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Conference organizer encourages ties between Pentecostals, Yale Divinity School


Bishop Brooks, Sr.In a continuing effort to reach out to neighborhood churches serving minority communities, Yale Divinity School hosted a conference in mid-May devoted to some of the thorniest issues facing African-American Christians.

"How do we deal with a hip hop culture where some of the singers are calling themselves 'Jehovah' and calling women 'bitches'?" asked Bishop Theodore L. Brooks, Sr., organizer of the Second Annual Christian Workers & Leaders Conference.

The May 11-13 conference, attended by clergy and laypeople from across Connecticut, grew out of a 2002 conversation between Brooks and Yale University Chaplain Jerry Streets. "I asked him, 'What is the Divinity School doing to enhance and develop work with black clergy?'," Brooks recalls. Streets directed Brooks to YDS Director of External Relations and Development John Lindner and Dean Harry Attridge.

As Attridge noted at the conference's opening session, "It was a great delight to me when Bishop Brooks came up to me and said, 'I have a vision.' I said, 'Your vision is my vision."'

Brooks leads the 400-member Beulah Heights First Pentecostal Church, located in New Haven about one mile from the YDS campus. Despite the proximity, Brooks says aspiring leaders in his church and denomination, the interracial, Indianapolis-based Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, would be unlikely to consider YDS as a resource- an attitude he hopes will change.

"I would assume that the Divinity School is not on the radar screen of the average Pentecostal church," says Brooks, 63. "They wouldn't be thinking that they could come to Yale to get the necessary tools." As evidence of Christian faith, Pentecostal churches emphasize the centrality of speaking in tongues-a practice that is infrequent in the mainline denominations representing the bulk of the student body and faculty at YDS.

Next year, partly as a way to bridge that gap, Brooks hopes to involve some YDS faculty in the conference and boost attendance from this year's 45 participants. Brooks is already working on the 2007 conference's agenda, to include topics ranging from "I Don't Want to Go to Jail" to "Leading Other Pastors" and "Hiring & Firing Staff."