Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy serves as President of Pacific School of Religion.
A committed pastor, a nationally recognized immigration leader, and a sought after speaker, Vásquez-Levy leads at the intersection of faith, higher education, and social change. Vásquez-Levy regularly contributes a faith perspective to the national conversation on immigration and is the author of various publications that explore migration stories in sacred texts and in people’s lives.
He has lived in four countries and taught courses and led international study and service trips across the globe. Vásquez-Levy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Texas Lutheran University and a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry in Preaching degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
“No hate, no fear! Refugees are welcome here,” chanted the growing crowd at JFK Airport on Saturday, January 28.
They gathered—“out of nowhere” according to a New York Times report—in support of refugees and others detained at the airport as they sought to enter the country in the hours following President Donald Trump’s executive order the day before.
No fear…. Every encounter between humans and the divine in Scriptures begins with precisely those words, “do not fear.” That is the heart of the good news. It is the message proclaimed by the angels at the moment God broke into the world in the form of a child. “Perfect love casts out fear,” says the author of 1 John.
We are at our best when we embody this message of love and resist fear. By contrast, governing by fear is deeply antithetical to our sacred call.
As we have reflected on the founding of PSR 150 years ago, I have often made reference to the tensions that framed the context into which PSR was born—marked by significant economic transitions, demographic shifts, and deep national conflict. This fall’s campaign season and the results of the election have highlighted the similarities of our context today. I know I am not alone in feeling in my own body the deep divisions of the campaign, the polarization it both revealed and provoked, and the uncertainty created by deeply troubling rhetoric of exclusion and blame.
Pacific School of Religion hosted the Interfaith Roundtable on Faith and Justice in Silicon Valley in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation over the summer and this fall. The Roundtable—made up of faith leaders, social activists, business leaders and elected officials—sought to create a network among these various leaders to catalyze the development of an approach to community organizing and social change that draws on the particular culture of innovation in Silicon Valley.
The ultimate goal is to identify concrete next steps in leveraging the innovation that characterizes Silicon Valley to tackle the social issues the region has often mirrored rather than challenged. From our perspective at PSR, this is a conversation where we “teach and learn in community,” as one of our core values states. It informs our understanding of leadership formation in a way that is more contextual while also building new partnerships that can create opportunities for us to contribute meaningfully in the region.
-Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy
President, Pacific School of Religion
by Rev. Dr. David Vásquez–Levy, President, Pacific School of Religion
What would a Silicon Valley brand of community organizing look like?
That was one of the central questions at the Interfaith Roundtable in Silicon Valley that we hosted at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The thinking from a select group of religious, business, philanthropy, and social change leaders identified two particular markers: (1) the possibilities that would arise from drawing on the innovation, collaboration, and creativity that are a hallmark of Silicon Valley to engage complex social issues; (2) The need to recognize and become better engage the growing power and influence of tech companies that mirrors—and sometimes rivals—the traditional power structures of government and civic society.
Energy came into the conversation as we imagined both the potential of a relational engagement with the best aspirations of tech industry leaders, as well as the need for social change leaders to more effectively highlight the ways that the new economy being developed in Silicon Valley duplicates and sometimes exacerbates historical inequalities.
With a 150 year history of preparing spiritually rooted leaders, we at Pacific School of Religion are excited to broaden our partnership to develop the next generation of leaders who can frame the issues of our day and their own passions in a broad, imaginative, and compelling narrative, while sustaining their work by drawing on the animating power of faith. The Roundtable highlighted the potential and need for creating a Silicon Valley brand of community organizing.
“On January 19, 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. This event sparked the congregation of what the 1878 Historical Atlas of Alameda County described as ‘the most heterogeneous mass of humanity ever assembled since the confusion of tongues.’ From that moment on, nothing would ever be the same on the east shores of the San Francisco Bay.”
‑Historical marker along the Ohlone Greenway, Berkeley, California
Pacific School of Religion was founded in 1866, just over a decade after California became a state. Those early years were shaped by the aftermath of the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad that connected east to west across the United States. Conflict and opportunity—the pull and push of migration—brought people to this region from everywhere in the country and around the globe, gathering this “most heterogeneous mass of humanity ever assembled since the confusion of tongues.” Read More
The community of Pacific School of Religionjoyfully welcomed David Vásquez-Levy to campus at the beginning of January to commence his service as President. Following a period of visioning and planning, prayerful discernment, and a comprehensive national search process conducted by a representative task force, Vásquez-Levy’s candidacy emerged as an ideal fit for PSR’s new direction. “PSR has adopted a bold new vision to prepare spiritually rooted and theologically formed leaders for social transformation,” said Julien Phillips, PSR Board Chair and co-founder of the non-profit education organization Partners in School Innovation. “David’s experience at the intersections of the church, the academy, and the broader world of social changemaking equips him uniquely well to lead PSR.” Read More