A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what gospel is that? - Oscar Romero
Grounded in a ministry that is mandated in scripture, the two main goals of the CSJR are to remind seminarians of the significance of social justice work as part of ministry and to bring the activist community into the seminary.
The Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation operates from the seminary’s Charlotte campus and is directed by Associate Professor of Bible Rodney S. Sadler Jr. Grounded in a ministry that is mandated in scripture, its two main goals are to remind people in seminary of the significance of social justice work as part of ministry and to bring the activist community into the seminary.
CSJR is governed and guided by an Advisory Board, which meets at least quarterly. The Board is comprised of sixteen members who, through diversity of race, cultural background, denomination, experience, and area of expertise, bring a range of insight, critical thought, and creativity to the Center. These members also give voice to the Center in the wider community, promote Center events, and connect the Center with key thought leaders and organizers to create opportunities for partnership and collaboration in local, regional, and national social justice work. Current Board members include:
• The Reverend Dr. Richard Boyce, Former Vice President and Academic Dean, Union Presbyterian Seminary – Charlotte and Former Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Leadership
• The Reverend Veronica Cannon, Stated Supply Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Waxhaw, NC
• The Reverend Dr. John Cleghorn, Pastor of Caldwell Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Dr. Joe Clifford, Pastor, Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Dr. de’Angelo Dia, Director of Admissions, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Jimmie Hawkins, Director, Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
• The Reverend Sally Herlong, Charlotte Chaplain, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Phanta Lansden, Senior Pastor, St. James Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, NC
• The Reverend Luke Maybry, Pastor, Matthews Presbyterian Church, Matthews, NC
• Erin Mills, Program Associate, Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation
• The Reverend Dr. Tim Moore, Director of Donor Development, Union Presbyterian Seminary – Charlotte
• The Reverend Leslie Oliver, Pastor, Sanctuary Outreach Ministries, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Lori Raible, Pastor, Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC, and member, Board of Trustees at Union Presbyterian Seminary
• The Reverend Dr. Rodney Sadler, Jr, Director, Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Associate Professor of Bible, Union Presbyterian Seminary – Charlotte
• The Reverend Dr. Sheldon Shipman, Pastor, Greenville Memorial AME Zion Church, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Dr. Dwayne Walker, Pastor, Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Dr. Peter Wherry, Pastor, Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC
• The Reverend Dr. Ricky Woods, Senior Minister, First Baptist Church – West, Charlotte, NC
Rodney S. Sadler Jr’s teaching experience includes courses in biblical languages, Old and New Testament interpretation, wisdom literature in the…
The Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice
The Freedom Center for Social Justice
Healthcare Justice NC
Industrial Areas Foundation (Charlotte Organizing Group)
Migrant Assistance Project
North Carolina NAACP
Stan Greenspon Center for Social Justice
Reimagining America Project: The Truth, Reconciliation, and Atonement Commission of Charlotte, NC (RAP/TRACC)
The Recruitment of God’s Dream Team, September 15, 2020Youtube
George Floyd Protests: Temporary Uprising, Movement, or Miracle? September 15, 2020Youtube
A Plea and Petition Suggested by a Black Brother in the Spirit of Lovepdf
Be Made Well: Seeking Wholeness of Life Sunday, October 20, 2019test
COVID-19: A Parable of Plagues before Deliverance September 14, 2020Youtube
On January 10, 2022, the Rev. Dr. William C. Turner, Jr of Durham, NC explored the intricacies and imperatives of social justice preaching in "Just Preach!".Watch this event:
On January 12, 2022, the Rev. Nelson and Mrs. Joyce Johnson of Greensboro, NC discussed their life’s work together in social activism and their sponsorship of our nation’s first Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a session entitled “Just Act!”Watch event here:
On January 13, 2020 at CN Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. and Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III discussed civil rights and social justice with the Union Presbyterian Seminary Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation.Watch this event
On January 10th and 12th, 2022 the CSJR hosted three webinars for the 2022 African American Social Justice Preaching Series. The world today is in a tumultuous state as we recover from a global pandemic in a time of racial unrest and political division. Is there a word from the Lord for this moment? What are people of faith called to do as we confront these and other challenges? On January 12th, a lunch conversation was held with Reverend Nelson and Mrs. Joyce Johnson and the Rev. Dr. William Turner where faith leaders were able to engage them on issues of social justice proclamation and activism.Watch event here:
Reverend Jimmie Hawkins, Director of the Office for Public Witness of the PC(USA), discusses the work of his office as they bear witness to God's call for social justice in our nation's capital. Located in an office directly across the street from the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court, this long-term social justice advocate, who helped birth the Moral Monday's Movement with Dr. William Barber, daily works to bring the Gospel message to bear on our political leaders by advocating for justice on public policy issues and coordinating with interfaith and ecumenical partners to present God's alternative vision for what is right.
Black History Month Booklist (curated by Seminarian and Womanist Scholar, Dana Purdom)Download
Spiritual formation is strongly shaped by visual and performance art, music, dance, play, and storytelling. The intersection of justice, spirituality, imagination, embodiment and the arts, is sometimes referred to as theopoetics–which combines elements of poetry, process thought, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy.Watch event here:
Webinar - August 20, 2020 (Click image to watch this event)Watch on YouTube
The Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation formally welcomes 2023/24 CSJR Student Ambassadors, Kate Brown, Ayesha Edwards, Cellonia Ndede, and Courtney Shudak. These students have shown extraordinary commitment to the Center since its inception and are dedicated to the critical social justice work we are called to as disciples of Christ. Kate, Ayesha, Cellonia, and Courtney will lead and coordinate the Seminarians for Social Justice, organize quarterly student-led panel discussions, assist the Center with events throughout the year, and serve as student liaisons. Interested students are encouraged reach out to our Student Ambassadors with ideas, questions, and concerns – we would love to hear from you!
Courtney Shudak is a native Texan and a recent transplant to beautiful North Carolina. She is studying in the Master of Divinity program at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Courtney is passionate about ecumenical work and bridge building. Outside of work and school, Courtney is an avid marathon runner and otherwise enjoys recovery outside with a good book or sharing a tasty meal with friends.
Ayesha Edwards is currently pursuing a dual degree in Christian Education and Public Theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She is a lifelong learner and educator whose commitment is spreading the message of Jesus Christ while advocating and engaging in matters of social justice. Her primary interests include dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline & education reform, orphans, widows, women & leadership, human trafficking, and basic human needs & rights such as food insecurity, the unhoused and voting rights.
Cellonia Ndede from Nairobi Kenya, is a second year student in the Master of Arts in Christian Education program in Richmond campus. She graduated with an MBA from University of Leicester, United Kingdom and subsequently worked for 15+ years in Marketing and Human Resource Management positions for various multinationals in Nairobi. In response to a spiritual calling, she later joined International Leadership University in Nairobi where she graduated with a Bachelor of Theology degree in 2019; that led to her finding her way into Union Presbyterian Seminary in 2022. Cellonia enjoys close communication with individuals; speaking up when a voice of reason is needed and has a special heart for those who are vulnerable or have special needs in the society, especially elderly persons.
Kate Brown grew up a “preacher’s kid” in God’s country – the foothills of western North Carolina. Kate was born to be an educator – she attended Appalachian State University in Boone, NC for her B.S. in English (Secondary Education) and received her M.Ed. in Middle & Secondary Education while she was teaching high school English in western North Carolina. Kate has hopes of going on to complete a Ph.D in either Old Testament or biblical languages. Her call to ministry and education stems from a desire to engage with the original biblical texts and translate and interpret them in a historically-conscious way that also reflects the inclusive values of a changing world and raises up the marginalized. In her free time, Kate likes to read, travel, and spend time with her husband and their cat, Bea.
Many have considered the Black Lives Matter Movement of today to be the lineal descendant of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s. While there is clearly a connection, BLM has a distinctive origin with its own concerns that are consistent with the contemporary concerns of African American communities of this era. In addition, there may be differences in the two movements’ perspective on nonviolence, moral vision, strategy, gender, and sexual orientational issues, that often manifest as a generational divide. Please join our first conversation of 2021 as we explore the relationships between these two successful Black social movements; one that laid to rest Jim Crow and inspired global movements for change for half a century and the other which has proven to be the largest movement for human rights in the history of the world. Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29yyAL2lIJw
The racialization of incarceration is not just a problem for individuals who have been caged. It has far greater implications for their families, their neighborhoods, their health, their access to the polls, their employability ... such disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system is wholly consequential for the entire black community. Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdxWEObBavs
There has been a great deal of conversation of late about differences in the brain formation of liberals and conservatives, of ideological partisans, of xenophiles and xenophobes. Here we engage in conversation about “The Neuroscience of White Fragility” where our special guest, Dr. Sarah Peyton explains the scientific dynamics of this phenomenon.
Tuesday was one of the most contentious and consequential elections in America's history. Certainly, this is not the way elections are supposed to occur in a nation that prides itself on the peaceful exchange of executive power and non-violent revolutions at the polls. Please join us for a "Just Talk/ Talk Just" biblical and theological conversation that will explore the outcome of the election and its implications for social justice, voter participation, and race relations in our nation. Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3icoaO3UBLA&t=2048s
March 13, 2020, marked a day of reckoning for Americans who could no longer evade a national shutdown in the wake of COVID-19 as stay-at-home orders loomed from federal, state, and local governance. For Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, March 13 marked a fatal ending as Louisville police barged into her home under a no-knock warrant and fired several rounds which resulted in her untimely demise. The case raises significant questions about the value of Black life and the protection, or lack thereof, of Black women, particularly as Black feminists and womanists call for intersectional activism through counter-movements such as #sayhername in the quest for Black freedom. Unprecedented protests have spawned in Louisville and throughout the country as Taylor's story shows there is no safe space for the vulnerable, even in their own home. Moreover, a grand jury decision did not charge the officers in her death. Where is justice? How might people of faith cultivate a theology of liberation when home is a dangerous place? Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary's Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePVy2ejqTHg
In response to the arrest and homicide of George Floyd while in Minnesota police custody, there is a new sense of resolve in cities around our nation and world to address racial disparity and systemic racialized oppression. But what should the white church do? Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary's Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/MdbJZqXmSGc
The removal of statues honoring Confederate heroes and Christopher Columbus, and the Confederate flag has long been viewed by some as an infringement upon freedom of speech and erasing history. But what happens when that same freedom of speech is not afforded equally to all? What happens when such freedom of speech incites violence against others? What does it mean for monuments and markers that bear witness to America’s tragic racial history to remain in public places and sacred spaces? How do these symbols continue to shape the identity of our national and local communities? How are they still speaking to us? Why should they go? What should replace them? Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary's Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/BauKfHF01ps
The police killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans have reignited debate about policing in the United States. How can the Bible and theology speak to questions of immorality and racism in law enforcement? How can people of faith bear witness to an unjust system and advocate for change? Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary's Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/MdbJZqXmSGc
A conversation, which is designed to acknowledge and move us beyond the current broken law enforcement system. You will be challenged, along with us, to step outside political echo chambers and be uncomfortable. This is not a debate. We are pondering, “What might God have to say about community and public safety?” Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary's Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/f5cF-1g91OE
The global coronavirus pandemic sheds a blacklight on the need for educational reform. In response to the stay-at-home orders in early March, schools, colleges, and universities across the nation shifted instruction to virtual platforms, thus exposing unequal access to the internet and computers in marginalized communities and school segregation. As federal, state, and local governments, school boards, administrators, and teachers make essential decisions about virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning for the upcoming school year, parents and students face the ethical dilemma of balancing safety with the most effective modes of instruction. This conversation will engage these questions: How does COVID-19 unveil the racial disparities in our current educational system? How might this crisis moment impact the spirituality and faith of children and youth? What is the faithful response to pandemic learning? Sponsored by Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBhYh6Lxz24
JustAct is the Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation’s ongoing conversation of justice, faith, and society. Resources are posted on the digital newsletter throughout the month. Sign up to receive our email newsletter to see the latest posts.
Sadler in his article attempts to reframe the conversation about the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel—a conflict that has left many people feeling angry and frustrated. Despite the urgency of the situation, the global community has done little to end the conflict once and for all. This is not a forever conflict, and it is not a religious or historical battle. It is a result of European colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries and a strategy of pitting people against each other to make them easier to control. Both sides have been told different “wrong stories” to demonize the other, but they are really just brothers. Sadler’s article narrates the conflict through the story of two brothers who follow a similar path to Palestine and Israel and are eventually able to realize their commonalities.