New BJC resources help facilitate conversations on race and religious liberty

by | Jun 1, 2021

The topic of this year’s Shurden Lectures back in April tackled an essential subject for people of faith who seek to promote racial and social justice. “Religious Liberty Has Been White Too Long: Voices of Black Scholars” explored the intersection of Black freedom and religious liberty through the insight and research of four scholars: 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 by each scholar followed by a panel discussion with all 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 need to follow, BJC released companion study guides for group discussions on the important issues raised in those presentations. One is a comprehensive guide, designing a deep dive over five sessions. An abridged guide is also available for groups who prefer a single discussion setting. These discussion guides are exceptional tools for use within your church or faith community, or just for personal reflection.  I have worked through them myself after re-watching the 90-minute event.

Each guide offers questions corresponding with 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. 

In case you are new to BJC or haven’t followed closely their work over the past year, these guides are just one of the many resources reflecting BJC’s commitment to specifically address racial injustice in religious liberty advocacy.  BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler explained that commitment in a March 2021 column:

Before we white people speak, we need to listen. BJC is doing just that this year, as we focus on learning from BIPOC scholars, theologians, preachers, writers, philosophers, poets, prophets and podcasters about faith freedom for all. We are intentionally working to decenter the voices that have taken up almost all of the conversation about religious freedom to this point. We aren’t erasing those voices that have been dominant for so long, but we are making room for everyone to find a home and equal place in our conversations and organization.

If you have a moment, take a look at BJC’s Race and Religious Liberty resource page. Recent additions include several BJC Facebook Live conversations moderated by Charles Watson Jr. In February, BJC hosted a weekly series entitled Voices of Black Faith Freedom. In May, BJC hosted a series entitled Voices of Asian American Faith Freedom. Those live conversations  introduced new voices and perspectives to the topic of religious liberty. For example, Watson and Dr. Khyati Joshi, author and professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, addressed the question of “How do minority religions gain equality in the face of Christian privilege?” Video of these Facebook Live events is available online. You can also see YouTube playlists for the Voices of Black Faith Freedom series and Voices of Asian American Faith Freedom series.

Stay tuned for more from BJC on the topic of racial injustice and faith freedom for all. And get involved! One great place to start is in conversation within your faith community. BJC’s discussion guides as a companion to this year’s Shurden Lectures will help.