Online lecture on Bible, race, from St. Martin's Church

by Natalee Hill
Posted 3/10/21

Chestnut Hill's Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields' annual Helen White Memorial Lecture this year will feature Professor Vincent L. Wimbush, author of “African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures.”

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Online lecture on Bible, race, from St. Martin's Church

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Chestnut Hill's Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields' annual Helen White Memorial Lecture this year will feature Professor Vincent L. Wimbush, author of “African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures.” African Americans have been studying the Bible for over 500 years. This vital tradition of interpretation holds transformative power. The lecture will be held online at 4 p.m., Saturday, March 13. Registration is required for the lecture link. You may register at StMartinEC.org/helen-white-lecture/

“Professor Wimbush is a pioneer in biblical scholarship, and we are so excited to host him at St. Martin’s,” said the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, St. Martin's rector. “His work pushes back on the assumed authority of Northern European and white American biblical interpretation to reveal rich resources in the suppressed traditions of African American use of scripture. The bible will come alive in a new way as formerly unheard, and silenced voices of African American interpreters are highlighted and celebrated.”

Hear about this way of studying the Bible and consider how its practice could change the ways we read and interpret scripture. Wimbush’s method is a cohesion of the way scripture can be considered that is outside the typical Euro-centric scriptural interpretation. He is still actively in the process of producing an extraordinary combination of what Black folks have lived powerfully for a long time and what the future can hold in terms of scriptural study. The lecture will focus on the four centuries on American soil, the motherlands that came before, and the crucible of the Bible in African American lives at various points of the past.

Vincent L. Wimbush is an internationally recognized scholar of religion. With almost 40 years of professional experience, he is author/editor of more than 12 books, including “White Men’s Magic: Scripturalization as Slavery;” “Scripturalectics: The Management of Meaning;” “MisReading America: Scriptures and Difference;” “Theorizing Scriptures: New Critical Orientations to a Cultural Phenomenon,” and “African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Text and Social Textures,” and scores of articles and essays. He is founding director of The Institute for Signifying Scriptures (signifyingscriptures.org), an independent trans-disciplinary alternative scholarly organization focused on discourse and power, and is past president of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Wimbush received a Masters Degree in Divinity from Yale Divinity School (1978) and a Ph.D. (1983) from Harvard University in the study of religions, with a focus on the New Testament. He taught at a number of institutions such as Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York City and is the founding director of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures.

Research and program grants over Wimbush’s career have been awarded by the American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, Lilly Foundation, Luce Foundation and Ford Foundation, to list a few.

This year’s lecture sponsors include the United Lutheran Seminary's Urban Theological Institute, Philadelphia Theological Institute, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania's Anti-Racism Commission.

Helen White, who died Jan. 11, 2018, was an effective and passionate creator of biblical studies opportunities for — in her words — “the people in the pews.” Starting in the 1970s at St. Thomas, Whitemarsh, and then as a staff member for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, Helen planted group after group organized to study the Gospels and then all the texts of the Old and New Testament.

Bible study groups that Helen started continue to study at her home parish, the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The Helen White Memorial Lecture remembers her lifetime dedication to making the Word of God accessible to all. The inaugural lecture in April, 2019, answered the question, "Why Read the Bible," and featured the Rev. Dr. Eric D. Barreto. Last year’s lecture, held in February, was “Women and the Ancient Gig Economy” with the Rev. Jacqueline E. Lapsley, PhD.

The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields at 8000 St. Martin's Lane has been a part of the Chestnut Hill community since the late 1800s. For more information, call 215-247-7466 or visit StMartinEC.org

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