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Honouring Their Legacy

Rev. Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver championed education as the pathway for communities to galvanize and effect change. We honour their model as a way forward. The Reverend Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver Chair of Community Leadership and Social Justice will embody Acadia Divinity College’s commitment to the teaching, learning, and practice of racial justice.

Chair of Community Leadership and Social Justice

Through our five-year strategic vision, Change with Purpose, Acadia Divinity College is committed to addressing systemic racism in our structures and curriculum. We strive to equip and encourage clergy and faith communities to become advocates for justice and reconciliation in their churches and communities. We seek to transform past assumptions and injustices that the church either perpetuates or ignores.

We are committed to the ministry of reconciliation.

Through The Reverend Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver Chair of Community Leadership and Social Justice, Acadia Divinity College (ADC) will:

Honour the legacy of William and Pearleen Oliver
ADC recognizes the significance of these two outstanding leaders in African United Baptist and Atlantic Baptist circles, as well as their wider contribution to Nova Scotian communities. This Chair will ensure that their story – one that is rooted in justice, anti-racism, and education – continues to be told.

Ensure representation of the African United Baptist
Association of Nova Scotia (AUBA) on our faculty ADC is committed to the representation of African Nova Scotians on our teaching faculty. Through this Chair, we formalize this intentional priority, now and for the future.

Teach a new generation of church leaders to engage in community transformation
ADC understands the central importance of the flow of leadership between the community and the pulpit. With this Chair, we strengthen our commitment to teaching our students to promote the active participation of church in community, to be leaders in both, and make beneficial connections between the two.

Embed justice and equality in our curriculum
ADC believes the principle of equality and the practice of justice are central to the Christian gospel. This Chair will reflect our commitment to the teaching, learning, and practice of justice, including anti-racism, as part of the ADC curriculum. Future church leaders will be equipped to practice these commitments in church and community.

Elevate the recruitment of next generation of African Nova Scotian leaders
ADC sees a crisis of leadership emerging in Baptist churches in Atlantic Canada, including amongst the African United Baptist communities. Through this Chair, we will raise the profile of church and community leadership and make connections with young leaders, the next generation of those whom God is calling to serve the church today.

“In faith and with an openness to hope, Bill and Pearleen lived their lives in a posture of forgiveness, compassion, and understanding. If the next generation of seminary graduates carries this legacy into communities along with the Bible’s message of social justice, Nova Scotia, and ultimately Canada, will be a more tolerant and accepting place.”

~ The Honourable Dr. Donald H. Oliver, CM, ONS, KC

Call to Awareness

The story of the African Nova Scotian community is one of faith, perseverance, and resilience.

For nearly four centuries, people of African, Black, and Caribbean descent have experienced segregation, discrimination, and systemic anti-Black racism in all aspects of life in Atlantic Canada: in education, employment, housing, and on the streets. Faith communities have often been complicit or silent witnesses to the injustices of racism.

Acadia has been historically at the forefront of inclusion in higher education. As the seminary of the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada, Acadia Divinity College has enjoyed a long partnership with the African Nova Scotian community through the AUBA. While we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we recognize we have sometimes neglected our responsibilities and relationship; we have not always been attentive allies.

Acadia Divinity College has prepared many African Nova Scotians for ministry, yet the voices of colour have often been overlooked in our curriculum and the wider theological discourse. Our graduates need a greater equipping to address racism and discrimination from a biblical perspective.

The Bible speaks of the justice of God as part of God’s character. God calls people to act with justice, mercy, and compassion. Jesus’ ministry was also one of love and justice, calling all who would follow Him to embrace a service of self-sacrifice, considering others better than ourselves, and taking up our cross to follow Him. As we follow Jesus, we embody the call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Scripture calls us to justice and equality. We aim to this higher call.

“Social justice is an intrinsic part of the Bible and of Christian witness. Their faith called Bill and Pearleen to be compassionate and care for those who were disenfranchised, oppressed, or in need of help. Their social justice agenda flowed from the pulpit and out to people in their communities. There’s a very strong place for the Christian church to make a difference.”

~ The Honourable Dr. Donald H. Oliver, CM, ONS, QC

“The concept of justice is not a new or progressive dialogue. Justice originated with the God of justice. If our churches are weak in justice, they are weak in Doctrine. Biblical Justice is the heartbeat of God. It discerns what is wrong and cares enough to do something about making it right.”

~ Rev. Dr. Lennett J. Anderson
Lecturer in Leadership and Racial Justice, Acadia Divinity College
Senior Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church: The MEETing Place

The Olivers Showing the Way

Rev. Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver, two Christian activists and visionary community leaders who shared a dream of an enlightened future, worked tirelessly to advance social justice in education, employment, and community.

They dedicated their lives to breaking down barriers and in efforts to end anti-Black systemic racism. When evening adult education classes were approved in over 50 Black communities in Nova Scotia but funding was denied to keep the lights and heat on, William lobbied the government for the money.

When a young Black woman arrived on their doorstep having been denied entrance to nursing school, Pearleen campaigned for ending the racial discrimination in the nursing field across Canada.

When Viola Desmond was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat in a New Glasgow theatre, William and Pearleen rallied the community to her cause and raised funds for her legal appeal.

When systemic anti-Black racism eroded the acceptance and celebration of Black culture, William proposed the creation of a cultural education centre to protect, preserve, and promote Black culture. The Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia was born.

William and Pearleen Oliver exemplify the actions and attitudes that Acadia Divinity College seeks to instill in future Christian leaders. We uphold the ministry of these two significant Christian leaders as a powerful example for today’s faith communities in the pursuit of social justice. We will honour their legacy through The Reverend Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver Chair of Community Leadership and Social Justice.

“Race hatred continues to exist today. Until we can find a way of overcoming white privilege, anti-Black systemic racism in Canada is going to be very much alive and well, and hurtful.”

~ The Honourable Dr. Donald H. Oliver, CM, ONS, KC

“Rev. Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver recognized that they were not alone in the fight for racial justice and equality. They had allies in the work they did, and we continue to need allies today. I invite you to support the work of the Oliver Chair as we work together for change.”

~ Rev. Grace Skeir
Associate Pastor, New Horizons Baptist Church
Member of ADC Board of Trustees

Acadia’s History of Partnership

From our roots in the beginning of the 19th century, Acadia Divinity College is built on the faith of countless individuals who have worked together to distinguish the College as a diverse, creative, and forward-thinking seminary. Out of that tradition, we embrace a spirit of cultural engagement and innovation.

We are the seminary of the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada and the Faculty of Theology for Acadia University. Through a ministry of justice and reconciliation, ADC aims to prepare strong, compassionate leaders to serve the mission of God in church and world with transformative action.

ADC’s connection with the Black community is steeped in a rich and long history. Click the link to read more about the accomplishments of our Black alumni that mark significant firsts in our journey together.

“Acadia Divinity College has a proud history of partnership with the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia. We are committed to strengthening our relationship as we equip a new generation of church leaders to minister in a spirit of justice and equality.”

~ Rev. Dr. Anna Robbins
President, Acadia Divinity College, 
Dean of Theology, Acadia University

From our roots in the beginning of the 19th century, Acadia Divinity College is built on the faith of countless individuals who have worked together to distinguish the College as a diverse, creative, and forward-thinking seminary. Out of that tradition, we embrace a spirit of cultural engagement and innovation.

We are the seminary of the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada and the Faculty of Theology for Acadia University. Through a ministry of justice and reconciliation, ADC aims to prepare strong, compassionate leaders to serve the mission of God in church and world with transformative action.

ADC’s connection with the Black community is steeped in a rich and long history. Click the link to read more about the accomplishments of our Black alumni that mark significant firsts in our journey together.

“Acadia Divinity College has a proud history of partnership with the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia. We are committed to strengthening our relationship as we equip a new generation of church leaders to minister in a spirit of justice and equality.”

~ Rev. Dr. Anna Robbins
President, Acadia Divinity College, 
Dean of Theology, Acadia University

Helpful Resources

Enrich your understanding by exploring our growing library of resources including Videos, Books, Lectures, Courses and Organizations.

“As William Oliver’s brother and as a graduate of Acadia University, I have a deep and personal connection to this chair.
I invite you, and the whole community, to participate in funding The Reverend Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver Chair of Community Leadership and Social Justice.
It is imperative that this Chair be fully endowed to ensure their work of social justice continues and grows in perpetuity. Your support is not only participating in the legacy of Bill and Pearleen Oliver, it is also taking a stand against injustice and making a difference for all.”

~ The Honourable Dr. Donald H. Oliver, CM, ONS, KC

Support The Oliver Chair

You can help Acadia Divinity College honour the legacy of William and Pearleen Oliver and be part of making their dream a reality. By supporting The Reverend Dr. William and Dr. Pearleen Oliver Chair of Community Leadership and Social Justice, you will join in their vision of a future free of anti-Black racism and social injustice.

To fully fund an academic chair, Acadia Divinity College requires an investment of $3 million. All donations, large or small, are meaningful and are eligible for a tax receipt in accordance with Canada Revenue Agency regulations.

“Social justice is an intrinsic part of the Bible and of Christian witness. Their faith called Bill and Pearleen to be compassionate and care for those who were disenfranchised, oppressed, or in need of help. Their social justice agenda flowed from the pulpit and out to people in their communities. There’s a very strong place for the Christian church to make a difference.”

~ The Honourable Dr. Donald H. Oliver, CM, ONS, KC

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