page tools :
email page print page small type large type

Race Matters

2018 Pilgrimage of Tangled Roots

Pastoral Leadership for Public Life trip to Washington, D.C., April 3-6, 2018


A pilgrimage is a spiritual, moral or religious journey to a place central to one’s beliefs. We come to Washington DC as a location signifying, and actualizing, the core faith of American public life: democracy. As Americans, we have been formed by the rhetoric of  self-evident truths that entitle all men (sic) to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As pastors learning leadership for public life, we place ourselves here in the shrine of democracy. 


We come knowing that liberty and justice for all is actually quite complicated. It is an ideal battered by realities of race, gender, ethnicity, and class, appropriated by ideologues, manipulated to serve the interested of power. But still it stands. We recognize “liberty and justice for all” as an ideal not unrelated to Christian faith and ethics. Indeed, we have been taught that America is a Christian nation. While millions of people and subcultures pledge allegiance to this national narrative, scores of Americans interrogate it, raising questions about religious pluralism and about the actions of leaders and policies that belie Christian teaching.


As pilgrims here, we want to delve below the surface. We problematize the notion that this is Christian nation in a particular way. The roots of our country fed on the assumption that freedom meant freedom for white men. We all know this, and are grateful that freedoms have been extended beyond that classification. However, what we know less about is the extent to which the “founding fathers” were acting not simply out of class privilege or out of accepted beliefs about the inferiority of women and other races. They were, in fact, informed by Christian theology—a theology that, from early days, defined the distinctiveness of Christians as being over and against Jews, and thus established the construct of two races. The creation of race as a category of inferiority is our Christian heritage. It funded the supremacy of whiteness enacted by the Founding Fathers, and is still alive and powerful. Structural racism shows up in issues of voting rights, police shooting unarmed black men, redlining, the school to prison pipeline, and health disparities. What ideology formed and upholds these structures? Christian theology.


In this city, we will explore the supremacy of whiteness with the focus on the experience of African American people. Here, black-skinned people owned as the property of white men helped build the Capitol and the White House, the shrines of democracy. Confronted with these tangled roots of race, faith and nation, what can we do but enter as humble pilgrims? We come seeking the revelation of sin/the not-God and the revelation of the presence of God in spite of our sin; seeking the truth as it pains and glorifies; seeking salvation; seeking insight, wisdom and courage to lead as pastors from a racialized faith toward a new day. 


– Melissa Wiginton, Vice President for Education Beyond the Walls


Professor Carolyn Helsel's book is out!

Learn about the book.

Read an article about reconciliation in Faith and Leadership

Listen to the podcast about the book and an interview on KUT

Read Carolyn's blog.

Where is she speaking?

Get in touch with Professor Helsel.


March 23, Friday Morning Sessions:

Music as Social Action

Chattel Slavery: What was it & Why did it Occur?

Race: The Origin of Race in America

March 24, Saturday Sessions:

The Church, Academics, Activists/Advocates: How to bring together the three entities to work together to achieve Biblical Justice

Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth

An In-depth Examination: Institutional Racism in America & Differences between Prejudice & Racism

Chattel Slavery: What was it & Why did it occur?

The Bible and Racism: Communal Interpretations for Liberation

Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth

Race: The Origin of Race in America


© 2018 Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
100 E. 27th Street Austin, Texas 78705
P: 512-404-4800
powered by finalsite