Saturday, May 24, 2008

5508: Progressive Presbyterian.


Presbyterians pick first black seminary leader

RICHMOND, Va. — For the first time in its 196-year history, one of the nation’s oldest Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminaries will be led by a black pastor, a triumph for African-Americans who hope he’ll use his position to nurture the next generation of minority pastors.

Brian Blount, the head of Richmond’s Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, is positioned to shape everything from recruitment to curriculum for the institution.

Supporters hope Blount’s high-profile position will inspire black students to attend the school; later, as pastors, those students could draw a more diverse group of parishioners desired by this shrinking 2.3-million-member denomination, which is 92% white.

Blount, 51, embraced the challenge at a May 7 inauguration ceremony.

“Are we ready to be more diverse?” Blount asked, to applause. “If we’re going to transform a multicultural world, we must be a multicultural seminary.”

He takes on the role in the former capital of the Confederacy, at a seminary where one Civil War-era professor boldly spoke in favor of slavery.

“It is a historic moment,” said the Rev. Gregory Bentley, head of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus in Charlotte “The symbolism of it, I think, is powerful in that it points the way to the possibility of an inclusive and diverse future.”

[Read the full story here.]

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