What is your role at New Life?

I serve as co-pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, where I get to do ministry with my brother Antonio R. Bennett, II, who is the senior pastor. However, my brother and I like to refer to ourselves as the “People’s Pastor” because we are servants to the community, first.

Describe your call to the ministry.

In 2015, I answered the call to plant the New Life Christian Fellowship Baptist Church with my older brother. During our morning prayer time, God spoke to us to create a church built on the foundational principals of love & liberty, discipleship and [servanthood] to God and man.

What made you enter the study of criminology?

My dad influenced my decision to study criminology. My dad has served as a correctional officer for the City of Philadelphia for 35 years and always taught me what Bryan Stevenson has so eloquently stated, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

How does being a pastor inform how you teach criminology? 

As a pastor I believe that justice must have a level of mercy in it. This informs my criminological framework because I know that people can change. We cannot afford to just incarcerate individuals without allowing them a meaningful opportunity to transform their lives.

How does criminology inform how you pastor?

I am a life-course criminologist which unpacks human development across the lifespan (from birth to death). This informs me as a pastor because it reminds me that people are constantly developing, and it is my duty to feed God’s sheep.

As of today there have been 473 murders in Philadelphia. The city is indicative of what is taking place around the country? Please explain (as a criminologist/pastor) why the murder rate is so high.

One of the reasons why we are seeing the murder rate rise is because we have not truly invested in people and communities. As a criminologist/pastor I strongly believe that we must make a commitment to address quality of life issues for Philadelphia residents. This includes placing emphasis on opportunity structures, racial justice, and social/economic inequalities.

How can the church help? What can the church do address the issues around murder?

The church can help by being the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and pointing our communities back to Jesus Christ–the ultimate problem solver. Also I believe the church can help by praying that God would begin to raise up leaders in our congregations during these turbulent times. Throughout the Bible God has always used ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things, addressing gun violence is no different.