Online Book Study Kicks Off Work of Anti-Racism Task Force

Mark Lambert
January 20, 2023

The Anti-Racism Task Force is inviting all United Methodists in the Louisiana Conference to participate in an online book study designed to help clergy and laypeople understand why the church must be more intentional about rooting out racism.

Rev. Tiffanie Postell, pastor of Hartzell Mt. Zion UMC in Slidell and chair of the task force, says the book study is one of the first steps “in helping our conference move closer to being an anti-racist conference, a conference that is very intentional about doing everything it can not to harm, but to help.”

Just the notion that the Louisiana Conference must “move closer to being an anti-racist conference” will undoubtedly set off a few conversations in congregations across the state. And that’s the way it should be, Postell explained.
 

“Are we an anti-racist conference? I wouldn’t say we’re a racist conference,” Postell said. “But, in some way, it was noted that this is something we need to focus on. I think (the committee) was brought forth so it could continue to be a conversation and continue to be a focused work.”


The 20-person committee’s first formal task is a group study of “Called to Reconciliation: How the Church Can Model Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion,” a book by Rev. Dr. Jonathan Augustine, who challenges the church to model racial reconciliation to the rest of the world. Rev. Augustine is senior pastor of St. Joseph AME Church in Durham, N.C., and a former Baton Rouge resident.

The weekly online book study will meet every Wednesday in February and is open to anyone, but participants must register on the Louisiana Conference website. The afternoon group, facilitated by Rev. Donnie Wilkinson of Broadmoor UMC in Baton Rouge, will meet from noon to 1 p.m. The evening group, facilitated by task force lay member Jennifer Rossnagel, will meet from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“I read the book prior to coming to Annual Conference last year. It’s challenging, it helped me to see things from a perspective I had not seen before,” Rev. Wilkinson said. “As a middle-aged white male, there are things I do not naturally see that other people who have a different life experience see.”

Rev. Wilkinson urged Methodists to participate in the Zoom study, saying the sessions will feature conversations, not lectures.

“It’s not going to be me talking about the book because I’m coming into this as a facilitator, not a teacher,” he said. “We’re going to create a safe place for everyone. These are hard conversations, and it can be very easy to be triggered.”
Rev. Postell noted that the book study is “just step 1” for the committee.

Preliminary plans are underway for committee members to take in-state and out-of-state trips to sites that are significant in the struggle for civil rights, all in an effort “to continue the conversation,” she said.
 

Register for the Book Study

 

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