Living Justice

An Anti-Racist Practicum

Apply now. The fall session begins October 13.

• Which models of teaching and learning can better engender thinking about and practicing justice?
• How can we deepen talk about the power of love and the call to justice beyond the structural and ideological lines that prevent transformative conversations?
• What does solidarity mean theologically, and how do Disciples from diverse communities practice it with integrity?

LIVING JUSTICE: An Antiracist Practicum invites conversation, exploration, and inquiry to support individual and collective anti-racism work and also to develop pedagogies and curricula.

Directed by Yvonne Gilmore and Sandhya Jha, the practicum joins their expertise in anti-racist pro-reconciling training with that of other Disciples practitioner-scholar-activists to develop a next generation of pedagogical approaches and resources.The project expresses DDH’s commitment to innovative ministry and to thinking critically and constructively. A second grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation, together with continuing leadership from Yvonne Gilmore and Sandhya Jha, will allow DDH to offer a second cycle of three interrelated five-week sessions during the 2021-22 academic year.

Introduction

The virulent and dehumanizing history of racism in the United States has been indexed, and resistance to racism is increasingly claimed by citizens, religious institutions, and civic institutions in response to recent instances where unarmed African-American citizens have been killed by police. Video recordings and public images of these deeply unsettling public events have activated seismic shifts in community relations and institutional ecologies. Racism is also a theological dilemma and systemic social sin that has been institutionally embedded in laws, policies, and normative practices.

The call to justice that sounds in Micah 6:8, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” is an emblem of theological continuity and discontinuity. Situated in a transformative exilic moment, the call is addressed to the people of Israel as an active religious obligation of life before God. The call to justice is not a single answer or a simple fixed idea, but rather a call for active learning in relation. As calls for justice reverberate across our current landscape, situated amidst a pandemic and in urgent appeals for active learning in relation to black and brown bodies, this project aims to move a step beyond echoing the call to justice to active learning in relation that charts a course of action.

Background

With admittedly varying degrees of efficacy, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has resisted racism and endeavored to do justice since the denomination’s inception through Restructure and Merger. Over the last twenty years, Reconciliation Ministries, building on models developed by Crossroads Antiracism Training and Organizing, has provided anti-racist/pro-reconciling (AR/PR) training for many Disciples clergy and laity. These one- or two-day trainings, facilitated by a group of core trainers, have provided common language and an introduction to the history of institutional racism and an analysis of power.

LIVING JUSTICE seeks to enable individuals with expertise in the Disciples anti-racist/pro-reconciling training to join with other Disciples practitioner-scholar-activists to develop a next generation of pedagogical approaches and resources. It responds to a seismic shift in attention to policing and race as well as to the ongoing commitment of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to build an anti-racist, anti-oppression church.

Approach

LIVING JUSTICE is rooted in the lived theologies of transformative leaders and communities. It takes attention to ecologies of transformation and theological diagnosis to be crucial. The practicum will clarify and consolidate what these leaders and communities already know about the underlying ecologies that enable transformative conversation, pedagogy, and change.

It focuses on connecting and developing scholar-practitioner-activist leaders.The project's immediate aim is to develop leaders and a curriculum for a more extensive anti-racist practicum. It will provide a space to develop plans, explore risks, and think through the challenges and opportunities presented by this moment. It is ultimately aimed at reaching Disciples who would benefit from such a practicum to further their interest and commitment to justice in their communities after having already completed the basic AR/PR one-day training.

Its central strategy is to develop and test a new context and model of conversation and pedagogy, an anti-racist practicum. The heart of the project is to curate a creative design lab for innovative practitioners to invite thought to develop an anti-racist practicum to activate courageous conversation, analysis, and pedagogy.

Participants

LIVING JUSTICE: An Anti-Racist Practicum connects diverse scholar-practitioner-activist leaders to develop resources to critically advance the anti-racist/pro-reconciling (AR/PR) imperatives, and to teach other lay persons, clergy, scholars, and institutional leaders how to take next steps to institutionalize justice by building upon the current AR/PR training model. For the first cycle, Project directors Yvonne Gilmore and Sandhya Jha were joined by a core team of Dave Bell, Santiago Pinon, Laura Jean Torgerson, and Ayanna Johnson Watkins.

If the primary objective of this project is to develop an anti-racist group of scholar-practitioner-activist leaders who develop a practicum and curricular lab, a secondary objective of this year-long experiment is to invite Disciples lay and clergy from disparate areas to test this approach and to gain advanced training themselves. Approximately 50 individuals participated in the first cycle of seminars.

Indicate your interest for the new 2021-22 cycle of Living Justice: Anti-Racist Practicum with this application form.

Schedule

The practicum is arranged in three five-week sessions, with different topics for each. This structure allows the leadership teams first to plan together during a period of theological reflection and design and then to test their formulations through the intensive online course (5 weeks).

Project directors

Yvonne T. Gilmore - Interim Executive Secretary, National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); former Associate Dean, Disciples Divinity House (2013-20)

Committed to the preparation of “thought leaders,” Yvonne Gilmore's ministry exemplifies such leadership. In her new work and in the past, that involves fostering educational opportunities, vocational development, and transformative conversations among rising generations, clergy, and laity in congregations, ast DDH, and in the wider church. A former new church developer, she also served as the projector director for the Constructive Theologies Project and as a Core Trainer for Reconciliation Ministries. As associate dean of the Disciples Divinity House for more than seven years, she furthered DDH's educational work and interpreted that work to key constituencies.

Sandhya Jha - author, educator, coach, and consultant; Disciples minister and founder of the Oakland Peace Center

Author of Room at the Table, Pre-Post Racial America, Transforming Communities, and Liberating Love: 365 Love Notes from God, she is a widely sought public speaker and anti-oppression trainer. Her twenty years of community organizing experience position her to help cultivate sustainable social movement work locally, regionally, and beyond. She is an MDiv and Master of Public Policy graduate of the University of Chicago, DDH alumna, NAPAD leader, and Core Trainer with Reconciliation Ministries. http://sandhyajha.com/

What are they saying about LIVING JUSTICE?

  • “This was a very engaging, thought provoking experience with a diverse group of conversation partners.”
  • “My question is how to work towards anti-racism in white churches…. I am interested in doing some work to help people recall their ancestors, learn about them and begin to tell whole stories (of good and of wrong).”
  • “Just thank you for all of this. I had decided to just stay out of church life (regional, general and local) for a minute because I'm tired of the same everything. Instead, I'm sitting here at 1:16am thinking of a better way to go about this race thing in the church, a life-giving way to bring healing to people of color in the church.”