Princeton Theological Seminary appoints first full-time director of the renamed ‘Betsey Stockton Center for Black Church Studies’

The Rev. Dr. David Latimore

The Rev. Dr. David Latimore has been appointed to serve as the first full-time director of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Betsey Stockton Center for Black Church Studies.

Seminary officials said the new full-time position and the renaming of the center are the seminary’s latest acts of repentance for the school’s ties to slavery. Latimore will be responsible for enhancing programming to support theological research and engagement on the legacy of enslavement and enriching the experiences of seminarians.

“I consider this an extraordinary opportunity to utilize the full span of my academic training and research interests, along with my ecclesial and professional experiences, in Princeton Seminary’s vibrant academic community and campus life,” Latimore said of his new job, which begins June 1.

Latimore’s teaching and research interests focus on the intersection of religion, race, and economic justice through the examination of how economic, ideological pre-suppositions underlie many of the disparities and inequalities witnessed in African American communities and their impact on the theology of the Black church.

Currently the senior pastor at the historic Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, Latimore has also taught at Belmont University, acted as a minority student mentor, and served as the associate director for the Academy of Preachers. He has also served as pastor at three other congregations, Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Joliet, Illinois; Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida; and Southern Union Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Before attending seminary, Latimore had a successful career in investment management and economic development. He earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago, his doctor of ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary, his master’s of divinity from Duke Divinity School, and his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

John White, dean of student life and vice president for student relations, led the six-month search to fill the new role, and said support for Latimore was unanimous among the search committee because of the breadth and depth of his academic, industry and pastoral experience.

Shawn Oliver, senior associate academic dean, said the timing couldn’t be better for Latimore to join the seminary as its begins a new curriculum in the fall. “With Dr. Latimore’s background, I’m confident that he will make significant contributions toward helping the seminary creatively engage students in thinking theologically about current and urgent issues of social, economic and public life,” Oliver said.

“When considering a person to fill the director position, my dream was to have someone who could help Black students discern their vocational goals in addition to helping them build networks while in seminary so they could be in a great position to find jobs after graduation,” says Jalen Baker, a senior and moderator of the Association of Black Seminarians. Baker was also a member of the search committee. “Dr. Latimore got my vote because he is a brilliant scholar and pastor whose empathy and well-rounded theological expertise will be a gift to all students and faculty at Princeton Seminary. He’s just the person to step into this role and aid the seminary in becoming the covenant community, we are striving to be here and in the world.”

School officials said the appointment marks another important milestone in the implementation of a multi-year action plan to repent for the seminary’s historical ties to slavery. The center has been named for Betsey Stockton, a prominent African American educator in Princeton during the antebellum North and a Presbyterian missionary in Hawaii. Prior to her emancipation in 1817, Stockton was enslaved by the chair of Princeton Seminary’s Board of Trustees.

“Today, the Betsey Stockton Center for Black Church Studies has the potential to be a beacon of light in theological education and for the church at large,” Baker said of the center.