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 — 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.

Starting Thursday: FREE Live Class on the Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey

It’s Good Book Club time again, and as usual, ChurchNext is offering a FREE, live class in connection with the GBC program. This year, Vicki Garvey will be back to talk about Exodus in our Live Course: The Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey.

“Finally, I get to talk about the part of the Bible that is my first love,” writes Vicki. Those of you who have taken other classes with Vicki have seen the high quality of her teaching on other books of the Bible. Now imagine her talking about part of the Bible she describes as her “first love.” Whether or not you plan to formally participate in the Good Book Club, you really don’t want to miss this class.

Vicki Garvey is a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. She has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study, and we are very blessed to have her teaching this class. Vicki has already taught live courses on the Gospels of John, Matthew, and Mark. Her Gospel of Mark class was so popular that participants went back and viewed recordings of her classes on the Gospels of John and Matthew. We are grateful to have another chance to work with her.

Here’s how it works: from January 6 through February 10, every Thursday night at 8 p.m. E.S.T., participants will click on a link to a Zoom classroom to listen to Vicki Garvey’s talks about Exodus and to ask questions/participate in discussion. Course materials will be available on an online ChurchNext course. We will also post recordings of the class meetings on the course page, so don’t worry if you can’t attend every class meeting.

You can take this course with others from your congregation or on your own.

Sign up here today! We look forward to seeing you on January 6.

Just Launched: FREE Each Other’s Keeper Curriculum

In partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, we have just launched Each Other’s Keeper For Individuals and For Groups.

This curriculum has emerged from the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri’s years of effort to reduce violence and to support victims of violence in their community.

Over the past few years, the Diocese of Missouri has focused much attention on resisting violence and mitigating effects of violence in its communities, particularly in St. Louis. It emerged from an anti-violence campaign the diocese instituted in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown and in the context of increasing violence in the community. It was written and put together by the Rev. Marc Smith, appointed in 2015 to lead diocesan efforts to reduce gun violence and coordinate intervention work with others in the region.

Now, in an effort to bring this curriculum to anyone who wants to learn about mitigating the effects of violence in their own communities, they have adapted it for a national audience.

 

The curriculum’s first section addresses violence in scripture. In a series of books very focused on violence — in which pivotal incidents like the invasion of Canaan in the Old Testament and the crucifixion in the New Testament depend on violence — what are Christians to understand when Christ asks us to turn the other cheek? What can we learn about following Christ in relation to violence when we read scripture?

 

 

The second section deals with gun violence. Incidents of suicide, domestic violence, homicide, and accidental shootings, as well as the incidents of public mass murder we read about so often, all grow with our access to firearms. Because the ways gun violence emerges in the community vary, our laws should address gun regulations with a more precise focus on different types of gun violence, why they happen, and the best ways to reduce each type of gun violence. This section asks, how can Christians help communities address gun violence regulations with the precision and care the topics require?

 

The third section focuses on youth bullying and suicide. It draws connections between ways and reasons young people experience bullying and suicide rates. It also looks at suicide itself — why people, particularly young people, make this choice, effective ways for communities to support people at risk for suicide, and ways to reach out to survivors.

 

The fourth section addresses violence against women, focusing in particular on domestic violence and sexual assault. Its goals: to educate people about the challenges abuse and assault survivors face and to educate churches on create environments that ensure that all are kept safe from harm, hold abusers accountable, and embrace those who have survived.

 

The fifth section discusses forgiveness and reconciliation. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to help us forgive those who sin against us — but the need to forgive, especially when forgiveness is demanded of them, can become an additional burden on people who have been abused. How can we treat victims of violence with respect for what they have endured while also embracing forgiveness? How can we model reconciliation on the level of the wider culture while also holding oppressors and instigators of violence accountable for their actions?

This curriculum is perfect for Christians interested in interrupting cycles of violence in their communities or in supporting survivors of various forms of violence. We hope you will emerge with a greater understanding of the complexities related to violence in its various forms and with a sense of where you might go next in your efforts to interrupt the cycles of violence so prevalent in our culture today.

All of the above photographs were taken for this curriculum by the Rev. Anne Kelsey.