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Dec  2014 11
Addressing Race and Violence during Advent

Representatives from the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation and Phillips Theological Seminary will gather at 2:30 p.m. at Foolish Things Coffee House on Friday, Dec. 12, to continue a conversation that began last week on Phillips' campus regarding race and violence during Advent. 

Dr. Mindy McGarrah Sharp, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Ethics at Phillips, says issues surrounding race and violence have always existed. She thinks that it is important for people to address these concerns.

“The anguish in the human community is always present,” she said. “But when there’s something that brings that anguish up in the public, you have to decide: do I engage?”

McGarrah Sharp says there are three important components of interaction that need to take place: guided self-reflection, in-group processing, and intentional listening to the voices and stories of people most affected by race and violence. She hopes the conversation between members of Phillips and of the John Hope Franklin Center results in trust building, courage and a network of collaboration.

“The choice to respond doesn't dictate the form,” she said. “The choice to respond includes thinking about what should or could be responsible engagement; you figure that out in collaboration.”

McGarrah Sharp says while she has not heard much response to race and violence from local pastors, she is interested in knowing the ways people are responding in their own congregations and communities.

Phillips has been addressing race and violence this fall in light of several violent deaths of black men and women. Faculty and staff of the seminary joined Metropolitan Baptist Church in August for a Candlelight Vigil for Justice in response to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A follow-up conversation was held at Phillips in October with members of the Tulsa community. In November, Phillips joined the YWCA and others at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park to protest the grand jury decision not to indict the officer who shot Brown. Last week, Phillips hosted a carry-in luncheon to discuss how to address issues of race and violence during the season of Advent.

Phillips also has a history of engaging vital conversations surrounding identity-based violence. In April, Instructor in Ministry Studies Susanna Southard spoke out against the shooting at a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kan. Phillips library staff member Lisa Dellinger was a featured speaker at the inaugural Winter Talk, a time for Native American Disciples of Christ to discuss the spiritual health of American Indian communities in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which was held at the seminary in February. Immersion travel classes to the U.S.-Mexico border, New Orleans or Nicaragua are an important component of degree programs at Phillips. Phillips also has ongoing partnerships with organizations such as the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice and Oklahomans for Equality.

McGarrah Sharp encouraged people to seek out resources that could help them address conversations of race and violence in public discourse. She believes dialogue groups hosted by the YWCA are a good place to start engaging in self-reflection while public conversations such as the one between Phillips and John Hope Franklin Center are beneficial for in-group processing. She encouraged people to seek out information from affected communities in order to develop a posture of listening.

“Within the big choice of how to responsibly engage, there are tons of little choices daily, including deciding which voices will be authoritative,” she said.

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