The Union Forum
The Union Forum encompasses the institutes and initiatives at Union Theological Seminary. Together, they provide innovative ways for seminarians to put what they learn in the classroom directly into practice as they work to create a more just world. Through the Union Forum’s expansive programming, the seminary encourages public engagement around global issues through seminars, lectures featuring world-renowned activists and though leaders, and specialized course offerings. These programs reflect Union’s historic commitment to living the world’s claims upon the church, and offer a unique opportunity for students to develop skills in areas that range beyond the traditional seminary education. At Union, students have the opportunity to live out their commitment to social justice through art, food justice, human rights advocacy, and ministry among and on behalf of the poor. For more information, visit: http://theunionforum.org
In December 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called upon all people of good will to “lift the load of poverty” in the United States and across the world. Today millions still bear the burden of poverty, and live without homes, health care, or jobs. The Poverty Initiative is dedicated to raising up generations of religious and community leaders dedicated to building a social movement to end poverty, led by the poor. By bridging gaps between community organizations, religious communities, and the academy, the initiative seeks to address the root causes of poverty in the United States. Every January, the initiative runs the Poverty Immersion course, where students travel to impoverished areas of the country, live with the residents, and learn about the challenges and realities of being poor in the United States. Since its founding at Union in 2003, the Poverty Initiative has steadfastly worked to place poverty at the center of both theological study as well as the prevailing human rights discourse in the United States, asserting that because poverty is not a permanent feature of society, there is a moral imperative to end poverty today. “A theology that suggests that poor children and homeless families are poor and homeless because they live in sin or don’t believe is not only a bad theology. It is an untruthful and unjust theology. And it must be challenged.” —Willie Baptist Poverty Initiative Scholar in Residence and Coordinator, Poverty Scholars Program For more information, visit: http://povertyinitiative.org/
Kairos: The Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
The Kairos Center for Religion, Rights and Social Justice aims to strengthen the relationship between the world’s religions and the global struggle for human rights. Waves of mass movements, including the Saffron revolution in Burma, the 2008 global food riots, the Arab Spring, and the 2011 Occupy protests have given a strong voice to widespread popular demands for dramatically better lives for all people. They have also further exposed and mobilized powerful economic, political and social forces deeply opposed to change and prepared to do what is necessary to stop it. These challenges require action based on serious reflection and analysis. By linking scholarship and education to an engagement with on-the-ground struggles for human rights, the Kairos Center directly contributes to the expansion and strengthening of work done by faith communities and organizations actively engaged in struggles for economic and political equality. For more information, visit: http://kairoscenter.org/
The work of the Edible Churchyard places Union at the center of a burgeoning urban community movement reconsidering the relationship between food and justice. Growing out of Union’s dedication to ecological justice as an inseparable aspect of social justice, the Edible Churchyard—recognized by The White House—brings together members of local synagogues, neighborhood mosques, churches, and the Union community to share meals and faith practices around food that engage communities in reflection upon the theological implications of food, eating, and justice. Alongside these programs, the Edible Churchyard also maintains gardens at Union, the vegetables from which are openly available to the seminary community. Through experimentation on-site, the program creates and evaluates prototypes and methods for urban growing, and offers consultation for other communities interested in transforming their urban spaces into green, productive growing spaces. “Food sovereignty is a justice issue affecting the physical and spiritual health of people throughout New York City and the Edible Churchyard’s active growing spaces function as an urban farming laboratory for the students, faculty, and staff.” —Kristen Psaki Master of Divinity student & Program Manager, Edible Churchyard For more information, visit: http://ediblechurchyard.org
One of Union’s most popular lecture series, “Got Sermon?” brings together New York preachers with Union students and faculty several times a semester. In each workshop, participants study the Bible and engage in the exegetical and homiletical challenges of preaching particular texts and themes within the context of their communities. These mornings are a time of renewal, as those gathered find a find a fresh word within familiar texts. Anyone who preaches, teaches, or otherwise leads a congregation is welcome to attend, free of charge. All that’s needed is a Bible. Come, and study with us. For more information, visit: https://utsnyc.edu/academics/lifelong-learning/
The Center for Race, Religion and Economic Democracy
The Center on Race, Religion and Economic Democracy (C-RRED) addresses oppressive social structures and practices, and promotes collective action for social transformation in response. C-RRED brings together faith leaders, organizers, scholars, and activists to develop the intellectual and moral resources necessary to build a prophetic social justice movement. By engaging people across a variety of backgrounds, the center brings academic analysis into conversation with actual movements. These efforts nurture leaders who can plant one foot squarely with the affected community and the other in the institutions and processes effecting change. As part of Union’s history promoting social movements for justice—including racial, gender, LGBTQ, ecology, workers’ rights, poverty, and peace—C-RRED draws upon the seminary’s unique resources to drive robust theological inquiry connected to and informed by organizing and activism for democratic action. “Fueled by a moral ideology insisting on punitive retribution and incapacitation, these systems have often worsened the poverty, violence, and powerlessness they claim to address.” —Charlene Sinclair Ph.D. candidate & Director, The Center on Race, Religion and Economic Democracy For more information, visit: http://myunion.utsnyc.edu/crred
The Union Food Lab
Building on Union’s legacy of social justice and community leadership, the Union Food Lab is working to strengthen the economic prosperity of Harlem and its residents while enriching the student body’s engagement with the community. The first of its kind in Harlem, the Foot Lab is leading the way in social entrepreneurship, offering a clean and spacious commercial kitchen and training ground to local food entrepreneurs. The Food Lab is also developing programs to engage the community around a variety of food justice-related areas. This includes culinary arts education for West Harlem residents, healthy cooking and nutrition classes, visits that encourage youth to adopt healthy eating habits, and workforce reentry courses for formerly incarcerated individuals. For more information, visit: http://www.unionfoodlab.org/
Women, Religion, and Globalization
The Institute for Women, Religion, and Globalization serves as a convening presence for women religious leaders, scholars, and activists from around the world. Through the creation of events and lectures on topics related to women, religion, and globalization, the institute brings well-recognized women of different faiths to Union to share their unique perspectives. The annual Judith Davidson Moyers Women of Spirit Lecture has featured pioneering global leaders from around the world and includes opportunities for conversation and debate. The Institute also strives to ensure that no woman, of any religion, is denied access to the type of theological and global leadership education she desires because of a lack of financial or social support. In the fall of 2013 the institute launched the Interfaith Women’s Residency Program, where women from different religious traditions live together in community at the Seminary, exploring and recording their insights and experience. “Through everyday works of love, faith-centered women quietly keep our world turning. At IWRG, we equip women with leadership tools and mentors. This institute is world-changing.” —Serene Jones President, Union Theological Seminary.
Forum for Theology and the Arts
Union has long celebrated the connection between art and worship in all its forms, from the soaring choruses of gospel hymns to the quiet moments of inspired contemplation. The Forum for Theology and the Arts provides a multi-faceted space for the entire Union community to engage in the connections between art, religious traditions, spiritualty, and its personal, social, and political implications. Through rituals, performance art, concerts, theater, exhibits, and literary workshops, this active engagement with the art and artists of New York enriches theological education, inviting broader convictions and deeper connections. Students who engage in this community of theological discovery come to appreciate the many ways artists lead in imagining possibilities. How they meet us with expressions of every kind of human yearning: what we desire, what we lament, how we move our bodies into knowing our next steps. The Forum provides those moments and spaces that remind us of courage, inspire us to action, urge our creativity, and stir our relationships with God and that which is most deep within us. “Artists are essential partners with theologians. They provide matter and substance for mystery and need.” —Janet Walton Professor of Worship
Interfaith Women’s Residency Program
Each year, six graduate students from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith backgrounds build an intentional community together on the Union campus. Developing relationships with one another, they explore the nuances of interreligious dialogue. No, it’s not the plot of a new reality TV show, it’s Union’s Interfaith Women’s Residency Program. A joint effort between the Institute for Women, Religion, and Globalization and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Community Engagement, this pilot program challenges students from diverse faith backgrounds to coexist in community for a full academic year. Residents share meals, courses, guided readings, and the unique opportunity to learn in-depth about the religious and spiritual lives of their neighbors. Each woman organizes activities for the group such as site visits to houses of worship, reading one another’s sacred texts, participating in spiritual practices, etc. Residents receive course credit, but more importantly they gain a first-hand understanding of the challenges and rewards of living in an interfaith environment.
Union Seminary Quarterly Review (USQR)
Union Seminary Quarterly Review was founded in 1939 as a platform for inspired and socially-engaged religious thought. Prominent contributors in the early days of the review included Reinhold Neibuhr, Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, and Albert Einstein.
As a continuation of the intellectual rigor and creative voice that characterized our rich history, USQR has expanded its vision to embrace a multicultural outlook in theology and an interdisciplinary approach to the study of religion. Reflecting this new perspective, it has featured articles and book reviews by established and emergent biblical scholars, historians, ethicists, theologians, and other academic, church and social commentators.
Although editorially independent of Union Theological Seminary, USQR continues to be managed by doctoral students of Union, with support and participation from faculty and administration. Find more information here.
VISION: Cultivating Pastoral Imagination
Join a conversation among leaders reaching from the cathedral to the storefront, from the West Side to Wall Street, from Queens to the Barrio as we create a vision for the future of pastoral leadership.
Do you ask – Where is my ministry going? How can I anticipate the future? What can I do to respond to the growing and changing needs of my community?
Beginning in the Fall of 2014, Union Theological Seminary launched a new program for early/mid-career pastors funded by the Lilly Endowment – Vision: Cultivating Prospective Pastoral Imagination.
We will provide the space for you to think out loud and to find new partners to dream with. We anticipate long conversations and the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues, mentors, and new connections committed to imagining contexts where your community can cultivate a vision for the future. And we will help you find support for the work you do to imagine the future of your community.
The Islam, Social Justice, and Interreligious Engagement Program (ISJIE)
The Islam, Social Justice, and Interreligious Engagement Program (ISJIE) promotes academic and public education aimed at cultivating diverse Islamic responses to pressing social justice issues. It seeks to generate innovative and informed discourse on topics, such as climate change, racism, religious pluralism, violence, poverty and economic inequality, incarceration, and gender and sexuality. Affirming the value of dialogical exchange and recognizing that social justice issues require cooperative reflection and action, ISJIE activities are undertaken in a deliberately interreligious fashion. ISJIE’s activities include academic course offerings in Islam, Social Justice and Interreligious Engagement; ISJIE public lecture series; “Islam in the Public Square” Scholar Workshops; ISJIE Graduation Award; and the Muslim Women Leaders Program (MWLP). For more information, visit: https://utsnyc.edu/isjie