Written by Sara Hook // Photo by Balazs Balassa
The Black Student Association (BSA) welcomed Dr. Kenneth Gilmore to campus Feb. 9 to speak on the theology and history of the Black church.
Gilmore began preaching at age 12, pastored churches for 25 years and taught for over 20 years in schools across the country.
“Dr. Gilmore provides insight and voice to student and church experiences that do not often get highlighted,” BSA president Halle Miller said. “Among the theological voices that students are exposed to in their Harding Bible education, people like James Cone, who Dr. Gilmore references in building an understanding of the Black theological framework, are not often explored.”
Gilmore spoke in the McInteer Bible and World Missions Center in room 145. Lectures like this are important, BSA sponsor Jessica Berry said, because through them people of different cultures, faiths and ethnicities can learn to support and value each other.
“Oftentimes we see a topic, and we feel like, ‘Oh, because it’s targeting a specific subject I don’t need to learn about it because I didn’t come from it,’ but it’s an opportunity for everyone to learn,” Berry said. “I hope that it sparks continuing conversations after this event, and then I hope that it prompts some questions.”
Berry said many students she recruits grew up in African American Churches of Christ, and being at Harding can be a culture shock. This lecture was also meant to help them realize the value of where they came from.
Gilmore will expand on his lecture in an eight week series titled “Theology of the Black Church Experience,” which can be taken for one, two or three Bible credit hours. The course considers the inception, history, nature and development of the Black church, as well as how theologians shaped Christian theology while facing suffering, injustice and racism.
“You live in a multiracial and a multicultural world, and if you only think through the prism through which you’ve been exposed to predominantly, then you miss out on the uniqueness and the richness of other cultures,” Gilmore said. “As an educated person, you want to be awakened and be exposed to all broad ways of thinking.”
Gilmore’s doctoral and master’s work was involved with Christianity as it relates to the Black experience. It is fascinating, Gilmore said, because it deals with the uniqueness of the Black church, Black music and Black theology.
“I want [students] to see the beauty of the Black church and the beauty of how we do theology, how we read scripture,” Gilmore said. “One of the things I’m gonna be pointing out is that our hermeneutics — how we approach text — is different than how most other people read text. So I’m just looking forward to students being challenged and being critical, self-reflective.”
The class will be offered March 13 to May 5 and will be mainly online with some live lectures. Interested students must sign up by March 13. For more information, email email@example.com.