Welcome to CBE
CBE’s past is a rich one—embodied by students, staff members, and faculty of Garrett-Evangelical, by pastors, parishioners, and community leaders in Evanston, metropolitan Chicago, and beyond, and by supporters and partners from many places. Each of these persons contributed to a history centered around teaching and learning, activism and service, research and publishing—and, at the end of the day, centered on transforming and being transformed. Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary became a different place because of CBE. Evanston became a richer place because of CBE. And many students, staff, and faculty came to Garrett-Evangelical because of CBE.
CBE’s present builds on its past, but against a very different backdrop of political, sociological, and theological challenges than those faced forty, thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago. Today, the dominant narrative as it relates to racial justice and equality is how far we’ve come—not how far we’ve yet to go. So if the question previously was should we start something like CBE, the question now is should we keep it? If the question previously was why do we need something like CBE, the question today is why do we still need something like CBE?
Over this past three years, CBE has convened panels that have brought leading scholars and thought leaders to campus to talk about the unfinished business of civil rights, the growing distance between churches and the urban poor, the increasing perceptual differences across generational lines, and the inattentiveness of our churches to forces of globalization. CBE has taken faculty and students to South Africa to look comparatively at challenges to the theological formation of public leaders, and CBE has brought to campus scholars from South Africa and from the UK to reflect on religion and race in the racialized West. CBE has joined hands with congregations in Evanston in promoting community service in response to social needs within Evanston and metropolitan Chicago, and it has convened dialogues between leaders of the Chicago police department and seminary professors across the Chicagoland area to discuss ways seminaries can assist in responding to Chicago’s youth violence crisis. CBE is embracing its present context with vigor, and through a critical lens.
CBE has offered a vantage point on the experiences of Black people and their relationship in a broader sense to what it means to be human and to be made in God’s image and for God’s purposes. But it has also offered an opportunity for building solidarities across racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic boundaries. CBE still offers this, and we invite your participation and partnership. We invite you to enter into dialogue with us about the challenges and needs of our communities and to participate with us programmatically as together we attempt to respond to our present context. And we invite you to partner with us financially as we attempt to build our capacity and extend our contributions.
Director, Center for the Church and the Black Experience