This November 2-4, Preaching Peace is hosting the inaugural Peace of the Gospel conference, a gathering in teaching and song that centers proactive Shalom at the very heart of the Gospel. For several months now, momentum has been building to come together nationwide as a family gathered around the non-retributive, unambiguously-loving, reconciling character of our God, revealed in Jesus.
As such, it’s important for this gathering to reflect the beautiful diversity that is becoming of Jesus-people, who at our best are representative of “every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…holding palm branches in [our] hands…. (from Revelation 7:9).”
On Monday this week, some teachers, activists, and thought-leaders wrote us privately and shared publicly online that they felt the Peace of the Gospel conference, in its current lineup, was falling short of this ideal of reflecting the beautiful diversity of the family of faith. They noted that, while the speakers ranging from Diana Butler Bass to Richard Rohr represented women and men from a rich variety of theological streams, providing distinct visions of Jesus’ nonviolent revolution, that the conference was substantially lacking in people of color along with their distinct theological and praxis heritages that would enrich us all.
Immediately, both Preaching Peace staff and Peace of the Gospel speakers took this concern very seriously. While our gathering features First Nations writer and storyteller Terry Wildman, and multi-racial ensemble The Waiting, our critics frankly had a point: the 2017 roster, as it was, did not reflect the beautiful diversity that we as programmers longed to see.
We thought we’d take a moment to share a bit of the back-story behind this year’s lineup, and the steps we’re taking in response to this difficult-but-necessary feedback.
First, several speakers and artists of color were invited for 2017, who simply couldn’t make it due to scheduling conflicts.
Second, our 2018 conference – already well into planning – has always had a far more racially and ethnically diverse set of invited speakers. While we can’t announce next year’s lineup yet, it builds upon our inaugural speaker and artist series and expands it.
But third – and this is crucial – upon hearing your feedback, reflecting on it, taking it to Papa and taking it back to our community of staff and contributors, we decided that the need was too urgent, and 2018 too far away, to hold back on offering this growing peace-making movement anything less than the full participation of people of diversity.
Michael Hardin, co-founder of Preaching Peace and founding organizer of the Peace of the Gospel Conference, is ceding his keynoter space to make room for a person of color. Nadia-Bolz-Weber is ceding exclusive use of her keynote time to share space with a colleague and woman of color who has a vital message to share. Several existing breakout session people – including Caleb Miller and Mike Morrell – are ceding their spaces. We’re adding six new breakout sessions, all of which will feature a richer diversity of voices.
We’re not ready to announce the expanded contributors’ roster yet; we wanted to get this announcement to you right now. We know that this exclusion of voices – however unintentional – is painful and frustrating for so many of us. Please know that our staff and our current speakers are sharing a plethora of recommendations of absolutely awesome potential contributors. Our commitment to current and future Peace of the Gospel conference ticket-holders is to not trivialize the concerns raised by placating you with mere placebos and tokenism; we’re respecting communities of color and the integrity of our gathering by carefully, prayerfully considering the very best speakers of color whose passions and expertise are both resonant with our theme of holistic peace-making in the Way of Jesus, as well as filling in crucial gaps in our knowledge and life experience.
Thank you all – existing Preaching Peace community members and passionate critics alike – for how much you care about creating a more just, grace-filled, and reconciled community of faith. It’s only when our own household reflects the diversity of heaven that we can expect heaven to truly be embodied on earth as the healing balm our current cultural, political, and social systems so desperately need.
We aren’t perfect. We have, indeed, committed sins of omission against our sisters, brothers, and nonbinary siblings of color. We ask for your forgiveness as we seek to do better.
You can be among the first to know about updates to our 2017 conference roster by signing up for email updates at ThePeaceoftheGospel.com.
In grace and truth,
The Preaching Peace Team