“Give yourselves the opportunity to get it wrong,” Blackmon said. “Give yourselves the forgiveness to say out loud what you’re thinking so we can get through what they’re thinking. We major in grace. We preach grace. We teach grace. We give grace to the stranger. Can we give a little grace to one another?”
A stirring rendition of “Oh Freedom” by the Rev. Dr. Derrick W. McQueen set the tone for Auburn Seminary’s biennial breakfast Monday, which celebrated the 200th year of Auburn’s witness, notably its focus on racial justice and peace.
McQueen, a member of the seminary’s board of directors and pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem, said he offered the spiritual to mark Juneteenth, the day — June 19 —that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
Following brief remarks by Heath Rada, moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) and a member of Auburn’s board, and the Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, the seminary’s president, Henderson introduced and engaged the breakfast’s featured speaker, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, in a forthright dialogue on topics ranging from Ferguson to the lack of denominational unity to what it means to be a Jesus-centered church to a future beyond white supremacy.
Blackmon, whom Henderson dubbed “a prophet of our time,” is executive minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ, senior pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri, and an Auburn Senior Fellow.
“Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to see well to tell what time it is in America right now,” Blackmon said in response to Henderson’s assertion that prophets are “supposed to be readers of the signs of the time.”
“There appears to be a mighty rising and a surging of intolerance and hatred,” she continued. “I believe what we are seeing is the death battle of white supremacy. When something is dying, it uses everything it has to fight for life.”
Speaking a word directly to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), Blackmon said that she “would be worried about the church, but for God.”
“The task of all denominations is the same,” she added. “We have often divided ourselves by what is different about us. We must be unified. Because we lack that unity, there is one voice right now that is speaking for all of faith and giving us a bad rap.”