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From bigots marching in Charlottesville, to a President who regularly encourages them, the past year cast a harsh light on the extent and prevalence of white supremacy. While the recent headlines may seem shocking, the issue has deep national roots. Join Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas as she moderates a panel to discuss this spiritual crisis.
Moderator: Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
Inaugural Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union, and a leading voice in the development of a womanist theology, Dr. Douglas is widely published in national and international journals and other publications. Her groundbreaking and widely used book Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective (1999) was the first to address the issue of homophobia within the black church community. Her latest book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (2015) examines the deep roots of “Stand Your Ground” culture in America and the challenges it brings for the Black Church community. Other books include The Black Christ (1994), What’s Faith Got to Do With It?: Black Bodies/Christian Souls (2005), and Black Bodies and the Black Church: A Blues Slant (2012) which seeks to move the black church beyond its oppressive views toward LGBT bodies and sexuality in general.
Dr. Douglas is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Denison where she earned a Bachelor of Science summa cum laude in Psychology. She went on to earn a Master of Divinity and a Doctoral Degree in Systematic Theology from Union Theological Seminary.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Douglas was ordained at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in 1985 — the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest in the Southern Ohio Diocese, and amongst the first ten to be ordained nationwide. Prior to her former role at the Washington National Cathedral, Dr Douglas was an Associate Priest at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. for over 20 years.
Shaun King is a fearless journalist, writer-in-residence at the Harvard-based Fair Punishment Project, and a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. He has extensively covered racism in the criminal justice system, and is a tireless voice for truth. As a speaker, Shaun King offers an articulate and historically grounded take on the most pressing problems of the day. This generation has its own challenges—challenges for which we need real and applicable solutions. Instead of wondering who we’d be and what we’d do if we were alive in the 60s—or assuming progress will just march along, without our help—King asks us to see our present place in the modern movement for a more equitable world. If every generation operates on a set of principles, then we need to judge our own by looking, clearly and without rose-colored glasses, on the values we live by. As King argues, it’s not enough to be just a little bit better. In fact, that’s never been enough. We must each ask ourselves, “what’s my best contribution to this world today?”
Leaders like Shaun King help us see how racism is not dead and forgotten, but merely a mutating virus, and one that manifests in different forms in every age. Racism, mass incarceration, policies that criminalize blackness in the twenty-first century—these problems won’t solve themselves. And that’s why King’s voice and perspective are so important.
Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV is an author, activist, commentator, writer, and preacher. Recently, Rob, a descendant of General Robert E. Lee has been engaged as an activist in the field of racial reconciliation. He participated in the MTV Video Music awards and was on the View where he spoke about the need to confront white supremacy and white privilege in white churches. Rob has written one book, Stained-Glass Millennials, (Smyth and Helwys 2017) and is currently writing his second book with Penguin Random House.
Lee is a native of Statesville, North Carolina and recent graduate of Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. He received his Master of Theological Studies in May of 2017 with a focus in practical theology and homiletics His thesis was on the corpus work of Bishop Will Willimon who was named one of the greatest preachers of our time. Rob completed his undergraduate work in Religious Studies and Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University where he met his wife Stephanie. He also currently teaches on faculty of Appalachian State.
Rob is a regular columnist for the Statesville Record and Landmark, his hometown newspaper in the faith section. He has written extensively for both secular and religious news outlets. Rob’s work has appeared in outlets such as NPR’s Weekend Edition, Ministry Matters, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Huffigton Post, the Common English Bible: Student Edition, and the Washington Post.
Dr. Sarah Azaransky is Union’s assistant professor of social ethics. Her research and teaching examine historical and contemporary experiences of race and sexualities and their intersections in the United States.
Her recent book, This Worldwide Struggle: Religion and the International Roots of the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, June 2017) identifies a network of black Christian intellectuals and activists who looked abroad, even in other religious traditions, for ideas and practices that could transform American democracy. From the 1930s to the 1950s, they drew lessons from independence movements around for the world for an American racial justice campaign. The book reveals fertile intersections of worldwide resistance movements, American racial politics, and interreligious exchanges that crossed literal borders and disciplinary boundaries. These black Christian intellectuals developed religious perspectives and methods of moral reasoning that became theological blueprints for the later Civil Rights Movement.
Dr. Azaransky’s other publications include The Dream is Freedom: Pauli Murray and American Democratic Faith (Oxford University Press, 2011), an edited volume Religion and Politics in America’s Borderlands (Lexington, 2013), as well as articles in Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, Black Theology: An International Journal, and Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Cruz is Union’s Associate Professor of Church and Society. Dr. Cruz’s publications include two books, Masked Africanisms: Puerto Rican Pentecostalism (Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2005) as well as Christianity and Culture in the City: A Post Colonial Approach(Lexington Books, 2013), he is currently working on a book project “Latinas and the LGBT community: Implications for the Church and Beyond. He has published a number of book chapters and journal articles on Latina/o and global Pentecostalism and on the sociology of religion– two principal areas of his research and teaching. He has published columns on civil rights for El Diario la Prensa and The New York Daily News, most recently advocating for civil rights for the LGBT community, humane immigration policies, opposing “Stop and Frisk” police practices and critiquing the prison industrial complex. Dr. Cruz has been recently featured in the Stop and Frisk docu-series: “The Pastor.” He is a frequent guest on MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry show, a frequent contributor to WBAI, and various other media outlets.
Over the last 15 years Dr. Cruz has been conducting ethnographic research on urban and Caribbean Latina/o religion, focusing predominantly on Pentecostalism and African based Caribbean/Latina religions as well as comparative analyses of Latina/o religion and Euro-American religious traditions. His work on Latina/o Pentecostalism has helped bring to the forefront the roles that Latina/o Pentecostal congregations and organizations have had in the development of leadership within Latina/o communities throughout U.S. urban centers. His research also focuses on the intersection of religion and social processes especially the potentiality for liberation among racially, culturally and sexually oppressed groups. Currently, Dr. Cruz’ research has focused on Latin@ churches and the inclusion of the LGBTQIQ community.
Samuel Cruz, completed his Ph.D at Drew University, Madison, NJ in 2002 under the directorship of internationally renowned Philosopher and Sociologist of Religion, Dr. Otto Maduro. Dr. Cruz also completed the M. Phil from Drew University in 1999. He received the M.A., Magna Cum Laude, from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, N.J., and is a 1987 graduate of the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Danielle Williams is a first year Master of Divinity student at Union Theological Seminary, with a concentration in Ethics. She is co-chair of the Black Women’s Caucus. Danielle is a community organizer who previously built with congregations, community leaders in Sacramento to advance civil rights, combat police brutality, end mass incarceration and intra-communal violence. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.