VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 10/16/20)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) presented its second free Faith & Activism Town Hall—“How Faith Intersects with Civic Engagement”—on Wednesday.
Those participating in the interactive virtual dialogue listened and learned as panelists delved into conversation about ways people of faith can influence society on issues around racial equity, voting, advocacy, community organizing and more.
When asked about the responsible connection between faith and civic engagement, panelist the Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, president-elect of Sojourners and author of “Mobilizing Hope: Faith-Inspired Activism for a Post-Civil Rights Generation” (IVP Books, 2010), reminded those listening that the separation of church and state does not mean foregoing civic engagement.
“It is a huge misreading of scripture to deradicalize Christ,” Taylor said. “He was a poor Palestinian Jew, who challenged the authorities of his time.”
Added panelist Cristina Maria Hernandez, MSW; M.Div. student, Boston University School of Theology; interfaith economic justice community organizer; immigrant rights advocate; and supporter of asylum seekers and domestic violence survivors: “My faith and civic engagement are one and the same.
“I don’t see a commitment to social justice as an individual calling,” she continued. “I believe that, for any follower of Christ, that is our calling collectively to engage.”
When asked about personally engaging one’s faith with civic engagement, panelist the Rev. Claire Davidson Frederick, faculty fellow, College of Bible and Ministry, Lipscomb University; instructor, Bible and ministry courses; and director, ENGAGE Youth Theology Initiative, replied that her activism happens organically when she teaches and mentors young people.
She says that she strives to provide young people with a more holistic understanding of Christ, as she tells the story of Jesus in a nontraditional way.
“The Gospel is more than getting my own sins forgiven so I can go to heaven,” she says. “I call Luke 4:18-19 Jesus’ Mission Statement. We need to care about the same things that Jesus cared about.”
For panelist the Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri, regional executive minister of American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin, who was recently called to serve as associate general secretary for Mission Resource Development of American Baptist Churches USA; trainer/consultant for intercultural transformational leadership; and co-editor of “Trouble the Water: A Christian Resource for the Work of Racial Justice” (Nurturing Faith, 2017), civic engagement happens in her neighborhood—a predominantly white affluent suburb, which was foreign to her as someone who always lived in metro areas. She found teaching opportunities in the school district where she says she saw “white normativity that didn’t quite fit my family.”
When asked about individuals’ roles if the election doesn’t turn out as hoped, panelist Randy Woodley, Ph.D., activist/scholar, distinguished speaker, teacher and wisdom keeper, who addresses issues of American culture, faith/spirituality, justice, race/diversity, regenerative farming, and our relationship with the earth and indigenous realities, replied that we are living in a time in which white supremacy has been okayed in the United States.
“Black and indigenous people of color are dying at higher rates than whites,” he said. “If we don’t change, we are voting for more Black and indigenous people of color to die because that’s what’s happening right now.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.