Pastoral care is not about solving problems but rather listening, according to Dr. Danjuma Gibson.
On Monday evening, following an hour-long interview, Synod 2016 appointed Gibson associate professor of pastoral care at Calvin Theological Seminary.
“In a pastoral course, I want to teach [students] how to listen,” Gibson told delegates. “My goal with students is to destabilize the fixed image they may have that pastoral ministry is about solving problems. We focus on how to be fully present, share in people’s joys and suffering without trying to solve something that’s unsolvable.”
Gibson has lived in urban settings his entire life. He pastored an inner-city church in Chicago for 16 years while also working as a banker. He has advanced degrees in pastoral theology, Christian studies, urban ministry, and business administration.
“I’ve been all over the place,” he told delegates. “Never would have imagined that I would be in pastoral care ministry, but here I am.”
Gibson, who has already been lecturing at the seminary, said he has been welcomed and encouraged there.
“The trust was there from day one,” he answered. “I told people that I can only be me. I’m an African-American male from the south side [of Chicago]. The embodied desire for me to do well and to prosper is very affirming of the call.”
When asked what is a key issue facing students in seminary today, Gibson answered that they need an understanding of pastoral leadership: “I ask my students, Could you be a pastor to your parents, your professor, the president? If the answer is no, why not? Pastoral leadership shouldn’t be about a power dynamic. Many of the people you will be pastoring have more life experience than you will. Realign to a servant leadership paradigm. Leadership is about servant leadership. Christ makes it clear, whoever is great among you must be his servant.”
In response to the question “What issues come up in an urban context?” he answered, “When I think urban, I think of high population density. You could have a CRC and five other churches on one block. Individuals who don’t know the Lord see all of us as the body of Christ, and they are looking at how we interact with each other. Having walls of separation—that won’t hold. One of the challenges we face is how to remain grounded in what we believe but at the same time how are we to be neighbors.”
Gibson says he uses the word multiplicity rather than diversity. “In an urban ministry we have to have an expectation to see the face of God. The multiplicity of God is the beauty of his creation.”
Synod 2016 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-17. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at thebanner.org several times daily. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.