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Public Theology: Serving for the Common Good

We equip our students to proclaim the good news of the gospel, to foster deep spirituality in the lives of others, to serve with cultural competence and commitment to racial equity, and to lead transformative change for the wellbeing of all persons and creation.

At Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary we want our graduates to thrive as public theologians in their communities. Being a public theologian means being able to bring the resources of our faith to the public square with concern for “the common good.” It means being mindful about where God is at work—or not—in certain circumstances. It means explicitly using the language of our faith—sometimes. And, sometimes it means simply caring enough, across the otherness we encounter in the public square, to participate with those of different faiths, or no faith, in a set of shared ethics and in the actions that ensue from these commitments. This kind of collaboration with others for the wellbeing of all increases our impact on issues of homelessness, violence in our communities, poverty, hunger, unemployment, immigration justice, health care, sustainability of our environment, access to quality education, and more.

Though we have taken significant steps–both in the classroom and in practice­–to prepare our graduates to be faith leaders in the public square, we are just getting started. Through our lectures, curriculum, and community engagement, we continue to ensure public theology remains at the forefront of our work in preparing religious leaders to meet the ever-changing challenges and needs of our local and global communities.

Previous Public Theology Lectures

About the Public Theology Lectures

Sponsored by the Office of the President, the Public Theology Lectures seeked to help the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary community understand more about the intersection of the theological perspectives and values as they perform service in the public arena for the well being of all persons and creation. The 2015-2016 series, held in honor of the 45th Anniversary of the Center for the Church and the Black Experience, focused on racial equity and diversity inclusion and provides education and support for religious leaders committed to promoting understanding, dialogue, and justice in their communities.

2015-2016 Public Theology Lecture Series

Dr. Leah Gunning Francis  

September 22, 2015

Ferguson at the Intersection of Faith and Justice
Dr. Leah Gunning Francis, Eden Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey  

November 3, 2015

Freedom in Blackness: Exploring Theology and Self-Identity
in the Midst of Activism

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Boston University School of Theology

Rev. Dr. Michael Nabor  

February 23, 2016

Race Matters through the Lenses of a Local Pastor
Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors, Second Baptist Church

Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II  

March 22, 2016

Conversations with Country Dark: The Craft of Creating Space for Fearless Dialogues
Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II, Candler School of Theology at Emory University

Rev. Dr. Stephen Ray  

April 5, 2016

What to Make of White People: Theological Reflections on BLM
Rev. Dr. Stephen G. Ray, Jr., Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary



2014-2015 Public Theology Lecture Series


October 15, 2014

Public Theology and the Work of the Children's Defense Fund: A Change is Gonna Come
Rev. Janet Wolfe, Director of Children’s Defense Fund Haley Farm and Nonviolent Organizing


March 11, 2015

The Pursuit of God in the World
Rev. Dr. David Frenchak, President Emeritus and Founding Director of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education


Public Theology in the Classroom


Though many of our core courses have long incorporated aspects of public theology, Garrett-Evangelical has begun offering new courses that center around the current focal points for our work in public theology. Some of those courses include:

Establishing Justice at the City Gate: A Public Theology Conversation

As a part of the inaugural celebration of Lallene J. Rector as president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a panel discussion was held titled "Establishing Justice at the City Gate: A Public Theology Conversation." The discussion featured six theologians and public leaders and centered on three key issues: violence, the environment, and immigration.


Public Theology in Practice

Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program

Garrett-Evangelical is an official partner of the Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program and, in partnership with the Evanston community, will be offering this high-quality, literacy-rich program free to underserved children in the Evanston community in the summer. The six-week program helps children fall in love with reading and makes learning fun. It has proven to curb summer learning loss and help close achievement gaps. You can learn more about the program here.

SBC21 Field Education Opportunities

Garrett-Evangelical has partnered with the United Methodist program, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21), that trains seminarians in community organizing in urban ministry field placements in the Chicago area.

Environmental Stewardship

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is committed to integrating ecological perspectives and sustainable practices throughout the curriculum, worship and spiritual life, programming, buildings and grounds, and administrative operations of the seminary. Ourcommitment to environmental sustainability also includes empowering students, faculty, and staff to be good stewards of the earth and its resources in their daily lives, while seeking out institutional collaboration with environmental groups in the Northwestern, Evanston, and Chicago communities.

You can learn more about our environmental stewardship efforts at   

Interfaith Luncheon with Northwestern University

Each year, Garrett-Evangelical cohosts an interfaith luncheon for Evanston religious leaders at Northwestern University with President Morty Schapiro. 

Seminarians for Justice

Seminarians for Justice is a Garrett-Evangelical student group that seeks to provide a community where students can learn about justice work and what it means to actualize public theology. This includes providing education about social/environmental justice issues, connecting with other organizations and seminaries that are working on social/environmental change, and taking part in public actions. Seminarians for Justice values both robust existential reflection on the issues of our time and substantive public work that furthers the commonwealth of God. We are a social action and group education network. Taking seriously the notion of the Word as flesh, we will strive to embody what Christ looks like today by educating ourselves on, and engaging with, contemporary social and/or environmental issues in a public way.