Ferguson & Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community, Dr. Leah Gunning Francis discusses the significance of her work for faith communities and emerging Christian leaders.

"> Seven Questions with Leah Gunning Francis, Author of “Ferguson & Faith” | Forum for Theological Exploration

Seven Questions with Leah Gunning Francis, Author of “Ferguson & Faith”

By: Leah Gunning Francis
August 19, 2015

With the timely release of Ferguson & Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community, Dr. Leah Gunning Francis discusses the significance of her work for faith communities and emerging Christian leaders.

1. What were the common themes among those you interviewed for Ferguson & Faith?

The book’s subtitle Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community captures four of the most dominate themes throughout the book: igniting, awakening, leadership and community. Each person I talked with described why they were compelled to engage this work and the impetus for awakening others. The organic leadership that has emerged throughout this movement is evident throughout the book, and is instructive in challenging our collective thinking about what it means to live together in community.

2. What were you surprised to learn about yourself while interviewing more than two dozen St. Louis clergy in preparation to write Ferguson & Faith?

I was surprised to learn how deeply I had internalized the pain and trauma of the past year. I could physically feel the pain in my body as I listened to some of the stories. These were stories from the heart as well as the mind, and the recalling of their experiences in Ferguson often touched a place in me that was still very sore.

3. Explain the importance of Faith & Ferguson to Christian leaders serving communities that don’t typically suffer from the same injustices and issues as communities of color. What do you hope those leaders find applicable from your book?

Many of the white clergy and activists I interviewed believed a critical part of their calling is to “awaken” their white colleagues/friends/congregants to the reality of racial injustice in the United States, and the privileges their skin color affords them. The movement for racial justice in Ferguson uncovered these thinly veiled injustices and as author Arundhati Roy says, “Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out.” This movement for racial justice challenges all of us to respond to the reality of racial injustice that has been laid bare before our very eyes. We can no longer claim we did not know this exists. As Christians, the tenets of our faith call us to stand with God against oppression and to stand for justice and righteousness.

4. Many young Christian leaders have been at the forefront of the movements and response to events like Ferguson. What should faith communities be learning from the ways these young leaders are actively living out their faith through action?

Faith communities can learn that many young Christian leaders refuse to bring anything less than their authentic selves to their faith-filled activism. They demand that all people be treated as fully human – regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, differing abilities or age. They refuse and renounce any form of religious expression that does not see every person as a beloved child of God and a valued member of the community. They have embodied the best of what we can be when we stand on the side of love.

5. How can the church and its leadership use this book as a tool to create ways to support and nurture emerging Christian leaders who are working for social change in their community?

The church can use this book as an example of what love looks like in action, and how they can nurture faithful people to join God’s transforming work in the world. The clergy and young activist stories provide ideas that should be discussed in small groups, so that each group can reflect on the ideas in the context of their experiences. My hope is for people to use the stories in the book as conversation partners to inspire and challenge their own thoughts about racial injustice and the church’s role as agents of social change.

6. August 9 marked the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. Why was it so crucial to write and release this book within a year of the event that inspired it?

The Forum for Theological Education (FTE), Chalice Press and I wanted to affirm the urgency of addressing racial injustice and faith in the United States. We knew there would be renewed conversations about racial profiling and policy brutality during this time, and we wanted to create a resource that could contribute critical dialogue about the movement for racial justice by telling the stories of local clergy and faith driven activists many people did not hear. We wanted to tell the stories of courage and hope, that contain seeds of possibilities that if nurtured, can serve us well into the future.

7. In 140 characters or less, what do you want your readers to learn from Ferguson & Faith?

Start with the ABC’s Accept there is a Ferguson near you. Be brave enough to see. Commit to change.

Click here to purchase a copy of Ferguson & Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community. Follow the conversation online using the hashtag #FergusonandFaith and by liking FTE and Chalice Press’ Facebook pages.

Tags: Inspired Leaders, Thinking Out Loud, Shaping the Future

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