Womanist and African American biblical interpretation affirms that context always matters when doing biblical interpretation. Biblical interpretation is an interested and subjective political act. How we interpret the biblical text and from what perspective matters. The perspectives of communities of color matter. Our interpretations impact how we see and (de)value ourselves and others, how we interact with our fellow human beings, and how we do ministry. The people of God are called to engage in the work of liberation and social justice and this often begins with critical reflection. Together we will learn to read the biblical text closely, to critically reflect upon it, as a human text and a sacred text. As a human text it reveals, magnifies and indicts human fallibility, short-sightedness, and missteps. As sacred text it compels us to fess up, seek God, to become more humane or godly, to do justice, and embody love. This course will help raise our consciousness about marginalization, oppression, and violence in the biblical text and in our various contexts. We will learn what it means to read intersectionally, as a womanist reads, so that we are reading from the perspective of the least among us. We will move toward doing justice to the biblical text, doing justice to our constructions of God, and doing justice in our worlds and in the world.
Womanism, Biblical Interpretation, and Social (In)Justice is the 2018 Black Christian Ethics and Spirituality lecture of the Sankofa Institute for African American Pastoral Leadership annual lecture series.
Rev. Dr. Mitzi J. Smith is currently a full tenured Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary where she teaches primarily in the Detroit Center. Dr. Smith has been teaching biblical studies and black church studies courses at Ashland for eleven years. She earned her Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis in New Testament at Harvard University. She is the first African American woman to earn a PhD in New Testament at Harvard University. Dr. Smith earned a MDiv at Howard University School of Divinity with an emphasis in biblical studies; a MA in Black Studies from The Ohio State University; and a BA in Theology from Columbia Union College. She has written number essays and articles and has published four books. Her last two books are Insights from African American Interpretation (Fortress, 2017) and I Found God in Me: A Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader (Cascade, 2015). She is currently working on a book entitled Womanist Sass and Talk Back: Intertextuality, Social (In)Justice and Biblical Interpretation and an introductory text to the New Testament that privileges the concerns and voices of people of color. Dr. Smith is an ordained itinerant elder in the AME Church. She has served as an Elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a youth pastor for a Presbyterian church, and an Executive Minister at an AME church. Dr. Smith loves contributing to her community, traveling, self-care, adventure, reading, writing, teaching, and preaching. In 2017 Dr. Smith traveled to Havana, Cuba to teach a group of instructors at the Seminario Evangelico Metodisto, and served as visiting professor at the Hope International University in Fullerton, California. She has been a foster parent and hopes to one day give a child a permanent home.
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