Episcopal Parish Network Webinar on Understanding Systemic Racism

Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan — Dearborn.

Yesterday, the Episcopal Parish Network (formerly CEEP) graciously offered Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown and me (Liz Brignac, Senior Course Producer for ChurchNext) as well as three people who have taken Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism the opportunity to talk about the course on an informative webinar. A recording of our discussion is available here.

In the first part of the webinar, Ivy, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Michigan, Dearborn and one of the course instructors, and I discuss why we built the course, what our goals were, how the course is formatted, and the major ideas the course covers.

In the second part of the webinar, Caroline Christman from Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina talks about her experience taking the For Individuals version of the course and why she values the opportunity to take the course privately. Diana Alm from Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Moline, Illinois describes how a group of parishioners from her church is approaching the For Individuals course as a hybrid learning opportunity and discusses how they are using the course as a launching point for a group focused on racial reconciliation activities. The Rev. Dave Guilfoyle Deacon at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Oxford, Ohio talks about how his congregation is using the For Groups version of the course in a small group context.

Throughout the webinar, the panelists answer questions about using this resource to Become Beloved Community.

If you are interested in creative approaches to using these courses, have questions about how congregations or individuals might use Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism in conjunction with other offerings, such as Sacred Ground, or if you simply want to learn more about it, you will find this webinar interesting.

Many thanks to Joe Swimmer, Betsy Buschman, and the EPN staff for working with us on this and to Ivy, Caroline, Diana, and Dave for sharing their expertise and experiences.

Just Launched: Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben

We have just launched Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben For Individuals and For Groups. Anyone familiar with Bill’s extensive history with environmental advocacy will understand that this is a great opportunity to get a Christian viewpoint on a crucial issue from one of America’s most respected environmentalists.

We have heard for decades now about the disastrous effects related to the warming of the earth due to carbon emissions. We are starting to see the results scientists have predicted coming to pass in the news as wildfires burn across continents and storms increase in fury and frequency.

 The magnitude of the problem climate change presents can seem impossible on a couple of different levels. On the one hand, while we may understand the situation intellectually, it can be hard to wrap our minds around our ability to have such effects on the earth. Humans have been around in one form or another for 6 million years, according to scientists. How can our burning fossil fuels, even a lot of them, over the last 250 years or so possibly change something as basic as earth’s temperature — let alone creating effects like raising the levels of the oceans?

The situation can also feel impossible the other way. If the entire earth is heating, what does it matter what one person does? What can we do in the face of damage that huge and forces as large as national governments and international corporations making the world-altering decisions about it?

These reactions are natural enough, and Bill McKibben addresses them both in this class. Most importantly, he shows us why we no longer have time to get used to this idea. We still have time to turn the situation around by taking concrete action — but not as much time as we once had, and not as completely as we once might have been able to manage. Bill’s main messages: we need to act now, and we need to act in groups. Individual actions count for a lot, but at this point, pooling our individual resources of money, talent, and energy is what can save us.

Fortunately, churches are good at resource-pooling — not to mention having reason for hope in the face of adversity. Our faith communities can play a part in bringing the people of our planet together to demand the change we need to see in the world.

This course is ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about creation care and particularly about how churches can respond to the climate change emergency.

Just Launched: Introducing Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom (1826), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

We just launched Introducing Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman For Individuals and For Groups.

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, scripture has much to say about food. The Old Testament spends a lot of time on foods that are considered clean and unclean, while the New Testament spends time explaining that foods that were once considered unclean can now be considered clean (Acts 10:12-15). We are exhorted to enjoy food (Ecclesiastes 2:24) but not to overdo it habitually (Proverbs 23:20-21); to be generous in sharing food without expecting repayment (Luke 14:12-1). These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Bible’s many rules and nuggets of advice about food.

After Adam and Eve leave the innocent world of Eden, however, nobody is exhorted at any point to be a vegetarian. God even provides the children of Israel with quails when they demand meat (though the meat does makes some of them sick) (Numbers 11:31-32). So why should Christians today take seriously the idea that the Christian life calls us to vegetarianism?

In this course, Steve Kaufman makes a strong case that a vegetarian lifestyle allows Christians of today to live in accordance with ethical themes that run throughout the Bible in a way that we cannot do easily as consumers of meat. Partly, he emphasizes, this is because of the way we raise animals for food today. We are stewards of creation, and the impact that raising animals for meat has on creation today is not responsible stewardship. Partly, he argues, God wants us to live as nonviolently as possible. If we can avoid eating meat to survive, we should do so.

In Eden, God’s unsullied world, humans didn’t need to kill animals because there was an abundance of vegetable food — so they lived on plants. In Isaiah’s vision of the future God will bring, animals will not need to kill one another for food (Isaiah 11). Killing animals might have been necessary in order for most people to get enough calories in the past, but with today’s food production systems, many of us can live healthy lives eating as vegetarians. In this course, Steve discusses reasons we should consider doing so and also offers practical suggestions about getting started. Steve’s video lectures include:

  • Biblical Foundations of Vegetarianism
  • Theology and Vegetarianism
  • Climate Change and Vegetarianism
  • Getting Started with Vegetarianism

This course is ideal for anyone interested in Christian ethics or creation care. We hope you enjoy it.

 

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 4

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 4 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the fourth of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course in this series, Vicki examined the following texts and gives an overview of each: 1 and 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach.

In the third course in this series, Vicki discussed overviews and major themes in the following books: Book of Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah and the Three Youths, Prayer of Manasseh, Susannah and Bel and the Dragon, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.

In this course, Vicki offers her own suggestions for how Christians can use apocryphal books as spiritual resources today. In particular, she suggests ways in which we can find comfort, guidance, hope, and peace in particular books from the Apocrypha. Her video lectures include:

  • Comfort: Wisdom of Solomon
  • Guidance: Tobit
  • Hope: 1 and 2 Maccabees
  • Peace: Baruch

The Apocrypha series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Jeremiah and Daniel especially.) For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 3 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 3 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the third of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course in this series, Vicki examined the following texts and gives an overview of each: 1 and 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach.

In this course, Vicki offers an overview and discusses important themes in the following books:

  • Book of Baruch
  • Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah and the Three Youths
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Susannah and Bel and the Dragon
  • 1 and 2 Maccabees

Vicki examines each book in terms of its structure, authorship, major themes, and historical context. By the end of this session, participants will understand enough about each of these books to have a sense of what they are about, what ideas and historical situations their authors were addressing, and how they fit with the other books of the Apocrypha and with the canonical Bible.

This class is the third in a four-part series that surveys this works of the Apocrypha. The series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Jeremiah and Daniel especially.) For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 2 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 2 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the second of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course, Vicki examines the following texts and gives an overview of each:

  • 1 and 2 Esdras
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Additions to Esther
  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Sirach

Vicki examines each book in terms of its structure, authorship, major themes, and historical context. By the end of this session, participants will understand enough about each of these books to have a sense of what they are about, what ideas and historical situations their authors were addressing, and how they fit with the other books of the Apocrypha and with the canonical Bible.

This class is the second in a four-part series that surveys this works of the Apocrypha. The series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Ezra and Esther especially). For a course preview, please click below.

How to Offer Virtual For Groups Sessions of Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism

We recently launched a free 6-session curriculum, Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. We had a request for some help sharing the For Groups course virtually, for communities that prefer meeting online to meeting in person, and we thought we’d extend our suggestions to the rest of the ChurchNext community.

This curriculum comes with 6 video sessions (each 25-30 minutes long) that are available on the ChurchNext course page and a downloadable Facilitator’s Guide and Participant’s Guide. The Facilitator’s Guide is designed so anyone can lead. It includes suggestions for opening and closing prayers, structuring the class, and moderating discussion as well as the discussion questions for each session and resources for further study. The Participant’s Guide includes short summaries of each video’s main points, the discussion questions for each session, and resources for further study.

We suggest ensuring that each participant has a copy of the Participant’s Guide before the course begins. (You can download it and email it to participants with the link to the virtual meeting.) The moderator can use the Facilitator’s Guide. When everyone has arrived to the virtual meeting, begin the formal session with prayer. Then the course facilitator can share their screen and play the video for everyone (remember to share your sound!). It might help to encourage reactions in the chat as everyone watches. Chatting helps with engagement and reminds people what questions came up as they watched.

After the video is finished, the facilitator may stop sharing their screen and encourage discussion. (You may want to set some group norms to begin the conversation; the Facilitator’s Guide has suggestions about this on page 4.) If the group is large, the facilitator may prefer to utilize breakout rooms, which break people into small groups for conversation. (Here is a guide on how to use breakout rooms in Zoom, and many other meeting sites offer small group discussion options as well.) If you prefer to stay in the main group, run the discussion as you would an in-person meeting, with a moderator. People can ask their own questions and use the ones written for the course (available in both the guides). Ideally, they will use both. At the end of the session, close with a prayer.

We hope these suggestions help you as you decide how best to utilize these courses in your congregation. They will work for shorter For Groups courses as well if you intersperse the shorter videos with periods of discussion.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 1 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 1 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the first of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

Many Christians are curious about the Apocrypha — the series of books that are biblical canon for some branches of the church and not for others; that aren’t quite biblical for the Anglican communion and for Protestant churches in general but are included in some Protestant Bibles. What exactly are these books? What is their status in the church? If they aren’t biblical, why do we sometimes find them in bibles? What makes them different from other books of their time on Judeo-Christian topics that are excluded from both the biblical canon and the Apocrypha?

Examining how the apocryphal books became the Apocrypha by definition teaches us about how the biblical books became the Bible. Both contain texts that were floating around the Mediterranean region for centuries that claimed to offer insight into humanity’s relationship with the Judeo-Christian God. Why were some deemed inspired while others were considered wise but not biblical canon? Why did some branches of the Church deem the works canonical while others did not? What process was involved in making these decisions?

This class is the first in a four-part series that surveys this works of the Apocrypha. The series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. In the first class, Vicki introduces the Apocrypha. She gives an overview of the books and discusses how the various major branches of the church use them. She talks about how they relate to canonical biblical texts and the history and genre expectations that framed the books. Finally, she touches on the canonization process and the difference between apocryphal works and the pseudepigrapha (books that did not make it into either the Bible or the Apocrypha).

This class will interest anyone who has wondered what the books of the Apocrypha are, why they have been established as apocryphal instead of biblical, and how and why we use them today. For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched — Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism

We just launched Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. This  six-session curriculum is offered for free to any individual, congregation, or other group looking for deeper understanding of how systemic racism operates in our country and in our church, and for suggestions about what to do next in the process of Becoming Beloved Community.

In her powerful 2020 book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson writes, “America is an old house. We can never declare the work over…Not one of us was here when this house was built…but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures built into the foundation…they are ours to deal with now.”

[Image: “Old House” by Patty Fleckenstein. Used with permission. Prints available on Etsy.]

If we look at America as an old house, as Wilkerson suggests, we can see racism as a structural flaw. It’s central to the house’s framework, and not by accident. Many white Americans approach racism as an age-old human problem that history has never been able to surmount. In this course, Dr. Ivy Forsythe Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, Associate Professor of Church History at Bexley-Seabury Seminary and Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts, show us that on the contrary, while hostility to people and groups conceived as “the Other” has been a problem throughout human history, racism is a human construct — and not even a very old one — built for purposes of oppression.

As the current owners of this old house, the structural flaw of racism is ours to deal with now — as is the responsibility if we ignore the problems and allow them to grow.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, calls racism America’s original sin because of the inherited and fundamental nature of the problem — and, as with original sin, by the grace of God, we have hope. We can rebuild our house to eradicate structural racism and its many effects. The process will not be easy, or quick, or painless, but we can, and must do this work. As citizens who are responsible for the nation we have inherited and as Christians who are charged to love other human beings and resist sin, it is necessary on many levels that we make these changes. This course is designed to be an early step in that process.

In this course, Ivy and Tom take us through six sessions of material.

In Session One: Race, Privilege, and Beloved Community, Ivy and Tom describe this course’s mission in the context of the Christian call to resist racism, and they define key terms.

In Session Two: Building a Strong Foundation Ivy discusses how, if we alter our own behaviors, we can change the way we construct race and thereby contribute to dismantling systemic racism. She looks at key examples of systemic racism being deliberately incorporated into U.S. political and economic policies in the first 150 years of our history.

In Session Three: Systemic Racism in the U.S., Ivy examines U.S. history after the 1920s. She examines specific examples of deliberately constructed systemic racism and shows how they have led directly to racial injustices today.

In Session Four: The Episcopal Church and Race, Tom discusses The Episcopal Church’s active complicity in U.S. systemic racism and errors we have made in our attempts to combat racism. He talks about ways we can learn from our mistakes.

In Session Five: Racial Reconciliation and Personal Empowerment, Tom and Ivy discuss white privilege and white silence on racial matters as significant barriers to Becoming Beloved Community. They talk about ways to do productive racial justice work in your local community.

In Session Six: Actively Building Beloved Community, Ivy and Tom talk about traps into which people may fall, accepting or perpetuating racism without necessarily recognizing it, and how to avoid them. They talk about concrete actions congregations can take to Become Beloved Community.

At the end of the course, we hope each participant will have learned more about:

  • The racism inherent to our nation’s social, political, and economic structures.
  • The far-reaching effects of the racist policies white people have implemented into these structures.
  • The participation of The Episcopal Church in creating and sustaining systemic racism.
  • The need to change those structures and repair their negative effects.
  • Barriers to changing those structures to make them truly egalitarian (and how to overcome them).
  • The next steps we should take as congregations and individuals in Becoming Beloved Community.
  • Many resources for learning more about systemic racism and about taking effective action.

We hope you will join us in learning about Becoming Beloved Community in our congregations, in our local communities, and in our nation. The work to which we are called is urgent and complex and requires all of us to bring effort and empathy to the task. Take this first step today.

The course is funded by the grants from Episcopal Church’s Presiding Officers’ Advisory Council on Becoming Beloved Community and the Diocese of Michigan and by Forward Movement. We are grateful for their support.

ChurchNext Lenten Resources

Lent is approaching, and ChurchNext offers a buffet of Lenten resources, so step right up and make your choice. (These are especially useful tools for a Lenten season like this one in which some people may not be gathering in person because the classes offer participants opportunities for online discussions.)

Curricula

Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. You can register for the course today. The course content will become available January 31.

Designed for study over a period of six weeks, the curriculum explores how systemic racism has been integrated into U.S. culture from the very beginning as well as the Episcopal Church’s history of active participation in systemic racism. The curriculum offers guidance on learning from this history and building toward what Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes as “the Beloved Community of God.” Each of the six sessions include half-hour videos, optional self-assessments, opportunities for discussion, take-home materials, and recommendations for further research. The course is led by two experts on the topic of system racism and the church: Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown, associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, affiliate professor of church history at Bexley-Seabury Seminary and rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

With Gladness: 5 Weeks of Holy Practices for Disciples

Do you long to grow in your relationship with Christ? Take a ‘Lenten challenge’ and join The Rev. Christopher Martin on an inspiring and informative journey, in which he offers insights into discipleship that can be truly transformative. In this course he touches on various habits and disciplines that can easily be incorporated into our walk with Christ.

 

 

 

A Spring in the Desert with Frank and Victoria Logue For Individuals and For Groups

This curriculum, based on Frank and Victoria’s book A Spring in the Desert, examines the seven Christian virtues through the lens of the desert. Using historical accounts of the desert fathers and mothers, meditations based on plant life and imagery of the desert, and scriptural references to the desert, Frank and Victoria walk participants through the Lenten season.

 

Classes 

Your church and families within your church may find the following classes helpful during Lent:

Making Sense of the Cross Parts 1-3: These three courses  offer David Lose’s examination of how to understand Jesus’ death on the cross in the context of our life experiences (part one), the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and death (part two), and theological interpretations (part three).

Introducing Lent with Maggi Dawn: This class offers people new to the church and anyone who wants a refreshed understanding of the season an overview of Lent. Author, priest, scholar, and teacher Maggi Dawn discusses Lent’s history in the church and ways that we observe and commemorate the Lenten season today.

Lent for Families with Kim Baker: In this class, longtime educator and priest Kim Baker discusses ways that families can celebrate a rich Lenten season together.

Walk in Love Part 2: Marking Time with Scott Gunn and Melody Shobe: This course is part of our Walk in Love series. It goes through the church year as a whole, including a lot of focused discussion about Lent and Holy Week. This class is another one that people new to the church might find particularly useful.