The Black Church and American Political Renewal


The Black Church has played a vital role in the day-to-day lives of African Americans and in the pursuit of racial justice and healing. No doubt it will continue to do so. While America's present political landscape is increasingly marked by antagonism and unrest, today’s Black churches possess a unique witness. Yet their diverse histories, challenges, and visions for the future are not as widely known as they ought to be.

On May 6th, 2021 Baylor in Washington was pleased to host a conversation exploring the role of the Black Church in helping to heal our fractured nation.


Bishop LaTrelle Miller EasterlingBishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling is the episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, the oldest and most diverse annual conference in The United Methodist Church.  She was appointed to this office in September 2016, following her election to the episcopacy that July. Prior to being elected, she served as Dean of the Cabinet of the New England Conference and as a superintendent, leading 57 congregations in the Boston Hope District. She was ordained a Deacon in 1995 and an Elder in 1997, and was pastor of Union UMC in Boston’s historic South End, Pearl Street UMC in Brockton, Mass., and Old West Church, UM, in Boston. A strong proponent of education, Easterling received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and a Law degree from Indiana University School of Law.  Prior to entering the ministry, she worked as a human resources manager and director, and as a prosecuting attorney. She graduated summa cum laude in 2004 with a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology. In 2020, she was named a Distinguished Alumna of that school for her leadership in The United Methodist Church. Easterling is a much sought-after speaker and preacher, poet and published author. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, most recently receiving the 2017 Rainbow Push Trombone Award for Faith in Action, presented by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. She is married to the Rev. Marion Easterling Jr., pastor of Locust UMC in Columbia, and the former pastor of Parkway UMC in Milton, Mass. They have two grown sons, Garret Walter and Miles Teronza.

Justin Giboney is an attorney and political strategist in Atlanta, GA. He is also the co-founder and president of the AND Campaign, a coalition of biblical Christians who are determined to address the sociopolitical arena with the compassion and conviction of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 2012 and 2016 Georgia’s 5th congressional district elected him as a delegate for the Democratic National Convention. Giboney has written op-eds for publications such as Christianity Today and The Hill and is the co-author of Compassion (&) Conviction - The AND Campaign's Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement.

Jacqueline C. Rivers is the Executive Director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies. She has lectured at Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, the American Enterprise Institute, the Vatican, the United Nations and in several other venues. Her latest publication appears in the volume Not Just Good but Beautiful. She has also published a chapter, written with the leading sociologist Orlando Patterson, in The Cultural Matrix. She has worked on issues of social justice and Christian activism in the black community for more than thirty years, committing her personal and professional life in service to the inner city youth of Boston. Dr. Rivers holds a PhD from Harvard University where she was a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy of the J. F. Kennedy School of Government and a Graduate Research Fellow of the National Science Foundation. She graduated from Harvard Radcliffe College (BA. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and MA., both in Psychology). She was born and raised in Jamaica and now lives in Dorchester with her husband, Reverend Eugene F. Rivers, III.

Moderated By:

Ronald Angelo Johnson holds the Ralph and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair of History at Baylor University. His research embraces a transnational approach to African American history in the early United States, with specializations in diplomacy, race, and religion. He is currently writing his second book, which illuminates racialized U.S. diplomacy with Haiti from the American Revolution through Reconstruction. The study also examines the impact of Haitian immigration on early U.S. religion and culture. His first book, Diplomacy in Black and White: John Adams, Toussaint Louverture, and Their Atlantic World Alliance (University of Georgia Press, 2014), analyzes early U.S. diplomacy against the backdrop of Atlantic world revolutions and American slavery. Johnson is co-editor of In Search of Liberty: African American Internationalism in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (University of Georgia Press, 2021), a scholarly volume that examines how revolutionary movements, religious beliefs, and abolitionist zeal facilitated migrations of Black peoples across the Atlantic world. Johnson is the recipient of research fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the American Philosophical Society, and of multiple teaching grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

With a Special Introduction From:

Malcolm Foley serves as the Special Advisor to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement at Baylor University. In this joint role, Mr. Foley facilitates engagement and interaction with and among the many diverse members of Baylor's community and works collaboratively to develop initiatives designed to foster a welcoming and inclusive campus for all. Mr. Foley holds a B.A. in Religious Studies with a second major in Finance and a minor in Classics from Washington University in St. Louis. He then completed a Master of Divinity at Yale Divinity School, focusing on the theology of the early and medieval church. Mr. Foley is currently a sixth-year Ph.D. student in Baylor’s Department of Religion studying the history of Christianity.  He is the Director of Black Church Studies at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and the director of discipleship at Mosaic Waco, where he serves with his wife, Desiree.

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