ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force Holds Virtual Symposium

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ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force Holds Virtual Symposium

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/4/21)—The ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force held “The Prophetic Rhythm of Anti-Racism,” a virtual symposium, on Saturday, October 30, 2021. Over 100 participants joined the symposium as participants heard from a keynote speaker, participated in discussion groups, and engaged with a panel of American Baptist leaders who presented from their papers on the topics of “Anti-Racism” and “Reparations.”

“In this space, let us remember, even in our expressions, let us remember to hold ourselves in the highest regard. We are all free to tell our own stories,” said Dr. Natalie Wimberly, co-chair of the ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force and facilitator of the symposium.

ABCUSA President Karen Podsiadly welcomed attendees, saying, “I ask that we join today to really learn from our presenters, from one another, and be willing to serve as we move forward.”

Rev. Dr. Elyse Barry, associate for Advocacy and Leadership Development for the Council of Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ, brought a keynote address on the topic “Racism as a Public Health Crisis,” expounding on how racism clearly meets the Center for Disease Control’s definition of a public health crisis. A time of small group discussion was included for participants to connect with one another around the topic and consider the questions: “What role do I have to play?” and “What medicine do I have to offer?”

Rev. Linda Watkins, a clergy member from Cranston, Rhode Island, punctuated the need for each person to consider how to engage anti-racism work by saying, “Something to consider for continued discussion is what are two or three concrete things that we can do, even if it trickles from the denominational level, to begin to address what has been discussed today. Because we can talk, and we can talk, and we can meet, but until we take concrete steps, it will be very hard to move things forward.”

Wimberly thanked Barry for her presentation, noting, “Thank you for inviting us into a space and co-creating a space with us where we do remember that we can be together in this way–where there is a reality of personhood and a reality of being human, a reality of being alive, that connects us in this special way. We have this mandate, also this responsibility, to bring all of this into reality. If we can do it, we have to do it together.”

In the second session of the symposium, a panel of presenters shared papers and answered questions from participants.

Presenters included:

  • Dr. Corey Fields, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Newark, Del.: “Allies, Not Independent Investigators”
  • Marvin A. McMickle, PhD, interim pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio: “Anti-Racism and Critical Race Theory”
  • Janna Louie, ordained American Baptist minister in the American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles, Southwest and Hawaii region: “Asian Americans: The Gift and Requirement of Transnational Engagement in Anti-Racism”
  • Dr. Shane Kinnison, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Glendale, Calif.: “The Long Journey of Becoming an Anti-Racist City: One Step at a Time”
  • Carolyn Matthews, pastor of Christian Education at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif.: “Reparations: A Generational Solution”

In addition to their papers, the panel shared their thoughts on the question, “Where do we go from here?”

McMickle reflected on Critical Race Theory, noting that  “If you want to be an anti-racist, stop supporting a racist narrative that tells the history of this country only from the perspective of a particular sector of the country, feeling completely content to skip [some parts]….If you want to be an anti-racist, stop supporting America’s racial historical narrative.” In acknowledging the various anti-racism efforts across the denomination, Dr. Fields says, “It’s time to turn up the volume on those things that we have that already exist.” Rev. Louie advocates for, “Christians in the U.S. to listen to voices from the global south and the global east, particularly those who have had to endure not having power,” and further adds that church leaders from these experiences can speak prophetically into our context if we have ears to hear. Rev. Matthews charges us to be honest about our American history, to take “Black History out of the ghetto of February,” and include this history throughout the year, and support efforts for reparations in whatever form it takes. Dr. Kinnison encourages working within one’s local context to drill down and expose the roots of racism to light, and work toward health.

The question of “Where do we go from here?” will also be addressed moving forward as the American Baptist Churches USA Board of General Ministries meets Nov. 5-7, and as part of its meetings will be considering the next phase of anti-racism work.

You can view the symposium below and learn more about the work of the ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force over the past here by visiting this page.

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.