Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio to Explore the History of Black Church

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African-American religious scholars from across the country will be in San Antonio for a black church studies conference at the Oblate School of Theology today and Saturday.

Put on by Oblate’s Sankofa Institute for African American Pastoral Leadership, the meeting will examine the history of black Christianity, with lecturers drawn from Sankofa’s Council of Elders, all of them biblical scholars who have taught and written extensively on black spirituality.

The Sankofa Institute, established to enlist religious leaders in theological study to serve African-American and African communities, now has a cohort of seven students working toward master’s and doctoral degrees.

It’s considered the brainchild of a Catholic nun, Addie Lorraine Walker of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who teaches theology and directs the institute. Sankofa is a word derived from the West African Akan language, meaning “it’s not taboo to fetch what we forgot.”

Although relatively new, the institute already has had an effect, said the Rev. Dr. W. Raymond Bryant, senior pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in San Antonio.

“It brings the best and brightest African-American scholars in the country to the Oblate campus to do lectures and teach classes,” in the process combating misconceptions, some of them the product of bias or cover-up, Bryant said. “We’re learning the real history of African-Americans.”

African-American scholars say black Christianity is as old as Christianity itself.

“The first black convert was Ethiopian,” said Georgetown University professor emeritus Diana L. Hayes, referring to the New Testament story in Acts about the Ethiopian eunuch converted by the evangelist Philip.

Hayes, who holds several doctorates and a law degree and was the first African-American woman to earn a pontifical doctorate in theology from Catholic University of Louvain, will speak on the origins of African-American Catholicism. She’s the author of “Forged in the Fiery Furnace: African American Spirituality.”

Hayes said that although the majority of black slaves converted to Christianity, some were already Christian.

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Source: San Antonio Express News | Elaine Ayala