LOUISVILLE (Louisville Seminary press release) – Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary recently received $64,660 in grant funding from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) to develop a new Restorative Justice for Ministry program.
An Innovation Project Grant in the amount of $49,910 will build on the seminary’s established relationships with the local religious community, Louisville Metro Government, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations to make the seminary a center for educating and resourcing congregational ministers, chaplains, and therapists in restorative justice best practices. These practices focus on repairing communities affected by crime through accountability, making amends, and facilitating interaction between victims of crime, the offenders and the broader community.
According to Louisville Seminary Dean Susan Garrett, the project was inspired by the vision of leaders in the seminary’s Black Church Studies (BCS) program, who initiated conversations about restorative justice and theological education more than eighteen months ago, and who in February 2017 hosted the seminary’s annual BCS Consultation on the theme “Mass Incarceration and Restorative Justice.” In this consultation, speakers, films, and workshops illustrated the transformative potential of the restorative justice model as well as its compatibility with the seminary’s theological commitments and vision for education.
The Restorative Justice for Ministry project will work closely with the seminary’s Field Education program and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program. The family-systems approach fundamental to the Marriage and Family Therapy curriculum will integrate with education in restorative systems theory and practice. The project also includes a field education placement for a student to assist with all aspects of the program and serve as a liaison with Restorative Justice Louisville.
“Experts on re-entry of formerly incarcerated persons into society note the crucial need that such persons have for a new attitude and new relationships,” said Garrett. “These are areas that the church and spiritually oriented therapists are distinctly suited to provide. We believe this project could serve as an educational model for other residential seminaries and divinity schools across the country.”
A Faculty Development Grant in the amount of $14,750 will fund the design and implementation of new courses and curricular tracks in restorative justice at Louisville Seminary. The new courses will be implemented in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 academic years. It will also fund the purchase of restorative justice library resources for faculty and students as they implement this new curricular emphasis. The resources will be housed in the seminary library’s Black Church Studies Resource Center.
“We want Louisville Seminary to be indispensable to our city and a magnet for those who believe that theological education has a critical role to play in building communities that embrace persons who are frequently excluded from it,” said Scott Williamson, Louisville Seminary’s associate academic dean and Restorative Justice for Ministry project director.
by Chris Wooton, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary