Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

9/25 2020

Inside the PTS Curriculum: God-Talk and Public Leadership

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professor’s bio.

This week’s course is: “God-Talk and Public Leadership.”


Derek Woodard-Lehman, who teaches God-Talk and Public Leadership at PTS.

Dr. Derek Woodard-Lehman is the instructor for God-Talk and Public Leadership at PTS.

About God-Talk and Public Leadership

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be engaging with public discourse about God in the class “God-Talk and Public Leadership” with Dr. Derek Woodard-Lehman. This course is open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

This course will explore the intersection of Christian God-talk and public leadership within electoral politics, civic discourse, and social movements in the U.S. It will do so by drawing on a range of theological, philosophical, sociological, historical, and journalistic resources. This will enable students to assess the uses and misuses of religious rhetoric in public life as those uses shape concrete practices of Christian discipleship and democratic citizenship. The course will pay particular attention to dynamics of domination and liberation in African American struggles for racial justice from Abolition to Black Lives Matter.

By the end of the course, students will be able to interpret the Bible as Scripture in order to develop norms and principles for discipleship and citizenship. They will reflect on Scripture and tradition as resources for the public witness and social ministry of the Church. Students will also articulate Christian commitments in ways that are contextually sensitive and locally accountable to multiple publics, especially their own congregational and civic communities. Finally, they will reflect on their vocational formation and identity with respect to their roles as social, political, and moral leaders in their congregational and civic communities.

Assignments include required readings, classroom participation, two short essays concerned with textual and contextual analysis, and a final paper or project. The texts for this course will be Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies & the Justice of God by Kelly Brown Douglas; Effective Organizing for Congregational Renewal by Michael Gecan; Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America by Wesley Hogan; Aldon Morris’s The Origins of the Black Civil Rights Movement: Communities Organizing for Change; and Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. Additional readings will be provided to students.


About the Instructor

Dr. Derek Woodard-Lehman is lecturer in theology and ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After studying at Messiah College, he received an M.A. from Geneva College, an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. A senior fellow of The Louisville Institute, he has previously taught at Lutheran Theological Seminary and the University of Otago in New Zealand. He has published many book chapters and journal articles about such topics as nonviolence, race, and Barthian theology and ethics. He speaks and lectures frequently at conferences, colleges, and churches.

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