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Rochester Chamber of Commerce Recognizes seminary graduate as award nominee

The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce has included Northeastern Seminary graduate Dr. Marlowe Washington in their 27 nominees for the first annual Colors of Success DEI Award.

According to their website, this award was newly created this year to celebrate individuals who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the greater Rochester community with clear positive impacts as a result of these efforts. "This year’s nominees represent a diverse pool of changemakers in the Greater Rochester region working to better our community and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in their broad array of industries and in the region as a whole."

Washington graduated from the Doctor of Ministry program. He also has a Master of Divinity from New York Theological Seminary and went on to complete a Doctor of Education from St. John Fisher University in Executive Leadership.

Seminary really refined my thinking that ministry is about liberation ... How can we liberate those who are trapped by the systems that are keeping them where they are? Jesus continually crossed barriers of religion, ethnicity, gender, ability level, & other walls of separation erected by the culture.

Rev. Dr. Marlowe Washington

“Dr. Washington has always been a leader in the community, caring for and valuing all people," Northeastern Seminary and Roberts Wesleyan College President Dr. Deana Porterfield said. "He was critical in the development of the Office of Diversity and Belong at Roberts Wesleyan College and helped provide a roadmap to understanding how we as a community can better understand our missional calling to provide access and support to all people."

The Greater Rochester Chamber will celebrate the nominees and present the award at an in-person celebration on Friday, September 16 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Rochester’s Grand Ballroom. Read more about Dr. Washington in the Q&A below.

How is God using you through the work that you are doing in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? 

When I got called to serve the church and to minister to people, I felt that was the beginning of serving and ministering to those in their suffering. I'm not the savior, I am called to rescue and help those that are in need of Jesus and are in social dire straits. Someone helped me to get where I am today. I didn't get here by myself. 

It's very important to honor the calling that God has given me and my role is to serve the people, not myself, serving across all shades of skin and across gender and boundaries.

How do you see this work as the heart of God? 

It goes back to Gal 3:28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, but we are all in one, so therefore that's my calling, that is how I see this work. It doesn’t matter the shade of skin, cognitive ability, or gender — we are all one. Everyone is God’s child, and I am called to take them from where they are to where they are meant to be. 

That is the work of DEI. It is not about shoving this down their throat and bashing others about race or ethnicity. It's about being hospitable — the hospitality of extending Christ's presence and reward to simple acts of care. We don't need an intellectual shift, we need relationships through fellowships, breaking bread together, declaring God's concern for justice, and addressing the marginalized, people in poverty, the diseased, the disabled, and others.

How can each of us join you in the work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

If the campus and church communities are to be truly inclusive, any negativity toward people, in general, must be replaced with getting to know people whether they are disabled, diseased, or merely different from the other. We do that through extending hospitality. Hospitality is not a charity word or a word belonging to the hotel and tourism industries. Hospitality in this case suggests concern and empathy focused on common humanity. It means, I want each of you to join me and serve as a "host" and entertain the "stranger," that's the one who is different than you and make them your "guest." Offer friendship, which is at the heart of what we all need from one another. Friendship help ensures that being a part of the community, rather than just being in the community, is what DEI is really all about.

We don’t need all of the answers to do this work. We just need our two feet (or wheelchair) to get out and build relationships with others. It is more about race, gender, or sexuality — there are cognitive differences, and physical differences. We have to think about how to welcome and love. 

My son really taught me how to do the work of DEI. He wasn’t able to finish college because his school had only one way of learning and he has some challenges. We had to advocate for him from the time that he was young because when he was a baby he was exposed to lead from the parsonage that we lived in. My son has learned how to live with this, overcome his frustrations, and use his hands to impact the world to overcome his challenges.

Tell me how seminary helped prepare you for this work.

My theology has always been about social justice and my seminary education specialized in that as well. Seminary really refined my thinking that ministry is about liberation. I got out of poverty because of the church and education, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church has always been about the ministry of liberation. How can we liberate those who are trapped by the systems that are keeping them where they are? Jesus continually crossed barriers of religion, ethnicity, gender, ability level, and other walls of separation erected by the culture.

Any words of wisdom for seminary students today?

We do not need more spiritual or theological technicians in the church. We are overflowing with them in the service of the church at this time. We need more spiritual visionaries and lovers of people and not institutions only. Seminaries need to create more apostolic leaders who recognize God's acts of Christian hospitality as a way to give oneself away to others and welcome strangers as "guests" in their space and at the table. Seminaries are not teaching bold enough to influence seminarians on what it means to make spaces for strangers just as, "on the cross," where Jesus made spaces for others and opened arms radically and without apology inviting strangers in.

As a graduate of Northeastern Seminary, our alumni recognize the transformative power of theological education. Find more about our alumni involvement here.