New stories, new narratives: Columbia Seminary begins Transformative Community Conferencing process

Conversations will help ‘do the difficult work of dismantling white supremacy here and now in this place,’ professor says

by Columbia Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Dr. David Hooker

DECATUR, Georgia — At its fall 2019 meeting, the Board of Trustees issued a mandate to Columbia Theological Seminary to embark on a process of institutional reckoning. Upon the recommendation of Dr. Marcia Riggs, J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics, the seminary will partner with Dr. David Hooker, Associate Professor of the Practice of Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, to guide the community through his Transformative Community Conferencing process.

“I recommended Dr. Hooker to lead us in this process because it uses conversation as a means for confessing past and present wounding, exposing the systemic roots and present dynamics of that wounding, and initiating specific strategic action plans for institutional change,” Riggs said. “I think that this is a kairos moment when all of Columbia’s past and present constituencies are being called to do the difficult work of dismantling white supremacy here and now in this place.”

Dr. Marcia Riggs

This spring, Hooker will facilitate a series of conversations designed to help faculty, staff, students, alumni, Board members, administrators, and others to engage the seminary’s history, uncover the deep narratives of the community and work together to create a new preferred narrative.

“I’m jazzed about helping people identify new stories and new narratives where they can flourish,” Hooker said. “I think Columbia Seminary possesses an important and unique opportunity to contribute to the larger conversation in higher education, addressing harms done and determining reparations for those communities.”

The first important step in the Transformative Community Conferencing (TCC) process will be the formation of a “Design Team.” This team will work with Hooker to adapt the TCC model to Columbia’s context and community. It will be large enough to represent key stakeholders, but small enough to have a focused discussion. “The scope of this conversation should match the life of the seminary,” Hooker said.

“This is a different way to have a conversation,” he said. “I hope participants will appreciate that difference, how it shapes the discussion and opens up new possibilities for the future of the institution. I want to draw out hope from the participants, so they will be courageous in these conversations.”

More About Dr. David Hooker

David Anderson Hooker has worked with communities, governments, and international NGOs and civil society organizations on post-conflict community building, environmental justice, and other issues of public policy and social justice. He has managed multi-party conflicts, conducted workshops, and consulted across the U.S. and around the world.

Hooker also is a lawyer who has represented the State of Georgia as an Assistant Attorney General. He has taught graduate courses in negotiation, mediation, conflict resolution, conflict analysis, trauma healing, and conflict transformation at Eastern Mennonite University.

From 2010-2015, Hooker was a Senior Fellow for Community Engagement Strategies at the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. He is president & principal consultant of CounterStories Consulting, LLC, where his work focuses on narrative alignment for civic, community, and faith leaders.

Hooker is a graduate of Morehouse College (B.S./B.S.) in Atlanta; the University of Massachusetts Amherst (M.P.H. & M.P.A.); Emory University’s School of Law (J.D.); and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology (M.Div.). He earned his doctorate from Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

More About Columbia Theological Seminary

Columbia Theological Seminary “exists to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the Church and the world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia Seminary offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, visit www.CTSnet.edu.


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