A year or two ago I was struggling with the intersection between my Christian faith and my identity as a woman of African descent in America. I wrestled with the idea that the oldest known people group in the world didn’t know the God who created it. By the grace of God my Youtube scholarship lead me to a video entitled Is Christianity a White Man’s Religion with Dr. Vince Bantu; on Jude 3 Projects channel. I was blown away by Lisa Fields, Dr. Bantu and the information that had somehow been hidden from me. Information that I knew to be true deep down in my soul was validated by this video. I began feverishly viewing Jude 3 videos, taking notes and creating reading lists as if my life depended on it. I discovered a name for what I was interested in, “Christian Apologetics”. Then I remembered my younger self being told that I think too much. As if belief in Jesus is antithetical to rational thought, science and history.
Since my first encounter with Jude 3 Project, I have been exposed to predominately black scholars who have not only helped to increase my knowledge of Christianity but have also increased my faith in Jesus. Who knew there were African American scholars from Yale School of Divinity? My mind has literally been blown by the work of the team at Jude 3.
Fast forward to 2018 and Jude 3 is having Courageous Conversations not debates in Chicago and I was unable to attend. So, I declared come what may I would be at Courageous Conversations 2019 in Atlanta and I was. There was so much opposition in my journey to Atlanta that I heard myself say “If I can’t go to day one that’s ok.” But thank God I was able to attend both days and I was truly blessed.
First and foremost, the facility, Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in Atlanta was extremely nice and easily accessible. The staff representing Jude 3 was friendly and attentive. Transitions between discussions, breaks and lunch were without incident. Last but not least, timetables were adhered to without a feeling of rigidity. Below is a breakdown of the discussion topics. To see discussions in their entirety (which I strongly suggest) go to Jude 3 Project’s Facebook page or http://www.Jude3Project.com.
- Interpreting the Old Testament
- Vanessa Lovelace, Dr. Cleotha Robertson, Quonekuia Day, Dr. Rodney Sadler
- The Nature of Sin
- Marcia Y. Riggs, Dr. Jonathan Walton, Dr. Mika Edmondson, Dr. Walter Strickland
- Discerning Truth
- Neichelle Guidry, Dr. Charlie Dates, Ekemini Uwan, Willie Francois
- The Divided Mind of the Church
- Bryan Loritts, Dr. E Dewey Smith, Dr. Frank Thomas, Dr Walter McCray
- Preaching to Black Millennials
- Charles Goodman, Dr. Brianna Parker, Jackie Hill Perry, Mike McClure
- Rethinking Hell
- John Kinney, Dr. Kenneth Reid, Dr. Daniel Hill, Dr. Michele Watkins
- Paul’s Sexual Ethics
- Margaret Aymer, Dr. Esau McCaulley, Ernest Gray, Dr. Angela Parker
This was my first Christian Conference experience with a panel discussion model and I’m sure it won’t be my last. The conversation model allows Christians a safe space to come to the table without having to declare a winner at the end. In a time where women are still dealing with America’s misogynistic Good Ole Boys club, the male panelists were respectful of their female counterparts and allowed space for all opinions to be expressed. Courageous Conversations was awesome and worth more than cost of attendance. I would recommend this conference to any person who wants to dig deeper into those areas we as Christians tend to shy away from or sweep under the rug. I would also recommend this conference to believers who are not African American. The beauty of this experience is that it allows African American Christians to be painted with a broad stroke as opposed to the narrow one we are usually painted with.
My key take-away’s from the conference:
- Walter Strickland’s definition of sin as, “Creations deviation from Gods design.” Sounds simple but in a culture, where being a “sinner” is almost the equivalent of the scarlet letter A on one’s chest banishing them to hell; not a symptom of a fallen world that all humans experience. I see this definition as necessary to keep us all grounded and repentant.
- John Kinney’s statement, “Guess what yall. All of this is speculation. All of it……I love God so much I don’t wanna be satisfied with simplistic responses to complex issues that privilege me to be comfortable while somebody else is victimized.” We often forget that none of us is God and the God of the Bible is so big that He can’t fit the totality of Himself in 66 books, denominations or all of mankind’s theological understanding combined. Hence conversations not debates.
I challenge you to view at least one of the discussions and tell me what you think!
Please take the time to check out Jude 3 Project’s Podcast, Youtube Channel and Facebook page. The website www.Jude3project.com also offers a bibliography of Early African Christianity and information on their upcoming curriculum: Through the Eyes of Color. I pray that my experience encourages you to pick a conference and challenge your understanding of Christianity this year.
Father God, I thank you for leading me to Christian Apologetics through Jude 3
I thank you for the contributors and panelists of this years Courageous Conversations
I thank you for their boldness to openly say what they believe and why
I pray that forums like this help us to heal the disease of division within the body
I pray that we continue to search for truth and to look beyond our own bias and experiences
Lord, I love you and thank you for the opportunity to increase my faith through scholarly discourse
In Jesus’ name I pray