Professor Anthony G. Reddie makes history by becoming Oxford University’s first-ever Professor of Black Theology.
Reddie, a lifelong Methodist, has dedicated his life to studying and sharing knowledge in areas like black theology, social justice, racial equality, and poverty-related issues.
The establishment of Black Theology can be traced back to the harrowing era of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and gained significant scholarly attention through the pioneering work of theologian James Cone in 1969. In a candid interview with Premier, Professor Reddie expressed his disbelief at the news of his appointment, saying, “It feels very strange and very bizarre. It hasn’t quite settled in yet. So I still find myself looking at the letter just to check that I didn’t misread it. So yes, it does say that I’ve been appointed. I’m not imagining this weird thing.”
Born in Bradford, England, Reddie’s serendipitous encounter with theology forever altered the trajectory of his life. During a lunch break at Birmingham University, he sought refuge in a local bookshop, where he chanced upon James Cone’s seminal work, “Black Theology.” This fateful encounter ignited a passion within him for the theological exploration of black identity, spirituality, and liberation.
Reflecting on the origins of Black Theology, Professor Reddie delved into its roots among 17th-century slaves who clung to the hope of the gospel of Jesus as a source of liberation. He explained, “Part of the process of their exploitation and oppression was a very skewed and racist form of Christianity that was forced upon them. It was a version of Christianity designed to coerce them into becoming compliant slaves. They would selectively extract teachings from figures like St. Paul, who instructed slaves to obey their masters.”
However, Professor Reddie highlighted the extraordinary resilience and wisdom of these marginalized individuals who, through divine guidance, interpreted these teachings differently. “The genius, I think of God, and the Holy Spirit, working through these disempowered people was that that’s not what they heard. Instead, they heard a voice of liberation and sovereign power. They recognized that the same God who had liberated the Hebrew slaves in Egypt was the same God who would ultimately free them from their bondage.”
As the first individual to introduce the study of Black Theology to Oxford University, Professor Reddie acknowledged the modest scale of his current involvement but expressed his hope for the expansion of this vital work. His appointment as the inaugural Professor of Black Theology at Oxford signals a significant milestone in the recognition of black theology’s importance within the academic sphere. He envisions that this role will provide him with the opportunity to further advance the study of black theology and its profound implications for understanding the intersection of faith, race, and social justice.
In a world struggling with enduring racial disparities and the persistent echoes of a painful history, Professor Anthony G. Reddie’s appointment represents a crucial step towards inclusivity and the recognition of underrepresented voices within academia.
His dedication to exploring the rich tapestry of black theology and its transformative power in the face of adversity inspires not only the academic community but also all those who seek to understand and confront issues of racial injustice and inequality.