African American Preaching Conference to discuss interracial healing and unnamed women in Biblical history

The conference in 2019 was held in person, this year they choose to conduct the conference online. Photo curtesy of Truett seminary's media and communication specialist Maxcey Blaylock.

By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer

The George W. Truett Theological Seminary is set to feature five acclaimed pastors and three plenary speakers from around the nation this week during its second annual African American Preaching Conference.

Dr. Joel Gregory, professor of preaching and director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching, said that 400 people have already registered.

Reverend Shawn Boyd, program coordinator for the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching, received and put together videos from each speaker featured at the conference.

“We’ve edited this into a continuous kind of production and reductions with music supplied by one of the great African American gospel choirs in the country, The Church Without Walls,” Gregory said. “It’ll have segways. It’ll be as if they’re at a live conference with prayers, readings, introductions and messages and music.”

There will also be one in-person feature in the Truett Seminary chapel on Tuesday.

Malcolm Foley, special advisor to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement and sixth-year Ph.D. student in Baylor’s Department of Religion, will be hosting a workshop titled “Racial Healing as Pastoral Care.”

Foley said it will be focused on what it means to engage in interracial healing and racial justice efforts as something that flows out of pastoral care.

“[The focus is] specifically the work of applying the gospel in every single area of a congregant’s life,” Foley said. “That includes healing from racial trauma.”

Foley’s research on the response of Black Protestants to lynching in the 19th and early 20th century and its application to the church today inspired this workshop topic.

“There are wounds that haven’t been allowed to heal,” Foley said. “So, one of the things that I’m actively thinking about and one of the things that I’m hoping to discuss is how we can contribute to that healing.”

Foley said that he hopes those that attend his workshop will leave with an understanding of the need for an active commitment to healing racial wounds.

“That’s what true healing is,” Foley said. “It’s my hope that coming away from this conference that people would understand the diversity of African American theological and homiletic traditions and also the strength and worth of those traditions as well.”

Dr. Stephen Reid, professor of Christian Scriptures, will be leading a workshop on Thursday titled “Preaching Christ and Singing the Blues in the Lament Psalms Today.”

As the only full-time African American faculty member at Truett, Reid said he has been glad to participate in this event for the second year.

“This is a workshop for working pastors,” Reid said. “I’m going to try to juxtapose some critical issues they’re facing in churches such as ‘Say Her Name,’ a movement, and the Biblical text, which is my specialty in Psalms and have them think a while on how that intersection might really provide a new spark in their preaching.

Reid said that he also hopes to discuss the issue of unnamed women in Biblical history.

“There’s a book on women of the Bible, put together by some friends of mine,” Reid said. “One of the things they observed is the largest category of women in the Bible are those who are unnamed.”

Reid said when he thinks about the women that have been victims of police violence, he thinks about the women who have experienced violence in the Biblical account.

“The women in the Psalms are almost never named,” Reid said. “I want to use this as an opportunity for the people in the workshop to think about how a particular Psalm sounds if it were to be heard in a woman’s voice.”

Reid said that when most people hear the Psalms, they assume it is a male speaker.

“I want folks at the workshop just to have the opportunity to think of ‘How does this text hit the ear if we think of this as a woman speaker?’” Reid said.

Reid said that for many African-Americans, the church has been a place of sanctuary.

“For many years, the church was about the only place African-Americans had any sort of self-determination,” Reid said. “And the moment of preaching and worship became a moment where the other things of the community fell away and there was a time to attend to of the lives of women and men in African American communities, unlike anything that they had in their normal work lives.”

The conference will additionally feature pastors Dr. Delvin Atchison, Dr. Jerry Carter, Dr. Cynthia Hale, Dr. Raquel Lettsome and Dr. Maurice Watson and plenary speakers Dr. Kenyatta Gilbert, Dr. Robert Smith Jr. and Dr. Frank Thomas.

These individuals come from various cities in Texas as well as from New Jersey, Georgia, New York, Maryland, D.C., Alabama and Indiana.

Gregory said he hopes attendees take away a new appreciation for African American preaching.

“Which to me,” Gregory said, “is the strongest preaching in America today.”