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Creating Just, Equitable Spaces for the Least of These

Darnell Moore’s faith fuels his advocacy for underrepresented voices
News Darnell Moore

Darnell Moore came to Princeton Theological Seminary with a strong sense of calling that was mixed with uncertainty over where he fit in the world of ministry.

Moore is a gay Black man from Camden, New Jersey. He grew up enduring searing racism and suffocating homophobia. Faith was a liberating presence in his life. But church had also left him feeling damaged.

“For a long time, I had worshipped an image or an idea of God that had been created out of the limited imaginations of majority populations,” Moore, MA(TS) ’07, says. “I went into seminary with a deep commitment to working out a theology that was less antagonistic to me and people like me.”

He emerged from seminary as a writer and social justice activist. And his work in the ensuing years has found a nationwide audience.

Moore is the author of the acclaimed memoir, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America. He also played an early, organizing role in the Black Lives Matter movement. And he now works as director of inclusion for content and marketing at Netflix.

His varied roles testify to a single calling.

“I see the central core of what I do as creating just and equitable spaces for the least of these,” Moore says. “It’s about ensuring that folk who have been left out of mainstream conversations, folk who have not had equitable access to their place in the history books, the media, or the pulpit, get access.”

Moore knows what it’s like to be left out of the mainstream. He writes of growing up in an economically devastated Camden that had been exploited by White power brokers and left for dead.

As a boy, his inability to fit a masculine ideal made him a target in his own neighborhood, where one day bullies drenched him in gasoline and nearly set him on fire.

His inner turmoil over his sexuality persisted into his 20s, and he harbored thoughts of suicide.

“By the time I finished my undergraduate years I felt that identifying myself as a queer person was going to be my ticket to hell,” he says.

But he began work toward healing. After graduating from Seton Hall University, he returned to Camden where he served as a youth mentor in a nonprofit Christian organization and pursued a master’s degree in clinical counseling from Eastern University in Pennsylvania.

He then began working out his theology at Princeton Seminary, learning from professors like Mark Lewis Taylor and Nancy Duff. Moore did an independent study on Black queer theology, spoke at academic conferences, and published work in scholarly publications such as the International Journal of Black Theology.

“Seminary provided me with the tools to connect the dots between a Black political vision and a Black queer identity and using that to expand my faith and practice,” he says. ”It gave me the intellectual tools, the theological vision, and the courage necessary to do my work.”

That work has taken hold in many arenas. He has been an author, a journalist, and podcast host. He helped organize the Black Lives Matters “Ride to Ferguson” in 2014, working with others to develop the infrastructure for the movement that has fueled a nationwide racial reckoning. Moore’s Netflix job, meanwhile, brings his advocacy for underrepresented voices into the realm of content streaming for a company that has global reach.

Moore applies his faith and values to whatever role he inhabits. And he encourages seminary students to see wide possibilities for what ministry can look like.

“Some students may have a different optic for how they could be operative for the work of God,” he says. “And I want them to know that the work I am doing always feels like an extension of my call to ministry."

“It’s difficult work, but it’s righteous work and it brings me complete joy.”

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church, Crystal City, Missouri

Joshua Noah, Class of 2015

“Through my field education placement at Trinity Presbyterian Church in East Brunswick, New Jersey, I discovered my gift to minister to all age groups.”