this moment. To give us a common language, we began our year by reading Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this year.
Each Short Take below is authored by a different member of our cohort. Imagine us sitting around a table, sharing with one another and with you, the fruits of our year engaged in this praxis. Around this table are a diverse group of scholar-teachers, each of whom works in a different subfield within theological and religious studies, including homiletics, the black church and the African diaspora, New Testament and early Christianity, theological ethics, constructive and systematic theologies, Islamic and interfaith theologies, and theologies of disability. We teach at liberal arts colleges, seminaries, and major research universities. Held in common among us is a sense that the very theological principles we teach compel us to educate as an act of witness and a practice of hope in this time. [End Page 160]
Mary Emily Briehl Duba is assistant professor of theology at the University of Dubuque and University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. She earned a PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School and an MDiv from Yale Divinity School and holds a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018–2020). firstname.lastname@example.org
. We thank the Louisville Institute for bringing together early career scholars and teachers through its Postdoctoral Fellowship, including quarterly gatherings on the Vocation of the Theological Educator, which set us in a community of shared passion and inquiry. The Louisville Institute further supported this work with a supplemental Transformative Pedagogies grant. We owe a special word of thanks to Edwin Aponte, executive director of the Louisville Institute, and Carmen Nanko-Fernandez, our cohort mentor, each of whom offered wise counsel and support for this endeavor.
1. Letty M. Russell, Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1993), 20–21; Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 50th Anniversary Edition (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018), 88; and Katie G. Cannon, Katie's Cannon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (New York: Continuum, 1996), 18.