The Black Voice at Virginia Seminary: New Book Addresses Plight Against Institutional Racism

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) July 27, 2009

The Rev. Joseph M. Constant, director of Ethnic Ministries and Student Life at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), has just release a new book, “No Turning Back: the Black Presence at Virginia Theological Seminary” (Evergreen Press), which endeavors to capture the story of racism in the life of the institutions of the Bishop Payne Divinity School and the VTS.

“No Turning Back” was written in response to the 2006 General Convention Resolution A123 in which The Episcopal Church resolved to “acknowledge its history of participation in [slavery] and the deep and lasting injury which the institution of slavery and its aftermath have inflicted on society and on the Church.” The letter of apology from Dean Markham included in the book is an explicit acknowledgement of the Seminary’s own failures and is reflective of the commitment of the Seminary to address its own failures in eradicating racism.

“No Turning Back” also ensures that the rich history and tradition in the Episcopal Church amongst African Americans–particularly as it relates to theological education at VTS–is not lost.

“The total impact of this book is striking,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of Virginia Seminary. “It is a powerful analysis and narrative of an institution’s interaction with unjust structures and a powerful challenge to us all to make the world different for the future.”

In addition to an introduction by the Rev. Lloyd A. Lewis, Ph.D. (VTS ’72), the Seminary’s Molly Laird Downs Professor of New Testament, the book includes a historical narrative and interviews with several of the black graduates of VTS. “My interviews with the graduates of Virginia Theological Seminary,” said Constant, “bear witness to the fact that those who are concerned with racial justice must pay close attention to the future of theological education since there is ‘no turning back.'”

A 2003 graduate of VTS, Mr. Constant comes to VTS following service at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. Born in Haiti, Mr. Constant is the founder of the Haiti-Micah Project, a nonprofit Christian organization committed to addressing the most basic needs of impoverished and uneducated street children in Haiti.

Asserted Constant, “It is my hope this book will open a dialogue at a Diocesan and local Church level and at seminaries as we examine the future of the Episcopal Church and the future of our black membership.”

Copies of “No Turning Back” are now available in the Cokesbury bookstore on the VTS campus and can be purchased by calling 703-461-1768.

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary ( is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The Seminary prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. The Seminary currently represents more than 40 different dioceses and five different countries.


Susan Shillinglaw

Virginia Theological Seminary



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