It has almost been one year since Rev. Ronald E. Peters, Ed.D, left Pittsburgh to begin his appointed position as president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in September 2010 in Atlanta.
In his newest role, Rev. Peters is the head of a school with more than 400 students and six seminaries devoted to various denominations of teaching to minister the Word. In a recent interview with the New Pittsburgh Courier, Rev. Peters spoke about his leaving Pittsburgh, the role of the church in the Black community and his plans for the school’s future.
|ENSTOOLED—Reverend Dr. Ronald Peters is installed into his position as president during the Enstoolment Ceremony of his Presidential Inauguration in April. (Photos by Oscar Petit)
He spent 19 years in Pittsburgh and during his time here he was the Henry L. Hillman Professor of Urban Ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the founding director of the school’s Metro-Urban Institute, an interdisciplinary program devoted to leadership development in urban society. He has also authored several books and taught numerous courses on various topics, such as The Church and the Urban Family; Theology and Urban Violence, and the Church and Economic Development.
“Pittsburgh was rewarding to me both personally and professionally, my wife and I had shared a dream of spending at least a part of our professional lives working at a Historically Black College or University, a sort of ‘giving back’ to the educational community from which we emerged,” Rev. Peters said. While that is a dream that could only be sought outside of Pittsburgh, it was the ITC that had what he was looking for.
“The Interdenominational Center combines all of the interest on which I have built my research and ministry,” said Rev. Peters. “Its existence is built on cooperation between denominations and interfaith groups with the goal of better preparing ministers to work both within and across denominational lines toward the spiritual and material well-being of their communities and all society.”
The center brings together affiliates of different denominations with its more than six seminaries, they are, Gammon Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the United Methodist church; Morehouse School of Religion, which is affiliated with the Baptist church; the Turner Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal; the Phillips School of Theology, which is with the Christian Methodist Episcopal church; the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the USA Presbyterian church; and the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Church of God In Christ. There is also the Harry V. and Selma T. Richardson Ecumenical Fellowship, which caters to denominations outside of the aforementioned.
Bringing together various denominations in one place and teaching future leaders to work within and outside of their denomination, is a quality that many ministers and leaders feel is missing in the community, especially the Black community.
Like many, Rev. Peters said that the role of the church in the Black community has shifted from that of what many in the older generations knew growing up. “Just as government, families, media, school systems and the economy have experienced landmark changes in unprecedented ways over the last several years, the Black church has been affected by our century’s realities,” he said. “Many voices and values, not all good, compete for the attention of our families and youth. The Black church, like the Black community, has never been a monolith and certainly has many faces today. Our strength has always been the cohesive spirit in our culture. The churches role can only be as important as its willingness and ability to provide a moral and spiritual basis for individuals to face the practical dilemmas of the current times.”
One of the many dilemmas facing the Black community is the increasingly senseless Black on Black violence. Rev. Peters said that in order for the issue to be solved, there needs to be long-term plans drafted and put in place and a willingness by all to stay on course with the plan.
“…Many churches are working with youth and families to help stem the violence that has become so commonplace. I believe good work is being done, but it’s hard to hold any current efforts against an impossible standard. Violence in our communities did not start at one particular moment; it built up over time…” he said. “The same reality must be expected of efforts to change the culture. We cannot expect a church, or even a group of churches to announce an initiative today and hold them up for scrutiny tomorrow. Rather, we must commit to long-term action plans and be willing to stay the course, expecting our efforts to bear fruit over time.”
Although he has been in his position for less than a year, Rev. Peters already has a plan for the future of his institution. He said that he is excited about his future with the school and that his main priority is to offer a superior educational experience to those who will serve on the front lines of a systemic change in our cities globally in the future. He added that in order for his plans to come to light, “This requires that even in difficult economical times, we secure financial support for the personnel, physical plan and programs needed to maintain students and staff with a sense of optimism for the ever-changing world we all face.”