Synod 2022 asked Calvin Theological Seminary “to give a report to the COD on how they are teaching a biblical and Reformed perspective on issues of race and justice.” It did so on the grounds that “We believe the pulpit holds the key and has the responsibility to teach and inspire members to commit to embrace and embody biblical and Reformed perspectives on race and justice (Art 88)." This document attempts to summarize how CTS is teaching a biblical and Reformed perspective on issues of race and justice, specifically in its Masters of Divinity (MDiv) program, designed to train future pastors, and its Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program. What we mention here are only some of the most prominent examples. Professors and students engage questions of race and justice in light of the gospel in many ways throughout the curriculum, including cross-cultural internships, as well as in our common life together as a community where around 25 different nations are represented in the student body.
Several core courses devote substantial attention to issues of race and justice. The most sustained attention to issues of race and justice is in Ethics and the Christian Life. Approximately two weeks are devoted to matters related to justice, including care for the poor, peacemaking, and reconciliation. A third week is devoted specifically to the origins of modern racism, its contemporary manifestations, and a biblical, gospel-centered response. The origins and history of modern racism is also a major theme in The Story of Christianity II. Specific attention is devoted to the role Christianity has played in colonialism, slavery, segregation, and genocide, as well as to how Christians have witnessed to the gospel and its justice in these areas, such as through missionary work or the civil rights movement. Further attention is devoted to racism and racial injustice in Systematic Theology I, in the context of reflections on humanity’s creation in the image of God and the doctrine of sin. Students are required to write a paper reflecting on issues of racism and racial injustice in various readings, connecting to themes such as hypocrisy and Christian discipleship, and then discuss the papers in class. Systematic Theology II explores the ways in which the church should witness against racism, such as through its celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Leadership in Ministry requires students to grapple with how Jesus led and ministered from the margins. The course on worship explores the transcultural, countercultural, cross-cultural, and contextual dimensions of worship and invites students to respond to case studies and prepare practical assignments in ways consistent with the CRC's statements against racism. Required readings in these core courses have included Redemptive Kingdom Diversity, by Jarvis Williams, Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman, various writings by Martin Luther King Jr, and other important works. Issues of race and justice are also explored in other core courses and in various electives students may choose to take.
The Vocational Formation Office (VFO) provides mandatory training in diversity, equity, and inclusion for all MA and MDiv students each year. MDiv students are also required to fulfill a 200 hour in-context learning assignment at a cross cultural setting.
The Discipleship in Reconciliation and Diversity Team (which includes Rev. Denise Posie and Rev. David Beelen as Redemptive Diversity Discipleship Coaches) offers a variety of services to help students work through issues of race and justice. In addition to helping professors engage these topics as requested (such as in the Leadership in Ministry course and VFO training mentioned above), it offers a course entitled Discipleship in Reconciliation, which explores Christian identity and mission through prayer, biblical reflections, and social analysis.
Additionally, the DMin program includes foundational courses on interpreting culture and context as well as ethnography, plus electives that address systemic change, racism, and the church. Students are required to engage authors from a plurality of contexts and backgrounds.
The common theme in all of this training is that racism is not only sinful; it stands in direct opposition to the good news that in Jesus Christ men and women are reconciled into one body in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all. Thus pastors and church leaders are called to address it in every aspect of church life, including teaching and preaching, worship, discipline, and the diaconate, while also witnessing to the gospel’s transformative power in word and deed in every area of life.