Following the “Talking about Race” event sponsored by the Institute of Faith and Public Square earlier this semester, many in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary community began to dream about the next steps.
Students were asking questions like “how can we foster deeper discussions on race?,” “how can we talk about complex issues in a loving, gospel-centered environment?,” and “how can Christians find common ground on issues of race?” These questions found fertile ground with others in the NOBTS community and a student-led coalition developed. NOBTS students Quenisha Browning, Anthony Parker, Elizabeth Terrill and DeAron Washington began planning a conduit for dialogue.
“Breaking Barriers (B2) – A Student-Organized Forum on Racial Reconciliation,” scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 1 from 6-8 p.m. in Martin Chapel represents the fruit of their labor. Organizers of the event are encouraging members of the NOBTS community to join in this gospel-centered approach to racial reconciliation. Dr. Kevin Brown will moderate the event which will include four student presentations and time for dialogue.
According to DeAron Washington, the students need to find a way to have the conversation on race within Christian circles. The B2 group, he said, is seeking to keep the discussion gospel-centered.
“The secular world has taken over [the discussion],” Washington said. “As Christians we have the power, we have the authority, we have the gospel that can bring people closer than any philosophy can.”
Washington said that minorities and non-minorities need to listen to each other with the goal of gaining understanding. Each person views life through a set of unique cultural filters which influence the way he or she views the world, he said. Understanding and accepting different perspectives is essential to the type of discussion B2 seeks to foster.
“This is more than a black and white issue – this is an Asian issue, this is a Hispanic issue as well.” Washington said.
All too often people fail to realize the deep hurts their minority brothers and sisters in Christ have experienced, Washington said. People of different backgrounds experience different emotional responses to the same event. While complete agreement in every situation is not essential to racial reconciliation within the church, Washington believes empathy is a must.
For Washington, acknowledging and understanding the hurts minority Christians have experienced is a healthy step forward. The B2 forum provides a safe place for the difficult dialogue needed to produce empathy, understanding and the hope for reconciliation.