In 2020, the overlapping pandemics of our present moment—systemic racism, COVID-19, economics, and mental health challenges—further exposed and intensified the need for Duke Divinity School to reckon with racial injustice in our community, our classrooms, and our wider culture. We recognize and confess that anti-Black racism, in particular, has contributed to economic and institutional growth for predominantly white institutions. Duke Divinity School is no exception. Our history over the last 90-plus years is complex, with signs of faithful witness alongside painful injustice. We need and commit to move boldly and transparently toward a more faithful future through repentance and reform.
Going forward, this page will serve as a place of information about anti-racism, racial justice, and cultural competency work at Duke Divinity, including important updates, information about events and programs, and the impact of this ongoing and critical work.
Racial Justice Action Plan Summary
Throughout 2020, Duke Divinity School sought to address in deeper and broader ways systemic racism and injustice. Over the summer, three task forces working on Witness, Study, and Self-Examination began to identify the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the school, some of which are represented in the action steps in the document below.
Next steps on anti-racism efforts and a timeline for spring 2020 is released to the Duke Divinity School community.
Dec. 7, 2020
Reports from four working groups are submitted to the dean.
Story Listening Group invites students, alumni, staff and faculty to share stories of their experiences with racism at Duke Divinity.
Sept. 4, 2020
Dean Jones announces four focal priorities for fall 2020: Story Gathering and Listening; Classroom Culture and Mentoring; Worship and Christian Vocational Formation; and Admissions, Financial Aid, and Field Education. Each working group is comprised of students recommended by the Divinity Student Council (DSC), alumni, staff, and faculty. The dean also charges Drs. David Goatley, Nina Balmaceda, and Josh Yates to develop a focus on community-based reparations in collaboration with others across the school and partners across Durham and North Carolina. Working group membership (pdf).
July 31, 2020
The Witness, Study, and Self-examination task forces submit preliminary recommendations to the Dean in preparation for the 2020-21 academic year.
June 17, 2020
President Price announces an anti-racism action plan that aligns with the University’s strategic plan, Toward our Second Century, and which focuses on five areas: (1) empowering our people, (2) transforming teaching and learning, (3) building a renewed campus community, (4) forging purposeful partnerships, and (5) activating our global network.
June 9, 2020
Dean Jones announces three task forces to help map a process for Duke Divinity School to engage students, alumni, faculty, staff and other community members in anti-racism efforts. Task forces are focused on witness, study, and self-examination, and are charged with developing, in consultation with others, ideas, questions, and issues that the Divinity School needs to engage as we work together to repent, reform, and recommit ourselves to being anti-racist and to serving Christ more faithfully.
Responding Faithfully: Racial Justice
As the U.S. has grappled with racial injustice, the Duke Divinity community has engaged in theological reflection and conversation about faithfully responding to this challenge. Faculty, alumni, and students have contributed articles and other content in a range of publications that offer ministerial perspectives and spiritual hope.
Duke Divinity Faculty
How an Open Bible Should Dismantle White Supremacy
J. Ross Wagner, associate professor of New Testament, writes about how white followers of Jesus must live in keeping with the gospel story and oppose the persistent, systemic racism in American society.
Finding Hope in the Fragments
In an essay adapted from his remarks at a Duke Divinity town hall meeting, Dean Greg Jones argues that the current challenge of the pandemic, which has exposed underlying systems of injustice, is a pivotal moment that requires a response centered in the story of the gospel.
Will Willimon: Preaching Grace for an Anti-racist Church
"Wesleyan grace is the power of God working in you to give you a more godly life than the one you were bred (by structures of white supremacy) to live," writes Professor Willimon in his blog.
David Emmanuel Goatley: Enough Conversations; Let’s Do Something about Racism
Professor Goatley writes in Good Faith Media about the need to start working for liberation before we can work on reconciliation.
Luke Powery on Racism and Injustice: Navigating a Time of Turmoil and Pain
In a video Q&A, Powery, dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity, and Kim Hewitt, vice president for the Office for Institutional Equity, talk about next steps and navigating the pain of racialized incidents.
Voices From the Fellowship Speak Strongly for Racial Justice
Professor Goatley spoke at an event for the Voices from the World Council of Churches Global Fellowship, speaking out against racism and for justice.
Duke Divinity Students
My White Coat Feels Heavy
"I yearn to provide a practice where the Black body is protected, advocated for and celebrated...It is this hope that keeps me buoyed against the grim realities of our world," writes Theology, Medicine, and Culture Fellow Kirsten Simmons.
The Church is Sick — It’s Time to Heal
Writes Theology, Medicine, and Culture Fellow Danielle Ellis, "I want to ask [white Christians], how can you earnestly hope and pray that we might be healed if you let the invisibility of racism keep you from acknowledging that it is killing us?"
Duke Divinity Staff
Protecting the Vote is One Way to Show Black Lives Matter
The new threat posed by COVID-19 joins the ongoing threat against Black lives from police violence and a criminal justice system that protects white supremacy, writes Mycal Brickhouse, assistant director of alumni affairs in Sojo.net.
Aleta Payne: To My White Sisters in Christ
Payne, the senior associate editor of Faith & Leadership, challenges white women to move beyond silence or tepid, timid outrage to work for a world in which all of God’s children can live more fully and fairly.
William H. Lamar IV: It's Not Just the Coronavirus -- Bad Theology is Killing Us
The Rev. William H. Lamar IV, pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C, and Duke Divinity graduate, on white evangelicalism and COVID-19.