The Church is unique in that it has the ability to theologically interpret our current realities, naming where God is present and where humanity is called to help bring about the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The realities of racism in our communities brings about challenging questions: If we are the people who are called to “love our neighbors,” why do we see such racism within our religious communities and structures? Why does racism abound within the United States and across the world? How can we as Christians partner with God to help bring about liberation and the beloved community?
This panel discussion serves as a springboard for the remainder of our 2020 conversations, and we will also be revisiting the topic of colonialism at the November 18, 2020, panel discussion.
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Dr. Mai-Anh Le Tran
Dr. Mai-Anh Le Tran, vice president for Academic Affairs, academic dean and associate professor of religious education and practical theology at Garrett-Evangelical, is an ordained elder of the California-Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church. Tran has lived in three countries, traveled to over fourteen for research and study, and has engaged local churches and denominational agencies such as UMW, UMPH, and Christian Educators Fellowship. Her recent research, teaching, and writing trace practical theological understandings of race, violence, the Vietnamese immigrant experience, creativity and imagination for transformative religious leadership. She is the author of Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope (Abingdon Press, 2017).
Dr. Tran has earned degrees from Texas Wesleyan University (Fort Worth, Texas), Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology (Dallas) and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston, Ill.)
The Rev. Edgardo Colón-Emeric
Rev. Edgardo Colón-Emeric is an associate professor of reconciliation and theology, director of the Center for Reconciliation, and senior strategist, Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. He was the first Latino to be ordained as elder in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and was the founding pastor of Cristo Vive United Methodist Church in Durham, N.C. He directs the Central American Methodist Course of Study and the Peru Theological Initiative. He also serves with the United Methodist Committee on Faith and Order and on both national and international Methodist-Catholic dialogues.
Colón-Emeric describes himself as an ecumenical theologian, saying, “I believe that Christian unity is not based on a common ethnicity or common language” but rather a unity based on God.
Dr. Willie James Jennings
Dr. Willie James Jennings, associate professor of Systemic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School, is an award-winning author and widely recognized as a major figure in theological education across North America. Jennings’ book, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, has been called “a theological masterpiece” and received a number of awards, including the Grawemeyer Award in Religion in 2015, the largest prize for a theological work in North America. He recently published After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging, a book examining the problems of theological education within western education.
Jennings earned degrees from Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif.) and Duke University (Durham, N.C.) He is an ordained Baptist minister and has served as interim pastor for several North Carolina churches.
Erin Hawkins, Moderator
Ms. Erin M. Hawkins serves as Executive Director of Connectional Ministries for the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church. For the 12 years prior, she served as General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race, the denominational agency that cultivates racial inclusion and the full participation of all people into the work, witness, and life of The UMC. GCORR empowers church clergy and lay leadership to utilize the values of inclusion, racial equity, and justice in the transformative work of vital congregations in order to build up the body of Christ. Ms. Hawkins works to share lessons in creating holy relationship with God by, “holding in tension our capacity for greatness that calls us, as Christians, to persevere in the struggle towards becoming our better selves, and to combat our worst tendencies of racism, sexism, and classism.”
Ms. Hawkins’s two Masters Degrees in Organizational Development (from American University in Washington, D.C.) and Public Policy (from Indiana University) have provided her an awareness of how system processes can perpetuate the sin of racism and carry from the local to the global arena.