Covenanting for Gospel Witness - Gordon Conwell

Covenanting for Gospel Witness

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Black Pastors

Representatives of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Black ministry leaders gathered to sign a covenant on February 6, 2023 for the long-term extending and deepening of training leaders for Black churches. Held at Gordon-Conwell’s Boston campus, known as the Campus for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME), the signing is a historic moment that publicly acknowledges the reconciliation and renewed commitment to the seminary’s mission and vision that have taken place over the last year.

On June 4, 2023, there was a night of unity and worship to celebrate the covenant.


Read the Covenant Read the Announcement

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Preamble and Repentance

Our only hope in this life and the next is through Jesus Christ who has reconciled us by his love to our true selves, to God, and to one another. God has revealed himself to us in history, through covenants as recorded in his Word. As Christians, we receive his forgiveness and reconciliation through faith. There is a completeness and finality to God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ. At the same time, there is a continual need for mercy and grace every day.

The heavenly vision (Revelation 7:9-17), Jesus’ High Priestly prayer (John 17), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) all make it clear that God’s will in Christ Jesus is for all people of every nation, race, and ethnicity to be united in him. We also accept this as our vision and our hope in all humility.

This unity is revealed now (through Jesus Christ in John 15) but, at the same time, not yet fully realized. We are all part of a history of great injustices, inequities, and painful memories. The scars of American slavery, violence, segregation, discrimination, and injustice are still present. This is our history in the United States, and tragically it is also the history of the church in America. There is much in our history that would drive us apart. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary chooses to confess and repent of past sins of race and culture in order to seek reconciliation through forgiveness so that God is glorified.

In the past, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has often been a place that was not welcoming to Black, Asian, and Latino faculty and students. We have made decisions that resulted in broken fellowship with Black churches and their leaders. Faculty and staff have left for this very reason. We confess that we have often not been able to retain faculty of color and have even let go of faculty of color. Promises have been broken at times, and communication and confession have often been wanting. Gordon-Conwell is aware of many, but certainly not all these past broken promises. We confess all of this before God and each other, and we repent of the many broken promises and hurts we have caused. We ask forgiveness as our only way forward.

This covenant is founded on the confession of these broken promises and hurts, the request for forgiveness, and a desire to truly repent: to turn around and now commit to a covenantal relationship with Black churches and their leaders for the sake of the Kingdom and the Suffering Christ.

Historic Prologue

  1. Both Gordon Divinity School and Conwell School of Theology were started as schools committed to diversity of students, as well as to ministry and mission in diverse contexts.
  2. At the time of the union of the two schools, Conwell School of Theology in Philadelphia was specially located and intentionally structured to serve Black churches.[1]
  3. As an evangelical school, Gordon-Conwell has been inconsistent in its commitments to training Black leaders and having Black leadership. There have been some outstanding leaders on the faculty and the Board of Trustees. We presently have five Black Board members and are seeking greater diversity among both faculty, staff, and Board.
  4. CUME began as a center and is now a campus for training diverse leaders, especially for Black and Latino churches. It has had a special concern for the city since before 1976.
  5. Gordon-Conwell’s strategic plan (2021) includes endowing a Michael E. Haynes chair, Haynes Fellows, and a new Haynes Center for Black Christian leaders.

Covenant Stipulations

  1. We covenant together to build a culture where people directly, kindly, and honestly—in both word and deed—model reconciled relationships as we seek to extend and deepen the training of Black leaders.
  2. We covenant together to continue to support CUME as a campus for training diverse urban church leaders.
  3. We covenant together to provide the best theological education in the biblical tradition for Black Christian leaders.
  4. We covenant together to support our Black students with scholarship help, mentoring, and field experiences both for academic success and for long-term ministry.
  5. We covenant together to find and retain Black students, faculty members, administrators, Board members, and staff for Gordon-Conwell.
  6. We covenant together to find, support, and educate Black scholars in all our graduate and doctorate programs, including the PhD program.
  7. We covenant together—in our unity at Gordon-Conwell and reflecting the vision of Revelation 7—to include other “tribes, peoples, nations, and languages.” Together we will serve others in theological education.[2]

Periodic Reading of Covenant and Safe-Keeping

Gordon-Conwell will provide an annual banquet, worship, and reconsecration service to remember and review the covenant. This act of reconsecration and renewal will occur every Spring term. There will be time to bring updates, ask questions, review progress, confess failures, and to talk about ideas and commitments to train more Black leaders, locally and nationally. The banquet will include church leaders from the covenanted churches, as well as Gordon-Conwell’s President’s Cabinet and local Board members who can attend.


We call upon the Triune God and the Church of Jesus Christ as our witness.


God alone, in his mercy and grace, will bless our fidelity to this covenant and forgive our shortcomings. However, in our common calling and visible unity, the Church and local communities will be blessed. We pray that our unity and love for one another will be a signpost and a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.



Covenant Signing | February 6, 2023


Covenant & Celebration Worship Service | June 4, 2023


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