Talking Points Launches Conference Series on Justice and Unity
by Kristina Garvelink (M.S. ’15)
In collaboration with CityFest, One West Michigan and the Urban Church Leadership Center, Talking Points held its spring conference on April 26, 2018. Attended by more than 240 area pastors, congregants and higher education professionals, the event marked the first of three gatherings in Talking Points' 2018-19 series entitled "Justice + Unity: Toward the Healing of a Fractured Church."
Darrell Yoder, director of Talking Points and the Pirsig Fellowship, expressed the importance of inviting the body of Christ and church leaders to expand conversations on racial reconciliation and areas of marginalization to include the themes of justice and unity.
"In predominantly white settings, we often tend to overlook biblical teaching about justice and its implications on racial unity and how we address poverty," Yoder said. "We tend not to think about justice, poverty and unity in the same sentence. We want to take a serious look at that."
Conference foci intend to highlight both historic and contemporary voices discussing the Black/African-American experience, Hispanic/Latino(a) experience and women in the church. Yoder said, "The goal is to lift up areas of marginalization in the church, look at them honestly and ask how the gospel calls us to respond." As a result, each one-day seminar and post-conference leadership luncheon will invite attendees to enact practical ways to promote flourishing among all members in their spheres of influence and facilitate new conversations between ministry professionals from different cultural contexts.
"We want this Talking Points series to be an experience of listening carefully to Scripture and listening to our brothers and sisters and Christ," Yoder said. "We aim to connect and build relationships—especially among leaders in the church—across racial and ethnic lines so that there can be a growing partnership; mutual love and care; and a hope-filled process of confession, repentance and healing."
In bringing together the church and university in reflective discussion, Yoder communicated his "weighty hopefulness" about the forthcoming year.
"It seems that the broader evangelical community is at a tipping point with conversations like this. Other much larger conferences, such as MLK50 in Memphis last month, are taking up a similar effort. Old habits about how we engage with others need to go away," Yoder said. "We are increasingly going to be pushed to choose whether to stand with and listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ or capitulate to the divisions of the world.
"Unity is the experience of mutual love and respect across racial, ethnic and gender lines. It's where the church affirms and recognizes the equal worth and dignity of everyone. This leads to mutual and reciprocal impact; in coming together and healing, we all change. That's what being in a multi-ethnic body of Christ is all about."