A NFL quarterback refuses to stand for the national anthem in protest of racial inequalities here in the land of the free. Protests in Tulsa, Charlotte, Baltimore, and other major American cities react to the treatment of people of color by law enforcement and the wider justice system. Political candidates within all parties accuse each other of racial bigotry and/or lack of sensitivity.
No topic in American public discourse gets far without having to address the issue of structural racism embedded in church and culture. What is the answer? It’s a daunting question, but a crucial one, for as Dr. Martin Luther King predicted some five decades ago, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Montreat Conference Center offers an opportunity for such a meeting of minds at its upcoming DisGrace Conference, October 10-13. Participants will tackle the hidden histories, unaddressed discomforts, and divisions between people and communities.
The three-day gathering will lead off with an evening with Melissa Harris-Perry on Monday, October 10 at 7:30 pm in Anderson Auditorium. Harris-Perry, well known as former host of her own show on MSNBC, is currently the Maya Angelou Chair at Wake Forest University, executive director of the Pro Humanitate Institute, founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South, and newly named editor-at-large for ELLE.com.
Although people of faith, including clergy from across denominations and various perspectives, were among the leaders of the civil rights movement, religion has also played a role in perpetuating the disgraceful history of racism in America.
The Rev. Carol Steele, Montreat Conference Center’s vice president for program, had this to say about the work and challenge of this conference:
“Theologically, racism rests on the idea that God’s image is reflected more perfectly in one group of people and less perfectly in another group of people. The result is human misery. As Christians, we’re called to confront this false understanding of God’s intentions. That’s not easily done, since racism affects us all, but dismantling racism requires and demands faithful action.”
In addition to Harris-Perry, leadership for the conference includes Dr. Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious and African studies, University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago; and the Rev. Jose Morales, director of pastoral formation, Disciples Seminary Foundation, Claremont, California. Leading worship through music are Dr. Tony McNeill, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta; Eric Wall, Austin Presbyterian Seminary; and Chi Yi Chen, Bayside Presbyterian Church, Virginia Beach.