The Catholic University of America

Jan. 8, 2015

Fellowship Supports Doctoral Students of Color

  Vince Bantu

Growing up near Ferguson, Mo. — the scene of recent protests over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer — Vince Bantu was aware of the racial tension that existed in his hometown. As an undergraduate he studied theology and became interested in reconciliation and social justice.

Later, Bantu served in urban, multi-ethnic pastoral ministries in Newark, N.J., and Cambridge, Mass. Now a doctoral student in Catholic University’s Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, he says he has come to understand the role that Christianity can play in helping to improve race relations in the United States.

“In the communities where I serve, we talk about issues related to diversity in the church,” says Bantu. “As the church becomes more globalized, it’s useful to understand the ways that Christianity has always been diverse.”

Bantu is among 20 recent recipients of a 2014 Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) Fellowship for Doctoral Students of African Descent.

The fellowship stipend of up to $20,000 will support Bantu’s studies as he finishes his doctorate. He says he hopes to teach seminary students in the future.

Bantu has a Master of Arts in Semitic and Egyptian literature from Catholic University, a Master of Theology in church history from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He earned a bachelor’s in theology at Wheaton College.

In recent years, Bantu — whose interests also include non-Western Christianity — traveled to Egypt, where he learned about the country’s Christian roots, which date back to the middle of the first century.

Bantu says he decided to apply to Catholic University’s Semitic and Egyptian languages department so he could learn the ancient Near Eastern languages of Coptic and Syriac.

The department offers more different forms of Aramaic than any other program in North America. It has two programs — ancient Near East and Christian Near East studies — that lead to M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.

As a fellow, Bantu attended the 2014 FTE Doctoral Summit for Future Theological Educators of Color, held last June at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.

FTE supports rising theological educators from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups who plan to teach in religion, theology, or biblical studies in North American theological schools and universities.

In North America, fewer than 20% of theological schools’ faculties are people of color. FTE’s doctoral initiatives foster diversity in the academy by accelerating the successful completion of doctoral degrees among students of African, Latino/a, Asian, and First Nations descent by providing them with financial support, a network of peers, a community of mentors, and professional development opportunities, according to FTE.




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