Public Theology Forum on Sept. 17 Offers Practical Ideas for Advocacy to Community Leaders


September 14, 2022

Public Theology Forum on Sept. 17 Offers Practical Ideas for Advocacy to Community Leaders

Richmond, VA – This Saturday, Union Presbyterian Seminary offers its first Public Theology Forum. From 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., pastors, community activists, nonprofit leaders, and Seminary faculty will share how they engage in prophetic witness to current issues.

Dr. Rachel Baard, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary, is also Director of the Master of Arts in Public Theology program. A native of South Africa, Dr. Baard developed a keen interest in and deep personal connection with public theology early in her life. At age 13, she started noticing and listening to what was happening in her country. “My student activism made little difference to apartheid, but it made all the difference to me,” she recalls. “It shaped how I think about the task of the church in the world.” Decades later, her lived experience has shaped her vision of integrated spirituality where faith and life come together.

Helping people contemplate some of the ways the church’s public witness responds to social issues rather than just echoing the politics of the day is part of public theology. Dr. Baard noted, “Instead of turning to media and culture in thinking about issues, I would like to see churches delve deeply into our biblical and theological resources in seeking how to respond to important issues of concern.”

Having conversations on difficult topics from racial justice advocacy to ecology helps both faculty and students grow and learn. “It’s extremely important to learn about what it means to be the voice of the future…creating, learning, shaping,” says Dr. Baard. “The formation of students—whether they are ministers, elders, or in non-church work—feeds the church.”

At this Saturday’s Public Theology Forum, a broad range of topics and issues will be covered—including social, racial, and economic justice; food equity; and theological, ecological, and climate concerns.

Those interested in creating change in “purple” congregations, successful lobbying with city and state governments, developing church partnerships around the globe, and confronting structural racism

will learn concrete strategies and gain perspective on prophetic witness and Christian ethics in community organizing.

The September 17 forum on the Richmond Campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary offers attendees their choice of two workshops plus lunch. A panel discussion concludes the day. The cost is $25; financial assistance is available. To register for the Public Theology Forum, visit

To learn more about the Master of Arts in Public Theology program, visit


The Public Theology Forum is jointly sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Master of Arts in Public Theology degree program and the Seminary’s Leadership Institute. This event is generously funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, made through its Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative.