Liberating Imagination, Eviscerating Racism

A conference addressing systemic racism in the church.

A Montreat Conference Center Event
October 7–10, 2019

In the beginning, God breathed on humankind to animate our existence.

Our breath is our life-force, but the air we breathe can restore our life or kill us. We are living in a world where the sins of racism infect the very air we breathe. What happens when we pay attention to how much breath we give to scarcity, competition, and fear? What happens when we choose to focus our breath on giving oxygen to liberate our imaginations for a world where the air is full of abundance, hope, and equity?

In October of 2019, Montreat Conference Center will host CoInspire, the second in a series of conferences addressing systemic racism in the church. Our first conference, DisGrace, lived in lament for the ways in which the sins of racism thwart individual people and institutions, infecting congregations and denominations with death-dealing dehumanization. CoInspire will examine ways that we, as members of Christ’s body, might co-inspire one another to liberate imagination for new ways of being, and examine ways we can conspire to eviscerate the racism within our churches.

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Event Leadership

Rev. Traci Blackmon – Preacher

Rev. Traci Blackmon is the executive minister of justice & local church ministries for The United Church of Christ and senior pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO.

Initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Blackmon served in various ministry capacities for nine years prior to becoming ordained in the United Church of Christ, and was installed as the first woman and 18th pastor in the 162 year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ.

A featured voice with many regional, national, and international media outlets and a frequent contributor to print publications, Rev. Blackmon's communal leadership and work in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. in Ferguson, MO, has gained her both national and international recognition and audiences from the White House to the Carter Center to the Vatican. She was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Governor Jay Nixon and to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House by President Barack H. Obama. Rev. Blackmon toured the nation proclaiming the need for a moral revival with the Rev. Dr. William Barber of Moral Mondays and Repairer of the Breech; the Rev. Dr. James Forbes of The Drum Major Institute and pastor emeritus of The Riverside Church in New York; and Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus.

Rev. Blackmon is a co-author of the newly released White Privilege curriculum through the United Church of Christ and has received awards and recognitions, including The White House President’s Volunteer Service Award; 2015 Ebony Magazine Power 100; NAACP Rosa Parks Award; The United Church of Christ Antoinette Brown Leadership Award, among numerous others.

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis – Keynoter

The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the director of the Kairos Center for Rights, Religions, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary, and the co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She has spent the past two decades organizing amongst the poor and dispossessed in the United States and recently published Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor and Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing.

In 2018, alongside the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, Theoharis helped to launch the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Over the coming years, the campaign will organize poor people across race, religion, geography, political party, and other so-called lines of division to fuel a moral revolution of values in the country. Theoharis has been recognized for her work by many national bodies, including the Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn for Peace, the New York Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the 2018 Politico Magazine Top 50 list of “thinkers, doers and visionaries who are driving American politics and policy.”

Rev. Lis Valle-Ruiz – Key Leader

Rev. Lis Valle-Ruiz is an assistant professor of homiletics at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is a candidate for the PhD in homiletics and liturgics at Vanderbilt University, where she has also studied gender and sexuality. Her dissertation, “The Body as Preacher: Prophetic Performance as Disruptive Preaching,” explores ways in which prophetic preaching as a performance event challenges oppressive systems. Rev. Valle has researched the theology of the sermons of Latina clergy and is also the author of “Toward Postcolonial Liturgical Preaching: Drawing on the Pre-Columbian Caribbean Religion of the Taínos.” Homiletic Online Journal, 2015.

Dr. Raj Nadella – Key Leader

Dr. Nadella is the Samuel A. Cartledge Associate professor of New Testament, effective July 1, 2019, currently an associate professor of New Testament. His research and teaching interests include Bakhtin and Biblical studies and postcolonial readings of the New Testament, especially the parables of Jesus. Additionally, his research focuses on New Testament perspectives on the issues of economic justice and their ethical and theological implications for the Church and society today.

Dr. Jennifer Harvey – Key Leader

Dr. Harvey is professor of religion at Drake University where her courses focus on encounters of religion and ethics with race, gender, activism, politics, spirituality, justice, and any other aspect of social life in which religiosity decides to "show up." Dr. Harvey's most recent book Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation has led to her engagement as a speaker and workshop leader with faith communities and academic audiences around the nation. She is also the author of Whiteness and Morality: Pursuing Racial Justice through Reparations and Sovereignty and a co-editor of Disrupting White Supremacy: White People on What We Need To Do. Her recent publications include work on contemporary reparations movements in Protestant traditions, queer articulations of Christian traditions, and Native-Colonial dialogues on issues of environmental justice.

Rev. Dr. Christine J. Hong – Key Leader

Rev. Dr. Christine J. Hong is assistant professor of educational ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary. Her research interest includes Asian American studies, child and adolescent behavior and development, and immigrant communities, church history, post-colonial studies, and systematic theology.

Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler – Key Leader

Rev. Dr. Sadler is associate professor of Bible at Union Theological Seminary. His teaching experience includes courses in biblical languages, Old and New Testament interpretation, wisdom literature in the Bible, the history and religion of ancient Israel, and African American biblical interpretation. His first authored book, Can A Cushite Change His Skin? An Examination of Race, Ethnicity, and Othering in the Hebrew Bible, was published in 2005. He frequently lectures within the church and community on race in the Bible, African American biblical interpretation, the image of Jesus, biblical archaeology, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Dr. Lisa Dellinger – Key Leader

Dr. Lisa Dellinger (Chickasaw and Mexican American) received her MDiv with high honors from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. She served as a pastor with the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church from 2015-2017. She successfully defended her dissertation, “Reclaiming Indigenous and Christian Narrative Epistemologies: Refusing US Settler Colonialism’s Theological Anthropology of Sin,” at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, IL, and will graduate in May of 2020. Dr. Dellinger is a contributor to the book, Coming Full Circle: Constructing Native Christian Theology writing the chapter, “Sin - Ambiguity and Complexity and the Sin of Not Conforming.”

Dr. Tony McNeill – Music Leader

Dr. Tony McNeill currently serves as interim choral director at Texas Southern University (TSU). Prior to coming to TSU in 2017, Dr. McNeill served almost five years as the director of worship and the arts at Atlanta’s Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, “America’s Freedom Church.”

Eric Wall – Music Leader

Eric Wall is assistant professor of sacred music and dean of the chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and has served as the conference center musician at Montreat Conference Center since 2011.

Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle – Music Leader

Marissa is the director of language resources at Presbyterian Publishing Corporation and is also the pastor at Beechmont Presbyterian Church, an intercultural congregation in Louisville, KY.

Planning Team –

Jessica Vasquez Torres, Carol Steele, Denise Anderson, Shawna Bowman, Alex McNeill, Ashley-Ann Masters, Ruth-Aimee Belonni-Rosario Govens, Christine Hong, Mindy McGarrah Sharp, Amantha Barbee, Wende Ballew, T Gonzales, Lindsey Anderson, and Tanner Pickett

Check back for more leadership announcements!

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