Community Blog A Journey of Teshuva

By Hebrew College
Religious Leadership & Public Repair

Teshuvah takes courage. Hebrew College Visiting Professor and evangelical minister Rev. Rob Schenck knows this firsthand. On Oct. 15, filmmaker Abigail E. Disney joins Schenck for a conversation about his personal journey of teshuvah in “Religious Leadership & Public Repair” at Hebrew College.

“I have never met a religious leader who has so thoroughly committed himself to public repair as Rev. Rob Schenck. I look forward to our dialogue and learning from him and Abby E. Disney about their journey as colleagues and friends,” said Rabbi Or Rose, the founding director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College. Rose will moderate the conversation between Disney and Schenck.

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The conversation will include clips from Disney’s award-winning documentary, The Armor of Light, to explore Schenck’s evolution as a minister, his relationship with Disney (right), and their reflections on the need to forge relationships across divides. This will include discussion of lessons learned, current projects, and future possibilities.

“Reverend Rob Schenck’s presence as a visiting scholar on our faculty represents an important and exciting challenge and opportunity for all of us. On a personal level, his story challenges those of us engaged in religious and communal leadership to reflect on the impact of our actions and consider places where we might need to undertake our own processes of teshuva and repair. On a communal level, his prominence as a leader in the Evangelical Christian Church opens the door to new opportunities for learning and dialogue across both spiritual and political difference — at a time when we urgently need to address the deepening polarization that is dividing this country and so much of the world. I am inspired by Rev. Schenck’s personal journey and by his moral and religious leadership and we are honored to welcome him to the Hebrew College community,” said Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld.

Once a prominent anti-abortion activist, Schenck has since repudiated his radical conservative positions and dedicated himself to promoting racial justice, reducing gun violence, and fostering religious inclusion. His hiring as Visiting Scholar of Christianity & Religious Leadership at Hebrew College reflects the institution’s commitment to training Jewish and other religious leaders for service in an interconnected world. He holds multiple degrees in Bible and Theology and Religion and will teach courses and lead seminars on Christian ethics and religion and public life. Previously, he has served as a Visiting Academic at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, and was named a Senior Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Law and Public Policy at Oxford. He also served on the U.S. Senate Chaplain’s Emergency Pastoral Response Team and is currently a civilian chaplain.

Disney (right) is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker who won an Emmy for her film on Schenck, The Armor of Light. Her latest film, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, which she co-directed with Kathleen Hughes, made its world Abigail-E.-Disneypremiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently available on demand. In addition to filmmaking, as a philanthropist and social activist Disney advocates for systemic change in different areas of society. “Abby is a multi-talented person, who bravely and compassionately invites us to examine our values and priorities, and to act on them in concrete ways. She is a prophetic voice who both agitates and encourages us to be better.” added Rose.

The Armor of Light captures Schenck’s journey of conscience, as he began to question the consistency of the pro-gun and pro-life stances of the far-right evangelical movement that he represented at the time. This would eventually lead to Schenck’s break from evangelical orthodoxy on guns, abortion, and the public display of religious symbols.

Religious Leadership & Public Repair takes place October 15th from 7:30-9 pm at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. The event is free but requires registration.

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