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Church must change perspectives to bring real justice, speaker says

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A blogger, theologian, pastor, author and professor, Drew G.I. Hart will bring his well-developed views on the church and racism to Bethel College for two lectures, Feb. 12-13.

Hart, who lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is a native of Philadelphia. He spent 10 years in pastoral ministry before taking a position as assistant professor of theology at Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 2016.

Hart’s Bethel lectures, “Trouble I’ve Seen: Better Frameworks for Discussing Race and Racism Together” (Feb. 12, 7 p.m.) and “Who Can Be Trusted?: Breaking the Cycle of 400 Years of Bad Racial Intuition” (Feb. 13, 11 a.m.), are supported by the Staley Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series.

They will be given in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center and are free and open to the public.

Hart had never heard of “Anabaptists” (the Christian movement that began in the 16th century, of which Mennonites are a part) until he went to Messiah College as an undergraduate, where he majored in biblical studies. Although he didn’t learn a lot about Anabaptists at the Brethren in Christ school (the BIC is also an outgrowth of Anabaptism), he says that’s where “the seed was planted.”

Upon graduation, he was invited to be part of the pastoral team at Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church, where he stayed for four years before returning to Philadelphia to attend Biblical Theological Seminary (BTS).

He says it was only when he re-entered some of the networks from his youth that he realized “these Anabaptists got me.”

“I started calling myself an Anabaptist,” he told The Mennonite in a 2016 interview, “just to be honest about some of the faith formation that had quietly and slowly shaped me.”

Hart now refers to himself as an “AnaBlacktivist” – someone who is “engaging Black theology and Anabaptism while also engaged in some form of activism.

“It’s the type of Christian formation and Christian discipleship that allows these different streams to all shape [our] attempt at following Jesus.” (The full interview with Hart is in the February 2016 issue of The Mennonite.)

Hart earned an M.Div. degree from BTS and a Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where his dissertation “explored the overlaps of white supremacy and Western Christendom, and how Black theology and Anabaptism aid us in untangling our lives from these realities.”

In 2016, Herald Press published Hart’s book, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism.

In his Bethel lecture that shares part of that title, Hart plans to “weave together accessible and everyday personal stories with antiracism theory and Christian theology … [to] help illuminate how race has unconsciously been a part of our lives.

“While there is no quick fix for tackling our racialized society, I’ll provide concrete practices for churches committed to the journey of struggling for racial justice in the way of Jesus.”

Of his second lecture, Hart says, “Too often the church misses out on opportunities to learn needed lessons from past historical mistakes.”

With 400 years of history to glean from, Hart plans to “provide a historical and theological perspective on our racial intuitions, and why it seems that so many people in the past failed to embody what was required of them to live faithfully and justly before God.”

The audience will be invited “to chart a new path through what [I call] counterintuitive solidarity, which draws from the life of Jesus.”

In addition to his teaching, Hart continues to facilitate anti-racism trainings and seminars with churches and groups around the country, as well as give lectures and talks at colleges and conferences. He blogs occasionally for The Mennonite and regularly at “Taking Jesus Seriously,” hosted by The Christian Century.

Learn more at, which includes information on how to connect with Hart via Facebook and Twitter.

The Staley Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series was established in 1969, named for its benefactors, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Staley of New York, who set it up to honor their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Staley and Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Haynes. Bethel College has been hosting Staley Lectures periodically since 1972.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2016'17. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.