Town hall series will explore religion and racism

The Momentum Center’s (Anti) Racism Task Force is planning a series of town halls on religion and racism. 

This series is co-sponsored by Grand Valley State University's Kaufman Interfaith Institute, which brings together diverse voices and worldview traditions to find common ground, foster interfaith cooperation, and elevate individual experiences and stories.

The inaugural town hall session last season, which focused on public health, education, and the criminal justice system, was launched by the Momentum Center. The Grand Haven nonprofit seeks to create a stigma-free community by hosting community conversations and operating The Momentum Center for Social Engagement, which addresses mental illness, addictions, and disabilities. 

“Town halls are opportunities for people to talk about their experiences and the experiences of others so we can all learn from and appreciate a variety of perspectives,” Momentum Center Experi-Mentor Barbara Lee VanHorssen says. “Ground rules emphasize we are not gathering to debate but to share our experiences and listen to the honest experiences and beliefs of others. We work hard to create a safe environment for sharing so that we can find our common concerns and work toward our common goals.”

The (Anti) Racism Task Force town hall will provide panelist presentations, a question-and-answer period, and breakout discussion sessions. 

Topics are for the town halls are:

Oct. 25: Historical context of Christianity and racism.
Nov. 8: What is happening in churches today in terms of racism. 
Dec. 13: The response to racism in other faith traditions, including Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. 
Jan. 24: Christianity and Native and Indigenous people. 

Town halls, which are available only on Zoom, run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. 

Panelists for the Oct. 25 session are Victoria Proctor Gibbs, Robert (Rik) L. Stevenson, and Gordon Wiersma. 

Gibbs is a founder of Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation (CORR) and is currently a co-chair and lead coach. Committed to an anti-racism focus from a Christian perspective, CORR aims to be an inclusive Christian community that does not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, mental health, or educational and economic power. 

Stevenson is a professor of African American Studies at the University of Florida. He holds master’s degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary, a doctorate in divinity from the Southern California School of Ministry, and a doctorate in African American and African studies from Michigan State University. Stevenson teaches courses on the civil rights movement and the Black campus movement. “Racism,” according to Stevenson, “is a public health issue.”

Wiersma, who has been co-pastor at Hope Church (RCA) in Holland since 1999, has been part of building creative coalitions for equity, inclusion, and justice. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College, a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a doctor of ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary.

Suggested reading for the Oct. 25 town hall is “America’s Original Sin” by Jim Wallis.

Participants can register for the town hall at Participants will need the Zoom app to participate in breakout sessions.


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.