Immigration, Refugees, and Reflections on Displacement
Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary
In February of 2019, Columbia Seminary co-hosted the “Migration and Border Crossings” Conference with the Emory Center for Law and Religion. During that conference, speakers from a range of disciplines and perspectives helped conferees better understand the causes, processes, and consequences of human displacement. The conference was wildly successful–perhaps the biggest and most impressive thing that CTS has done in my 20+ years here.
This edition of @ this point builds from that conference, with its lead essay coming from Dr. Emilie Townes’ closing keynote address. Dr. Townes, the Dean and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Prof. of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School, offered wisdom in that address that felt both poetic and profound; we are grateful that she was willing to share it with us and have attempted to signal its poetic qualities by maintaining her formatting decisions. While this makes the lead essay look a bit different than the lead essays of earlier editions, we are confident that thoughtful readers will find in it transformative empathy and insight.
All three of her respondents also attended the conference. Dr. M. Daniel Carroll R., the Blanchard Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, was a plenary speaker at the conference and offers the wisdom of the prophets on this complex and politically fraught topic. Dr. Jan Holton, Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Care at Duke Divinity School, led a workshop on pastoral care to displaced persons during the conference and here offers that wisdom–and her own experiences of working with displaced persons–in her response. And Rev. Mark Adams, a CTS graduate who is the coordinator of Frontera de Cristo, a ministry along the Arizona/Mexico border, attended the conference and brings the insights of his daily work with displaced persons. Dr. Townes has provided a thoughtful reply to each of her respondents, modeling the kind of charitable and critical dialogue that we hope to promote in this journal. Another CTS alum, Jill Tolbert, has once again provided a set of stimulating curricula for churches and interested groups to use along with the essays. Collectively, the essays and curricula help the church make sense of displacement in ways that are both acute and increasingly necessary.
The experiences of human displacement go back to the very beginnings of human life on the planet. They will go on long after this journal has ceased to exist. But now–during a time in which so many people experience displacement and displaced persons are so at the center of our public/political lives–attention to those experiences is especially important. We at @ this point are glad we can play some small role in shaping that attention.