For the welfare of the city

Some folks have asked me to post the description of the course Cleve Tinsley and I will be teaching next week at Cambridge University’s Theological Federation. Here it is:

Cleve Tinsley (with hat and scarf) and Matt Russell (at center) lead group discussion

Cleve Tinsley (with hat and scarf) and Matt Russell (at center) lead group discussion

“For the Welfare of the City: Toward a Theology of Improbable Friendships”

Our short course will explore the changing dynamics of ministry in urban and multiethnic settings in the United States, specifically utilizing as a case study the city of Houston, TX. Broadly, we will examine how what many perceive of as the more pressing issues of postmodernity—e.g., privilege, identity, and racial difference—represent some of the challenges which religious leaders must consciously confront in order to open up the possibility for true social transformation. Through a theology of embodiment called “improbable friendships,” Matthew and Cleve will describe and propose models of community engagement and social activism that helps overcome what sociologists of religion call the bonding/building dilemma.

This model of engagement and activism involves 1) a deep wresting with the history of racial formation in U.S. and North America, 2) an examination of some of the “theologies of difference” that have emerged since the 1950s and '60s in response to the intractable divisions that issues of race, gender, and sexuality erect, and 3) a commitment to radical forms of multi-ethnic social activism and employing core competencies which enable religious leaders to grapple with the complexity and demands for coalitional alliance for social transformation.

Well, there it is folks. Now all we have to do is teach it!

In my next blog post, I will list some resources that have been very helpful for me in preparing for our time at the Federation.