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Seeking God’s Grace Amid the Disgrace of Racism

October 10 - October 13, 2016

DisGrace Resources

Carol Steele’s Welcome to Montreat Conference Center!

Conference Keynote & Worship Video Highlights

Keynote Resources:

Worship Resources:

Our worship was planned by a cloud of witnesses:

Music leaders Eric Wall, Chi-Yi Chen, and Tony McNeill; Liturgy writers Mamie Broadhurst, Laura Cheifetz, Jessica Vazquez Torres, Carolyn Helsel, and Carol Steele; Preacher Jose Morales.

Workshop Resources:

White Fragility — J.C. Austin

A Prophet, Priest, Pastor and Poet Walk into a Movement: Valuing the many ways in which the people seek justice — Bruce Reyes-Chow

Church People and Antiracist Media Consumption: Microaggressions, Cultural Realities, and Consuming Television Diversity — Laura Cheifetz

Reading (from) the Margins —  Margaret Aymer

Teaching our Children Well: Breathing Grace into Family Dialogues Around Race — Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks

Living Out the Belhar Confession and Becoming a Fully Inclusive Church — Vince Patton

Eucharist and Race in White-Dominant Churches: A Template for Reflection and Transformation — Marcia Mount-Shoop

Rigged by Roberts — Molly Casteel

We will post more resources as they become available.

DisGrace Conference

The DISGRACE conference will be a faithful response to the embedded and structural racism in church and culture, but it can’t happen without you. Grounded in worship, truth-telling, confession, and collaboration, we move from disgrace toward solidarity.

Together we tackle the hidden histories, unaddressed discomforts, divisions between people and communities, with a diverse community committed to journeying through these difficult but necessary and potentially life-giving conversations.

When this conference ends, our true response to systemic racism begins.

Can’t make it to the full conference?  Register for An Evening with Melissa Harris-Perry on Monday, October 10, 2016 at 7:30 pm.


Registration for the conference is still open, however Montreat Conference Center housing is now full. Please click on the MORE INFORMATION tab above for private housing options. Click on RATES & REGISTRATION for conference rates and to register online for the conference only.

Opening Sessions

Race…it’s such a hard topic to discuss. The DisGRACE conference at Montreat will be engaging this topic and we expect it to be a tough conversation. In recognition of this, participants will begin this conference in one of two sessions.

White Fragility Led by J.C. Austin

With the recent rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, systemic issues of racial injustice are again present in the American public conversation, but many church leaders and congregations struggle over how to engage these issues. One key factor in that struggle is the strong resistance of many white people to the idea that they benefit from and participate in racially unjust social systems, even if they reject racism as individuals. In fact, this resistance and its emotionally-charged expression is so widespread that it has acquired its own name: the problem of “white fragility.” The PC(USA) has both a long history of commitment to racial justice and a national membership that remains over 90% white, which makes this problem particularly pressing for us.

This session will equip participants to do this work of engaging racial injustice more faithfully and effectively with people who are ambivalent about doing so. It will emphasize the particular resources of Reformed theology and will employ an approach grounded in practices of spiritual transformation. This session is exclusively for people who identify as white, and aims to proactively open up a space of dialogue and reflection ahead of the main conference gathering. See J.C. Austin’s bio under the Leadership tab above.

Not My People: Exploring the Ways Internalized Racism Makes Solidarity Difficult Led by Jessica Vazquez Torres

Stephen Bantu Biko, South African anti-apartheid leader and martyr, once said “the most potent weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Racism’s destructive power is as damaging to the minds and souls of people of color in the US as it is to our bodies. People of color carry with them the generational and historical trauma of racial oppression and the learned behaviors that enabled us to survive. But these behaviors and ways of being can be reactive and prevent us from dismantling the internalized messages that keep us collaborating with white supremacy.

This session will offer a frame via which people of color can explore the unique and distinctive ways in which we have internalized racism, but also the ways in which overcoming our collective internalization can help us build solidarity across people of color groups; a solidarity that is restorative for people of color and challenges white supremacy. This session is exclusively for people of color, and aims to proactively open up a space of dialogue and reflection ahead of the main conference gathering. See Jessica Vazquez Torres’ bio under the Leadership tab above.

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Rates & Registration

Online registration for the DisGrace Conference is now closed. If you would like to register for this conference, please come to onsite registration on Monday, October 10th, 12:30-2:30 pm in Assembly Inn Upper Lobby to sign up. 

Can’t make it to the full conference?  Register for An Evening with Melissa Harris-Perry on Monday, October 10, 2016 at 7:30 pm.

Please note: Montreat Conference Center housing is now full. Click on the MORE INFORMATION tab above for private housing options.

Special Group Incentive for the DisGrace Conference!
When you bring your spouse or a friend – or a whole group of friends – with you to this conference, take advantage of our special group incentive rate. The first registration from a church group or presbytery team will be at the full comprehensive or commuter rate. Any additional registrations (all the friends and colleagues who come with you!) from the same church group or presbytery team will be reduced by $25 per registration. Two or more people constitute a group, and there is no limit to the number of people in your group who may take advantage of this offer. (When registering online, you may use the “Comments” section to notify the registrar of any additional people in your group. Some discounts may be applied separately by the registrar.)

Comprehensive Rates

Register online for conference, room, and meals

Comprehensive rates below include conference fee, room in Assembly Inn, Winsborough, or Reynolds Lodge (Monday through Wednesday night), meals in the Galax Dining Room (Monday supper through Thursday breakfast), plus a $3 community services fee per adult for public services provided by the Town and the fire district. Rooms are assigned on a first come, first served basis. Rooms in Assembly Inn have either private baths or connecting baths. Rooms in Reynolds Lodge have hall baths.

After August 15, 2016, these rates will increase by $75 per person.

Assembly Inn:
$453.50 single occupancy
$612.00 double occupancy (includes “group” discount)
$80.50 for children 12 and older
$40.00 for children ages 5-11
no charge for children under 5

Winsborough or Reynolds Lodge:
$303.50 single occupancy
$462.00 double occupancy (includes “group” discount)
$80.50 for children 12 and older
$40.00 for children ages 5-11
no charge for children under 5

Commuter Rate

Register online for conference only

Commuter rates below include conference fee plus a $3 community services fee per person for public services provided by the Town and the fire district.

On/before August 15: $103 per person
After August 15: $178 per person
Daily Rate – $70 per person/per day (when registering online, enter “daily rate” and the date you wish to attend in the “Comments” section)

Refund Policy

Cancellations must be received by August 29 in order to receive a full refund less a $25 service charge. Cancellations received after August 29 but on or before October 3 will receive a 50% refund of the conference fee and payments made toward room and meal charges (if applicable) less $40. No refunds will be issued after October 3. All requests must be in writing and received via email, fax, or U.S. mail.

Contact the Registrar

If you have any questions about the registration process, please email the registrar at SusanA@montreat.org or call 828.419.9829.

Key Leadership

Montreat Conference CenterMelissa Harris-Perry (keynote speaker) is the newly named editor-at-large for ELLE.com and the Maya Angelou Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is the executive director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. She is the author of the award-winning Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. Harris-Perry received her BA degree in English from Wake Forest University and her PhD degree in political science from Duke University. She also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University.

Montreat Conference CenterAnthea Butler (keynote speaker) is associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies, and graduate chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a master’s degree and PhD from Vanderbilt University in religion, and MTh from Fuller Theological Seminary. A historian of American and African American religion, Professor Butler’s research and writing spans religion and politics, religion and gender, African American religion, sexuality, and religion and popular culture. Butler’s book, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making A Sanctified World on The University of North Carolina Press is the first full-length academic book focused on the Women’s Department of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). The book is an engaging look at African American women’s lives and civic engagement, highlighting how African American women’s social uplift in the church is rooted not only in respectability, but in strict religious beliefs. A regular guest on the Melissa Harris Perry Show on MSNBC and a sought after media commentator, Professor Butler also provides commentary on contemporary politics, religion and social issues at religion dispatches, and her own blog, “You Might Think So.” She also served as a consultant to PBS series God in America, and the American Experience on Aimee Semple McPherson.

Montreat Conference CenterSoong-Chan Rah (keynote speaker) is Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity and Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, as well as Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. In addition to serving as founding senior pastor of the multiethnic, urban ministry-focused Cambridge Community Fellowship Church (CCFC), Rah has been a part of four different church-planting efforts and served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Boston. An experienced cross-cultural preacher and conference speaker, Rah has addressed thousands around the country at gatherings like the 2003 Urbana Student Missions Conference, 2006 Congress on Urban Ministry, 2007 Urban Youth Workers Institute Conference, 2008 CCDA National Conference, 2010 Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) National Preaching Conference, and the 2011 Disciples of Christ General Assembly.

Montreat Conference CenterRev. José Morales Jr. (preacher) is currently the director of pastoral formation at Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont, CA, working with master of divinity students on issues of pastoral identity and training. He is also pursuing his PhD in comparative theology and philosophy at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, CA. Before moving to California, he served for four and half years as the executive regional minister of the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which includes Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, northern New Mexico, and southeast Idaho. Prior to this, he served as the associate pastor at Iglesia del Pueblo-Hope Center, a multicultural Disciples congregation in Hammond, IN. During his tenure in Indiana, he was an adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary (Chicago) and the Clergy Caucus Chair of the Northwest Indiana Federation, an interfaith community organizing network working on justice and public policy issues in northwest Indiana. José holds degrees from Judson University (BA) in Elgin, Illinois, and McCormick Theological Seminary (MDiv) in Chicago.

Montreat Conference CenterDr. Tony McNeill (music leader) has been serving as the director of worship and the arts at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (America’s “Freedom Church”) for four years. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Dr. McNeill was a visiting lecturer in choral music at his alma mater, Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) from 2010-2012. He earned the bachelor of music education degree from Appalachian State University; a masters degree in choral conducting from Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL); and a doctorate of worship studies from the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies (Orange Park, FL). In addition to his work at Historic Ebenezer, Dr. McNeill is a member of the staff of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, based in Atlanta, where he serves as program director of The African American Institute of Worship, Preaching, and Sacred Arts. He has presented at The Hampton Ministers Conference, Duke Divinity School, The American Baptist College (Nashville, TN), Shaw University, and served as Artist-in-Residence for the past three years at Princeton Theological Seminary (Princeton, NJ) for its Black Theology and Leadership Institute.

Montreat Conference CenterEric Wall (music leader) is the recently-called assistant professor of sacred music and dean of the chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. From 1998 to 2015 he was director of music at First Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC. Prior to this position, he was director of music at the Ashville School (1994-1998). He has served as the conference center musician at Montreat Conference Center since 2011. At Montreat Conference Center, he is responsible for providing musical direction for summer worship, directing a choir of college-age summer staff, offering music for adult conferences, participating in planning worship and arts conferences, being available as a resource musician for summer events, and engaging in the life of the conference center as a music and worship consultant. Wall is a frequent contributor to Call to Worship, the journal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Theology and Worship. He regularly serves the larger church by providing music and planning leadership for a variety of conferences and gatherings and by serving as a music and worship consultant for other Presbyterian churches. He has taught at Columbia Theological Seminary and served as a music and worship consultant in various congregational settings.

Montreat Conference CenterChi Yi Chen (music leader) is the director of music at Bayside Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, VA. She was recently a member of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song, which created the Glory to God hymnbook over a period of three and a half years.


Montreat Conference CenterJessica Vazquez Torres (facilitator) is a proven leader with 15 years experience in anti-racism, anti-oppression, and cultural competency workshop development and facilitation. She is active in peace and justice concerns, including worker justice, immigration reform and anti-racism. Jessica is deeply committed to addressing social structures and cultural dynamics that marginalize and minoritize communities and limit their access to resources. Jessica, a 1.5-Generation ESL Queer Latina of Puerto Rican descent, holds a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida, a Master of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary, and a Master of Theological Studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. 

Montreat Conference CenterJ.C. Austin (facilitator) is vice president for Christian leadership formation at Auburn Theological Seminary where he works with faith leaders across the country through a range of programs and consultations to develop the personal resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, and practical wisdom they need to lead social and congregational change. He teaches and speaks regularly around the country, particularly on strategic innovation in faith-based organizations, wealth and giving, economic ethics, and racial justice and reconciliation. His public writings have appeared in The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. He has been a featured preacher multiple times on Day 1, the weekly national radio program for the ecumenical Protestant churches.

Tuesday & Wednesday Workshops

The following workshops will be offered both Tuesday and Wednesday from 11:15 am-12:15 pm. (Identical subject matter each day – no two-part workshops.) No sign-up necessary.

A Prophet, Priest, Pastor and Poet Walk into a Movement: Valuing the many ways in which the people seek justice – Led by Bruce Reyes-Chow, pastor, Valley Presbyterian Church, Portola Valley, CA

Self-Care for the Journey – Led by Carolyn Helsel, Assistant Professor of Homiletics, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Church People and Antiracist Media Consumption: Microaggressions, Cultural Realities, and Consuming Television Diversity – Led by Laura Cheifetz, Vice President of Church and Public Relations, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

Colorblindness: Aiding White Supremacy in the 21st Century – Led by Jessica Vazquez-Torres, Organizer/Trainer, Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training

Preachers’ Fishbowl featuring Denise Anderson; Mamie Broadhurst, Irene Pak, and Randy Bush

Teaching our Children Well: Breathing Grace into Family Dialogues Around Race – Led by Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks, Director of Spiritual Formation, Fairmount Presbyterian Church, Cleveland Heights, OH

Resisting Together: Youth and the work of Anti-racism  – Led by Anna Kendig, staff chaplain, University of MN Medical Center, and Lindsey Anderson, pastor, The Detroit Cooperative Church

Reading (from) the Margins – Led by Margaret Aymer, Associate Professor of New Testament, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Rigged by Roberts – Unequal Playing Fields, Showing Gaps, and Adjusting the Rules – Led by Molly Casteel, Asst. Stated Clerk, Representation and Inclusiveness, Office of the General Assembly

Living Out the Belhar Confession and Becoming a Fully Inclusive Church – Led by Vince Patton, Manager of Diversity and Reconciliation, Presbyterian Mission Agency

More Information

Private Housing
The following is a list of private rentals for individuals and groups:

Meals for Commuters
Please check out the Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce as well as our Business Patrons web page for a list of restaurants in Black Mountain.

Available Scholarships
We have limited scholarships available for program fee only.  Download the application form.

Child Care Information
Child care is available for this conference for an additional $50 per child. Pre-registration is required. Enrollment is limited. Questions about child care? Email the registrar at SusanA@montreat.org.

Continuing education units are available for this conference.

Conference App
The DisGrace conference app is available now, complete with schedule, speaker bios, a social feature to communicate with other participants, and more. To access the DisGrace app, download our conference center app simply called “Montreat,” in the App Store or the Google Play Store. You’ll find access to the DisGrace conference materials within the Montreat app.

Planning Team

Rev. Laura Cheifetz
Vice President of Church and Public Relations, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

Jessica Vazquez-Torres
Organizer/Trainer, Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training

Valerie Small
Manager, GA Nominations, Office of the General Assembly

Rev. Jerrod Lowry
Pastor, Community of Grace Presbyterian Church, Sandy, UT

Rev. Flo Watkins
Pastor, Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC

Dr. Carolyn Helsel
Assistant Professor of Homiletics, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Rev. Mamie Broadhurst
Pastor, Covenant Community Church, Louisville, KY

Dr. Christine Hong
Assistant Professor of Worship and Evangelism, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary