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Bishop William Barber leaving N.C. church to lead Yale Divinity Program

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / December 22, 2022

The pastor of Goldboro’s Greenleaf Christian Church DOC is leaving to lead the new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn.

Normally this wouldn’t be headline news, except the pastor is Bishop William J. Barber II, the acknowledged leader of the Moral Monday movement, founder – president of Repairers of the Breach, and co-convener of the Poor People’s Campaign – A National Call for a Moral Revival.

Bishop William Barber

Bishop Barber will relinquish his role as pastor of Greenleaf Christian, a church in the Disciples of Christ faith, after 30 years, by the middle of next year.
In his new position as “professor in the practice of public theology and public policy,” Barber told Religion News Service (RNS) that he will formally begin teaching classes at Yale Divinity School in January. His goal is to produce the next generation of faith-inspired social justice religious leaders to impact the body politic for critical social change.

In its announcement Monday about the new Divinity School center, Yale News reported that it will “…pursue teaching, practice, research, and collaboration at the intersection of theology and advocacy,” all rooted in the philosophy of moral movements.”

“If we’re serious when we say the first goal of the society is to establish justice, or if we’re serious when we say the first premise of religion is love and justice and truth — that’s what we hope to bring, seed and propagate in the public square for this new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy,” he said.
“I want to share what I have learned,” he told RNS. “I believe one of the critical keys in this society is for pastors to understand how to be engaged in pastoral care, the priestly function of the pastorate, but also to be engaged in prophetic and public policy. All three of those things must go together.”

Planning to fully transition to Yale Divinity in June, Barber said, “I love pastoring. I love the people. I love what it’s taught me. But I will not be selfish and not share (what I’ve learned) to generations coming.”

As director of the new center, Bishop Barber said there will be a liaison with HBCUs primarily in the South, to help connect students there connect with the new center’s programs.

“I extend congratulations to my friend, Bishop William Barber, on his selection to lead the Yale Divinity School’s new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy. I cannot think of anyone more suited for this role than him,” said Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) in a statement Monday.

“The movement that he spearheaded through his many years of grassroots advocacy to fight systemic racism, poverty, and other injustices is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work he has done at the intersection of faith and advocacy.”

“His dedication and proven ability to build coalitions aimed at improving the lives of poor and low-income people around the world makes him deserving of this position,” Butterfield continued. “I applaud Yale Divinity School for making this momentous appointment.”

Bishop Barber is a highly recognized, highly respected social justice leader across the nation. He once led the N.C. NAACP as president from 2005 to 2017.
Last Thursday, Bishop Barber, by invitation, opened the legislative session of the U.S. House of Representatives with prayer.


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