Churches are political. Religious institutions have led or been at the center of numerous political movements in this country. While most believe there is a separation of church and state, churches have not only served as the meeting space for communities to learn and strategize but they have also historically been the leaders of various struggles for social justice.
We began the conversation discussing the phrase “separation of church and state”. Contrary to popular belief, that phrase is not explicitly stated in the constitution but has its origins from letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptist Association.The conversation continues with discussions on the growing erosion of American institutions and what should those of us in the pews expect from our religious leaders and institutions.
Prof. Anthea Butler is Graduate Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. A historian of American and African American religion, Professor Butler’s research and writing spans religion and politics, religion and gender, African American religion, sexuality, media, religion, and popular culture. She is the author of and Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making A Sanctified World on The University of North Carolina Press.
Prof. Nyasha Junior is an Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible in the Department of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. She holds a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. Her research and teaching focus on the intersections of race, gender, and religion. She is the author of An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015).
Pastor Leslie Dawn Callahan is Senior Pastor of the historic 120-year-old St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA. She is the church’s first woman and fifth pastor. A native of Gary, West Virginia, Leslie earned her Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Harvard/Radcliffe, the Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, and the Doctor of Philosophy in Religion from Princeton University. She has served as Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at University of Pennsylvania and Assistant Professor of Modern Church History and African American Studies at New York Theological Seminary. She is a member of the advisory board of The African American Lectionary, an online resource. She also serves on the board of trustees of The Living Pulpit. Her published writings include a chapter in The Audacity of Faith: Christian Leaders Reflect on the Election of Barack Obama, edited by Marvin A. McMickle.
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