Naomi Tutu, Michael Battle, Sandy Goodhart, Janet Wolf, Rahim Buford and Micky ScottBey Jones were among the scholars participating in the 12th Annual Theology & Peace Conference held on the American Baptist College Campus, June 17-20.

“This is the second year ABC has hosted this highly regarded international conference. People from throughout the world participate in this thought-provoking, insightful, socially-conscious exercise in knowledge for living experience,” said Dr. Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College. “We are honored to share with the attendees again this year.” He added.

Nearly 60 individuals, from throughout the United States and other countries that include Australia, Spain, Kenya, and Canada attended the 2019 conference and lived on the ABC campus. A foundation for this year’s conference was based on quotes such as, “Like Martin Luther King, Jr…. we go to Nashville not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.”

“On behalf of Theology & Peace, I am so grateful for the opportunity to return to the campus of American Baptist College for our 2019 conference. ABC’s rich legacy of racial justice work and nonviolent activism makes it a perfect place to delve into mimetic theory as articulated by Rene Girard,” said Preston Shipp, president of the organization.

Workshops and panel discussions included a variety of topics for holistic living. Naomi Tutu discussed, “Beloved Community as the Way from Scapegoating to Ubuntu.” From her beloved Father, Bishop Desmond Tutu’s Ubuntu, meaning “Coming out of the context of apartheid South Africa, helps us understand our inter-dependence as a fundamental truth of being human namely, that ‘I am only because we are.’ “ Responses to Naomi Tutu’s remarks were addressed by Julia Robinson Moore and Rahim Buford, an ABC 2019 graduate. “We all have a responsibility to help one another,” said Buford. Another topic was “Introduction to Mimetic Theory” with James Warren. Mimetic Theory, as articulated by Rene’ Girard offers profound insight into human nature, desire, rivalry and the tendency to create scapegoats on both the individual and systemic levels.

“This year’s theme, Beloved Community as the Way from Scapegoating to Ubuntu, obviously invokes the lives and visions of two of the greatest nonviolent proponents of peace and justice of the twentieth century – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. As we contemplated their examples of refusing violent rivalry and scapegoating in favor of the practices of Beloved Community and Ubuntu, the “Holy Hill” of American Baptist College served not just as a location rich in history, but one capable of inspiring us to lean into a better future,” said Shipp, the only member from Nashville.

During one session, the We Remember Nashville organization presented information regarding African Americans who had been lynched during the late 1800s. Brittany T. Paschall, Founder of We Remember Nashville said, “We cannot forget these individuals during these times of quick memory lapses.” She identified three individuals; Mr. David Jones, Mr. Jo Reed and Mr. Henry Grizzard who were lynched in the Nashville area. Markers were installed by the Metropolitan Nashville Historic Commission to recognize their sacrifices and lives. Her presentation was a part of the conference’s Juneteenth Celebration.

In developing Beloved Communities, the quote from Paul Nuechteeriein’s blog includes these words, “How long, O Lord?” There is plenty of reason for pessimism in answering this question today. My hope is that nonviolent resistance as a mass movement is finally a reason to hope that we might at least be witnessing the beginning to the end of violent tribalism as the way of human order. This isn’t optimism, because it involves terrible suffering. But it is faith in costly grace; “It is costly because it costs people their lives; it is grace because it thereby makes them live. It is Christian hope.”

“This conference is significant because it strives to fashion ways to develop peace in our spirits that manifests in our being to grow and improve. Attendees invest a week of their lives to listen, learn, speak and take those exchanges back to their homes to strive to make their lives and those around them better,” said President Harris.

Attendees represented such distinguished organizations as General Theological Seminary, Villanova University, Purdue University, Emory University, University of North Carolina, the Raven Foundation, also representatives from the following religious organization; Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church, Baptist Church, United Church of Christ, and the Methodist Church. Some non-profit organizations included We Remember Nashville, Unheard Voices Outreach (Rahim Buford), Children’s Defense Fund (Janet Wolf), and Inversion Vocal Ensemble.

The conference will return to ABC for the third consecutive year in June, 2020. If you are interested in learning more about the organization, visit www.theologyandpeace.com.

Theology & Peace_Tennessee Tribune