New Grant Allows Baptism to Combat Systemic Racism

The Lilly Endowment announced it is awarding a $1 million grant to Davidson College as part the “Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice” initiative. Partnering with twenty-five congregations associated with the Alliance of Baptist, sociologists at Davidson will be examining how to expose and address systemic racism in their local contexts.

The “Churches that THRIVE for Racial Justice” initiative is administered by Davidson College, a private liberal arts school in North Carolina. Researchers involved in the process include: Gerardo Martí, professor of sociology at Davidson College; Mark Mulder of Calvin University; and Kevin Dougherty of Baylor University.

In its current phase, the researchers have partnered with Michael Emerson of Rice University to build an online survey designed to examine racial views within the Alliance of Baptist. According to Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations for the Alliance of Baptists, “Each congregation in the cohort has identified a clergy person and lay leader to lead the work in their setting…Our first step is to offer antiracism training to all of these identified leaders to ensure we have a shared understanding of systemic racism and a shared vocabulary.”

Commenting on the history of the Alliance of Baptist, Professor Martí noted, “The Alliance emerged out of a denomination whose history is deeply entangled with Christian support for slavery.”

“By taking a mirror to themselves, they’re saying not only that racial injustice is a problem but also that they’re willing to take a hard look at how aspects of racial oppression and racial marginalization may remain amidst their churches, even though they are among the boldest Christian advocates speaking out against racism today,” Martí continued.

Following the completion of comprehensive surveys, the research team will use a cohort model to engage in deeper conversations that pertain to systemic racism.

“It is exciting to participate in a research project with such profound practical importance,” said Baylor University’s Dougherty. “We want to do more than understand the troubled history of race and religion in the United States. We want to help congregations promote racial justice.”

Currently, the Lilly Foundation has provided $93 million in grants to 92 organizations made by Lilly to help congregations combat systemic racism and engage in practices that promote racial justice.

Source: Baptist News