From the Alumni Board: "Been in the Storm So Long" website highlights history and "lived theology" of black seminarians

By Jeffrey Oak ’85 M.Div., ‘96 PhD
President, YDS Alumni Board

“The signs of the Christian church have always been the lion, the lamb, the dove, and the fish, but never the chameleon.” “There are acts of great faith and acts of great foolishness, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two.” “Is the role of the church to save souls or transform the social order…or both?”

Storm WebsiteThese nuggets of wisdom, from Allan Boesak, Michelle Alexander and Raphael Warnock respectively, hint at some of the rich treasures available in a new web-based resource, Been in the Storm So Long. This website is one element of a three-year project chronicling the history of theological education for blacks in America, linking church and academy, with particular attention to the experience of blacks at Yale Divinity School.

This history includes James Pennington, who circumvented Connecticut’s “Black Laws” to attend lectures at YDS in the 1830s; Mary Goodman, who labored as a domestic worker in New Haven until her death in 1872, leaving her entire estate to educate individuals of African descent for the “Gospel Ministry” at Yale; Solomon Coles, a former slave who was the first black to graduate from YDS in 1875; Orishatukeh Faduma, the first in a steady stream of West Africans to attend YDS, graduating in 1894; and Rena Weller Karefa-Smart, who in 1945 became the first black woman to graduate from YDS.

Pennington, Goodman, Coles, Faduma, and Karefa-Smart are examples of the hundreds of individuals whose influence has rippled across time and geography and race to impact generations of church and community leaders around the world. It is clear that the testimony of those who have “been in the storm so long” will instruct and inspire current and future black seminarians as they prepare to minister in an increasingly complex and fractured world.

Raphael Warnock, a successor to Martin Luther King Jr. as senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, exemplified this instruction and inspiration in his 2013 Parks-King Lecture, “Piety or Protest: Black Theology and the Divided Mind of the Black Church.”

Warnock states that black prophetic preaching serves as the “conscience of the American church,” particularly as it relates to maintaining a clear distinction between the claims of temporal and spiritual authority. In this respect, Warnock locates the contributions of Black Theology squarely within the tradition of Augustine’s discussion of God and Caesar in The City of God, Martin Luther’s sermon “Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should be Obeyed,” and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s analysis of God and government in Ethics.

In the conclusion to his 2013 lecture, Warnock asserts that piety, protest, and praxis are inextricably linked: “theology that is not lived is not theology at all.”

It is our sincere hope that Been In the Storm So Long is inspiring a rich and lived theology indeed.

Visit the website at

Date Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 - 2:08pm