The Future is the Heart of Our Story

By The Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson

Auburn is celebrating our 200th year of equipping leaders of faith and moral courage. As we mark this milestone, we are not only looking back.

The future is the heart of Auburn’s story. Our country is changing. In the next 30 years, the United States will be more diverse than ever.

Some are reacting to our future with fear, intimidation, and walls. But we are not afraid. Auburn is not waiting for a world where all are welcome. With you, we are writing the future story of America. Today.

Throughout our history, Auburn has stood for faith-rooted leadership dynamic enough to meet current needs while anticipating what will be required in the future. Auburn’s work is guided by the pressing question: What kind of spiritual leadership does our nation require to become the just and generous country we are longing for?

Auburn is working with a new vision of a world where people come together and transcend today’s bitter politics. One where we conquer hate with love, and intolerance with understanding. Where power is used for good and the cries of the oppressed are elevated and heard. A story of a nation that has never been, but yet could be. We are writing the future story guided by the redemptive power of love that can transform our nation, our world and us.

We invite you to create this future with us. Please donate and help us equip leaders and fuel movements to build a world where we all belong.

Auburn is mobilizing some of the nation’s most compelling prophetic voices to lead local and nationwide multifaith movements for justice. Here are some of the ways we work on the future story of our nation:

  • Telling the Future Story of America is a national action-research project that develops, tests, and identifies key faith-rooted justice messages on themes of equality, freedom, belonging and other values that resonate with a diverse cross-section of Americans. These will be shared by Auburn’s network of leaders across the country to inspire more equity and freedom for all.
  • Auburn Senior Fellows inspire collective action on critical moral issues such as racial and economic justice, health care reform, and immigration. The Fellows met recently in Montgomery, Alabama for the opening of the Peace and Justice Memorial, honoring the victims of lynchings. We realize that we must tell a truer history in order to create a better future story. The Fellows, some of the prophets of our time, recommitted to harnessing the spiritual power of our traditions to combat the violence of white supremacy in the United States.
  • Bridging Divides coaches clergy, community leaders, and organizers as they hold together the diversity of this nation manifest within our families, congregations, organizations, and movements. We offer methodologies, trainings and research to build relationships across some of the most intractable divides.
  • Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle gathers leaders of color to create narratives and practices in which the ethic of loving black lives can form a critical bedrock for social justice and transformation in this nation. The most recent cohort of trans black women was co-facilitated by councilperson Andrea Jenkins, recently elected in Minnesota as the highest ranking black trans person in political office.
  • Voices of Change, Voices of America identifies and equips the next generation of American Muslim leaders who are most able to infuse the media and public discourse with the truths and stories of American Muslim experiences. For the initial 20 spaces, we received 400 applications representing different races, cultures, and traditions within Islam. With the demand so great, Auburn will be training a second group of Muslim leaders in July in Washington, D.C.
  • Resilient Leaders Across a Fractured Country creates a supportive cohort of leaders from diverse backgrounds — communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, rural, and working class — who work for change in politically divided states. Sharing best practices and resources, these organizers, educators, and healers are developing models of resilience to sustain activists in our current political climate.
  • Digital Engagement strategies that amplify the field of faith-rooted justice work are a major focus. Two new staff members are integrating the digital aspect of Auburn’s work with our programmatic and communication efforts. Auburn’s expanding digital platforms include our online action platform Groundswell, our media site Voices, the Fortification Podcast and feature webinars and Auburn programs on Facebook Live as well as our social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
  • Sowing Communities research highlights dramatic stories of hope in the heartland — Minneapolis, MN, Dayton, OH, and Omaha, NE — where faith leaders partner with civic and business leaders to move beyond tolerance and build community across difference, creating friendship as well as economic and political empowerment.
  • Training Effective Leaders for Congregational Ministry Today is Auburn’s latest research that continues our commitment to theological education. This provocative report highlights how seminaries can better prepare emerging church leaders to meet the real life needs of congregations today.
  • Strategic Trainings respond to urgent needs of leaders in this moment including: Prophetic Witness in the Media, Storytelling & Public Narrative, Bridging Divides, Social Media for Faith-Rooted Justice, and Wholeness and Wellness for Prophetic Ministry.

Regional Partnerships

  • Little Rock, AK: Auburn launched the Social Justice Institute (SJI) and Fellows Program in partnership with the historically Black Philander Smith College, deepening Auburn’s opportunity for collaboration in communities across the southern part of the country.
  • Bay Area, CA: Auburn gathered 26 leaders in Oakland for “More Than An Oasis: Crafting a Blueprint for Sustaining Wholeness and Wellness” to explore how communities of practice design practices and spaces of resilience, rest, and wellbeing that can be replicated across the social justice landscape.
  • Across the Country: Justice Ministry Education (JME) groups engage in 300 hours of fieldwork and small-group theological reflection on the intersection of spiritual leadership and justice activism. JME launched in Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, and New York City, and ten new JME groups are scheduled in 2018 in Allentown, Houston, Kansas City, Newark, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Sonoma.

New Collaborations

  • Sadhana: Auburn has incubated Sadhana, a growing Hindu community dedicated to inserting the progressive Hindu voice into the public discourse of our time on climate change, interfaith relations, LGBT rights, and gender equality.
  • Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and Political Research Associates (PRA): Auburn, RCRC, and PRA recently hosted a gathering bringing together a wide range of organizations to explore new moral frames, and messages in order to equip faith leaders to advance reproductive justice.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church: Auburn is partnering with Auburn Senior Fellow Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA to catalyze a multifaith movement to end America’s unjust mass incarceration system.
  • Poor People’s Campaign: Auburn joined with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival led by Senior Fellow Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation.

These are only a few examples of Auburn’s impact. As we close the fiscal year, please help us write a future story of justice, love, and compassion. Every dollar you give today is an investment in the future of our families, our communities, and our nation.

The future is at the heart of our story. Together, let’s write a story of justice and love.


The Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary, has spearheaded innovative educational programs, ranging from convening CEOs on ethics in business practice to infusing mainstream media with compelling faith voices on issues such as a moral economy, sex trafficking, immigration, gun violence, LGBT equality, Islamophobia, and antisemitism.

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