Through the generous support of the Kern Family Foundation’s “Faith, Work, and Economics” program, I have been working on a project called “The Jubilee Summit.” The name originates from the same categories that provide the framework and topical treatments of my present Sapientia series, namely, “God, Image-Flourishing, and Jubilee.” This past weekend, January 23–24, a group gathered at The King’s College in New York City to begin a wider conversation.
I will return to my series next week, and in the meantime, I wanted to give a brief report on the gathering mentioned above. The attendees were a combination of African American theological scholars and pastors from churches in large urban communities. They were Rev. Christopher Brooks, senior pastor of Evangel Ministries, Detroit; Rev. Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church, Chicago; Dr. Vincent Bacote of Wheaton College; Dr. Anthony Bradley of The King’s College; and myself. Also attending were my graduate assistant, Mr. Ricky Jenkins and our Summit coordinator, Mrs. Jessica Chang.
left-to-right: Ricky Jenkins, Vincent Bacote, Bruce Fields, Christopher Brooks, Charlie Dates, Anthony Bradley at The Kings College (NYC).
We began the time by revisiting the meaning of the conceptual framework of “God, Image-Flourishing and Jubilee.” I had the opportunity to expand upon elements of the doctrine of God along with his relationship and intent for image bearers, individually and corporately. The idea of jubilee entails not only forgiveness and reconciliation, but also the awareness of the downward pull of sin that is manifested in human relationships at the individual level as well as in institutions. This potentially pervasive effect comprises the requirement for manifestations of Jubilee. After some questions, observations, and push-back, the other members then shared their analyses of blessings and challenges in their spheres of ministry.
Pastors Brooks and Dates shared amazing testimonies to the grace of God in their churches. Both reported instances of life transforming conversions to the Lord Jesus Christ. Both also shared the needs in their churches and communities that must be remedied not only through responsible decision making before the Lord, but also opportunities for economic development. This contributed to an awareness that jobs must be generated along with other support systems in the church and in the community. Spiritual development in the church would never be neglected, but they understood even spiritual life to be more holistic.
Drs. Bacote and Bradley shared similar concerns, but provided insights on how the Christian academic community can be a more informed servant to the church. Future leaders in the church and community, who may be involved with the academy, need to be reminded of the spiritual dimensions of life and ministry. Such wisdom interfaces with the challenges of racial, economic, and ethnic relationships in the church and in communities.
Many important issues, concerns, and opportunities were discussed. We are presently deciding on our possible future courses. May the Lord grant us wisdom and power all along the way.
Special thanks to the Kern Family Foundation for facilitating this initial conversation.