By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
The Rev. William Barber will move away from the frontline at protest marches in North Carolina, to head Yale Divinity School’s new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy.
As founding director of Yale’s new center, Barber, age 59, will also serve as a public theology and public policy professor. The new center will open in 2023 and blend faith with justice.
“I love pastoring,” Barber said in a recent tweet. “I love the people. I love what it’s taught me. But I will not be selfish and not share what I’ve learned with generations coming.”
Barber has visited the Vatican and written three books including his latest book, “We Are Called to Be a Movement.” He has criticized racial and economic disparities. For example, as a panelist at the 2021 annual Elie Wiesel Memorial lecture series at Boston University, which offers a new holocaust, genocide and human rights major and interdisciplinary program, he said, “It is a crime in a rich nation for people to receive starvation wages. God never intended for one group of people to live in inordinate wealth while others live in abject and deadening poverty. Poverty is not God-ordained. It is not God-ordained…It is wrong.”
In a recent statement, Yale Dean Greg Sterling said the school welcomes Barber and compared his ” work and service” to the efforts of “Frederick Douglass, Truth, Walter Rauschenbusch, Howard Thurman, Ida B. Wells and Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker, and Abraham Joshua Heschel.”
Barber has served as a pastor for at least three decades at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro. He will retire from the church, according to news reports. He will head the new program at Yale that will also partner with historically Black colleges and universities, in an effort to “build pathways from old to new freedom movements and institutions.”
Barber told the News and Observer in a recent interview, “Leaving a congregation is a little teary because (church) members are like family. Moving into the position at Yale will allow me to become more of an elder,” he said.
Barber said he aims to exchange his hard-won knowledge and experience with students who can use it to expand. “Legacy is not so much what you do,” Barber said, “but how many people you can sew into what you did to do it better than you did and have an impact on society.”
Barber’s advocacy resume is extensive. He organized the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. He established Repairers of the Breach to train communities in moral movement building. He co-anchored the revival of the Poor People’s Campaign.
Sterling said Barber was chosen to lead the center at Yale in part because of the work he did in North Carolina to mobilize the 2013 Moral Monday marches that opposed decisions rendered by the N.C. General Assembly.
Yale’s new center “is an opportunity to deepen our relationship to a historical movement that revives nearly two centuries of social justice tradition to meet the complex social realities of our time,” Sterling said.
Rev. William Barber Photo: Courtesy
Rev. Barber will head the new program at Yale that will also partner with historically Black colleges and universities, in an effort to “build pathways from old to new freedom movements and institutions.”