Justice + Unity: Toward the Healing of a Fractured Church

Part 1: Black/African American Experience and Perspectives

On April 26, 2018, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary launched a special Talking Points series and hosted the first of three conferences to explore the themes of racial justice and ethnic unity in Scripture. This first event centered on Black/African American perspectives, the second event centered on Hispanic/Latino(a) perspectives, and the third event centered the perspectives of women.

Our desire is to hear God's Word with open hearts and to attend to the ways that brothers and sisters in Christ have been marginalized, even within the body of Christ. We have hope in Christ and His Spirit who is able to move us toward confession, repentance, healing and love. We invite pastors, leaders and individual Christians to join the conversation.

Audio Recordings

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Conference Speakers

The spring conference featured notable speakers, authors, faculty members, pastors and higher education professionals.

Christina Edmondson

Dr. Christina Edmondson serves as the dean for intercultural student development at Calvin College. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and a M.S. in Family Therapy and is a Qualified Assessor for the Intercultural Development Inventory, Certified Cultural Intelligence facilitator, public speaker and mental health therapist.

Christina has a track record of bringing diverse people together to promote personal and team flourishing and is often contacted by churches and organizations to consult about both diversity and inclusion and mental health issues. Her writing has been seen and referenced in a variety of outlets including Essence.com, The Witness: A Black Christian Collective (formerly, Reformed African American Network, RAAN), The Twelve/Perspectives Journal and Gospel Today magazine.

With conviction, boldness and emotional intelligence, Christina speaks about anti-racism, cultural differences, team dynamics and servant leadership. She is also a co-host of Truth's Table, a podcast that centers the Black female experience and provides insight on church, culture, race, politics, gender, current events and pop culture all filtered through a Christian faith.

Christina is a native of Baltimore, Md., but resides in Grand Rapids with her family. She is married to Pastor Mika Edmondson of New City Fellowship Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., and she is the mother of two wonderful little girls.

Mika Edmondson

Dr. Mika Edmondson is the pastor of New City Fellowship in Grand Rapids, Mich. He earned a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary.

He is the author of "The Power of Unearned Suffering: The Roots and Implications of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Theodicy," an exploration of MLK's theology of suffering. A frequent conference speaker, Mika's work has been featured by The Gospel Coalition.

He is a native of Nashville, Tenn., but lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., with his wife Christina Edmondson and their two daughters.

Tim Gombis

Dr. Timothy Gombis teaches New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Tyndale Fellowship and the Institute for Biblical Research. He received both his M. Div. and Th.M from the Master's Seminary and his Ph.D. from the University of St. Andrews. His research interests include the Gospel of Mark, Paul's letters and theology and encounters between biblical theology and contemporary culture and politics. He has written on Paul's theology of racial unity, along with "The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God" and "Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed."

Before arriving in Grand Rapids, he was involved in the leadership of a multi-ethnic urban church in Springfield, Ohio. He is currently writing a commentary on Mark's Gospel and a book on Paul's pastoral ministry. In his spare time, Tim enjoys hiking, golf, following the Chicago Cubs and reading about ancient Greek and Roman history.

Jonathan Greer

Dr. Jonathan Greer serves as associate professor of Old Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Jonathan earned a B.A. from Messiah College, two M.A. degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Penn State University. He is a co-editor (with John Hilber and John Walton) of "Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Historical, Cultural, and Social Contexts of Ancient Israel" (coming late 2017, Baker Academic).

In addition to teaching, Jonathan and his wife Jennifer lead the Israel Study Tour. He also serves as director of the Hesse Memorial Archaeological Laboratory on campus where he and his team are cataloging animal bones from sacrificial contexts excavated at Tel Dan in northern Israel, where he serves as associate director of excavations. He and Jennifer live in Grand Rapids, Mich., with their three children.

Todd Robinson

Dr. Todd E. Robinson is an associate professor of history and former director of African-American studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A native of Springfield, Mass., Professor Robinson received a dual B.A. in History and American Studies from American University, M.M. from Cambridge College, M.A. from the University of Massachusetts and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan.

A specialist in twentieth-century urban history, civil rights and race, Dr. Robinson authored the best-selling and award-winning book "A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan," which was selected as Choice Outstanding Academic Book and named Grand Rapids Mayor's Book of the Year.

Dr. Robinson also serves as a museum consultant, project scholar and frequent public speaker. Currently, he is working on a new book entitled "Fires, Flames, and Faith," which traces the legacy of black church burnings from the horrific 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to the tragic 2008 Macedonia Church of God in Christ arson in Springfield.