The topic of this year’s Shurden Lectures in April touched on a vital topic for people of faith seeking to promote racial and social justice. “Religious freedom has been white for too long: voices of black scholars”Explored the intersection of black freedom and religious freedom through the insight and research of four academics: Dr Nicole Myers Turner of Yale University, Dr Teresa L. Smallwood of Vanderbilt Divinity School , Dr Anthony Pinn of Rice University and Dr David Goately of Duke Divinity School. The event featured a presentation from each researcher followed by a panel discussion with the four, moderated by BJC Director of Education Charles Watson Jr. You can watch a recording of the event online.
Now, to facilitate the important conversations that are to follow, BJC has released complementary study guides for group discussions on the important issues raised in these presentations. One is a comprehensive guide, designing a deep dive over five sessions. A short guide is also available for groups who prefer a single discussion frame. These discussion guides are great tools to use within your church or faith community, or just for personal reflection. I worked on it myself after reviewing the 90 minute event.
Each guide offers questions corresponding to each presentation and covering a range of topics including Critical Race Theory, the Black Church, and more. They are free to access and use in small groups or for individual use.
If you are new to BJC or haven’t followed their work closely in the past year or so, these guides are just one of many resources reflecting BJC’s commitment to specifically tackle injustice. racialism in the defense of religious freedom. BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler explained this commitment in a column from March 2021:
Before we white people speak, we must listen. This is exactly what BJC is doing this year, as we focus on teaching BIPOC scholars, theologians, preachers, writers, philosophers, poets, prophets and podcasters about freedom of faith for all. We are intentionally working to decenter the voices that have taken over almost all of the conversation about religious freedom so far. We are not erasing those voices that have dominated for so long, but we are making room for everyone to find a place and an equal place in our conversations and our organization.
If you have a moment, take a look at BJC’s race and religious freedom resource page. Recent additions include several BJC Facebook Live conversations hosted by Charles Watson Jr. In February, BJC hosted a weekly series called Voices of Black Faith Freedom. In May, BJC hosted a series called Voices of Asian American Faith Freedom. These live conversations introduced new voices and perspectives on the subject of religious freedom. For example, Watson and Dr Khyati Joshi, author and professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, addressed the question “How do minority religions achieve equality in the face of Christian privileges?The video of these Facebook Live events is available online. You can also see YouTube playlists for the Black Faith’s Voice of Freedom series and Voice of Asian American Faith Freedom series.
Stay tuned for more from BJC on the topic of racial injustice and freedom of faith for all. And get involved! A good place to start is a conversation within your faith community. BJC’s discussion guides, which accompany this year’s Shurden lectures, will be helpful.