The Center for Leadership in Public Theology
The Center for Leadership in Public Theology (The Center) equips leaders from all walks of life to live out their faith in the public spheres in which they find themselves or aspire to become involved. The Center will engage leaders in initiatives that serve the common good through a pedagogy that is contextual—attentive to the dynamics of social systems—and committed to praxis—the ongoing interplay between theory and action. Training will be based on the biblical and theological foundations of practical theology and draw from a wide range of disciplines that inform social transformation. Modes of leadership development will include public service, advocacy, training, community organizing and development.
Initially, The Center will pursue three critical initiatives that align with the mission, vision, and values of Houston Graduate School of Theology.
An Initiative in the Practice of Reconciliation will prepare leaders to embrace God’s mission of reconciliation through training in the core convictions and practices of reconciliation in critical arenas like race/ethnicity, economics, gender, and politics.
A Community Development and Organizing Initiative will equip leaders to participate in Christian community development, advocacy, and organizing for the transformation of distressed communities.
A Faith and Health Initiative will equip congregational leaders to address the social determinants of health (quality of educational opportunities, housing, food insecurity, poverty, environmental hazards etc.). Students would be involved in contextual (placed-based population health) ministry or what was once known as parish ministry. In contextual ministry, the congregation shares responsibility for the shalom of the place where it has been sent by advocating for community health and through the creation of partnerships that advance health equity.
The Center will provide training for church and community leaders, as well as formal education through the seminary’s academic programs. Training activities will help volunteers from faith communities, neighborhood residents, community service providers, civic organizations, government agencies, and HGST constituents. The formal education track may take the form of elective courses for HGST’s degree programs, specializations within existing programs, certificate programs, or even new degree programs. These educational initiatives in public theology will help prepare leaders of churches and ministries in the missional practices of reconciliation, community development, community organizing, health-related ministries, and healthy and livable neighborhoods.
The Center will make information and resources available to the public concerning key challenges, opportunities, and current interventions related to the public arenas of concern. The primary distribution point will be the Center’s page on the HGST website, although live presentations, panel discussions, and other means will be utilized.
The Center will serve as an advocate for faithful engagement in public arenas and communities, and as a champion for the well-being of individuals and families in the Houston metropolitan area and beyond.
The Center will develop networks and partnerships among leaders and institutions representing faith communities and denominations, community ministries, social service non-profit organizations, civic organizations, government agencies. These transdisciplinary leaders may include faith leaders, vocational professionals, community activists, social workers, and other persons committed to human flourishing and community development.
The CLPT is directed by Rev. Dr. Fred D. Smith Jr., who has over thirty years of experience as an educator, strategist, facilitator, and innovator in the field of faith and health. Dr. Smith also serves as Director of the Doctor of Ministry program and Professor of Public Theology at Houston Graduate School of Theology. As Faith and Health Consultant and Senior Scholar for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System, he participated in the development of the Memphis Model. As Educational Consultant to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center FaithHealth Division, Dr. Smith consulted on the development of the FaithHealthNC program for the state North Carolina. He was Associate Director of the Interfaith Health Program where he participated in the development of such programs as Not Even ONE-Kids and Guns; Whole Communities Collaborative; Faith and Health Consortium; and the Institute for Faith and Public Health Collaboration. Dr. Smith recently retired as Professor of Urban Ministry and Associate Director of the Practice of Ministry and Mission at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC where he taught and developed masters and doctoral level courses in Urban Ministry, Faith and Health, Black Church Studies, Practical Theology and Children and Poverty.
A native of Oakland California, his education includes a BA in Economics from Harvard University, an MDiv from Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and a PhD in Practical Theology from Emory University. Publications include: Black Religious Experience: Conversation on Double Consciousness and the Work of Grant; A Prophetic Religious Education for the Twenty-First Century: and Black Boys Shall See Visions; Afrocentric Christian Education: A Historical Perspective; and The Gift: The Mission, The Model and The Message.