In May of 1969, Black activist James Forman, meeting with members of the Black Economic Development Conference in Detroit, Michigan, issued a “Black Manifesto,” calling on mainline White denominations to pay reparations and work actively in a restructuring to dismantle institutional racism and white privilege in the United States. The very next month, Forman and others staged a sit-in protest in several denominational offices housed at the Interchurch Center at 475 Riverside Drive in New York, including the offices of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), which happened to be holding its General Synod meeting in New Brunswick at the time. The RCA formed a small committee of Synod delegates and a few others and, by the time the Synod was concluded, issued a “Response to the Black Manifesto.”
It has been half a century since the Manifesto and the responses from the RCA and other church bodies. On Thursday, October 3, from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm, the Reformed Church Center will host “UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Fifty Years Since the Black Manifesto”, a time to re-learn some of that history and the effects on the whole of the mainline Protestant church in the US, as well as the specific response of the RCA and how this denomination has done living up to the promise and addressing the possibility, as well as examining the possibilities and challenges that still lie ahead.
The program will include:
|Moderator for today’s program: Nathan Jérémie-Brink, L. Russell Feakes Assistant Professor of Global Christianity, NBTS|
|Leonard L. Bethel, Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies at Rutgers University and a PC(USA) pastor, who will speak on “Predestination and Slavery,” a background analysis and description of the Black Manifesto.|
|James Hart Brumm, Director of the Reformed Church Center, who will look at the RCA’s “Response” document from 1969 in the context of the church at the time and what the Manifesto itself demanded.|
|Earl James, Coordinator for the RCA’s African American/Black Council (AABC) and Coordinator for Advocacy in the RCA, who will look at the Council and other denominational responses and how they have both succeeded and failed.|
|Dwayne Jackson, co-pastor of Second Reformed Church in Hackensack, New Jersey, and Kelvin Spooner, pastor of Cambria Heights Reformed Church in Queens, New York, both members of the AABC, who will discuss the potential futures for Blacks in the RCA and for a multicultural future for the denomination.|
|Denise Kingdom Grier, pastor of Maple Avenue Ministries in Holland, Michigan, RCA mission partner to Setshabelo Child and Family Services in Botshabelo, South Africa, and member of the NBTS Board of Trustees. Dr. Grier’s presentation will be “Disrupting Church: It’s Still Time.” In 2015, Tom Devries, then the General Secretary of the RCA, called the church to listen to learn from the voices of ethnic minorities in the RCA. Those stories, like the fifty-year effort to decentralize the experience of the white majority, have disappeared into the fabric of the church. Dr. Grier will invite us to listen again, in order to learn and leverage the power of the Spirit to disrupt the church as we know it.|
Everyone is welcome to attend this event. There is a suggested donation of $15.00, payable at the event, which includes lunch, but everyone is welcome, regardless of ability to pay. Students at theological seminaries may come for free, as well as NBTS faculty and staff. RSVP by Monday, 30 September, at this link.