Remember and Repair: Expanding Racial Justice and Equity In Church and Society

Sundays, January 9 through Sunday, Feb 27th, 1:00 pm via Zoom 

Beginning January 9 through February 27, the Riverside Church Ministry of Faith Formation in collaboration with the Mission and Social Justice Commission and its Antiracism Taskforce, the Education Commission, and the TRC Archives will offer a speaker series on Remember and Repair (RAR): Expanding racial justice and equity in church and society.

RAR is designed as a prep course for a longer research project on Riverside’s historic role on matters of race. Broadly speaking, we seek to examine our report card on racial justice. We ask, “What is Riverside’s role in remembering U.S. history and its own, and what repair is ours to do?” Our aim is to foster increased racial justice and equity in church and society.

Series Speakers:  
1/9/22 – The Rev. Michael Livingston, Riverside Church Interim Senior Minister, sets the series tone noting, “We are nothing without our history.” He asks, “What must we remember in order to successfully repair? What do the Bible and our history have to say about remembering and repairing?”

Rev. Michael Livingston currently serves as the Interim Senior Minister for The Riverside Church in the City of New York. Working in congregational ministry has always been close to Michael’s heart, whether at Riverside or when he was first starting out in Los Angeles.

Immediately prior to joining Riverside in 2014 as Executive Minister, Michael worked with Interfaith Worker Justice in Washington, D.C., advocating for underpaid workers. Before that, he spent the middle years of his ministry in executive leadership in the context of deep ecumenical and interfaith engagement with the International Council of Community Churches (ICCC) and the National Council of Churches (NCC). He served as the President of the NCC 2006-2007. Michael also spent fourteen years in graduate theological education at Princeton Theological Seminary as the Campus Pastor in Miller Chapel, which provided a strong foundational knowledge for a life in ministry.

Pastoral and prophetic preaching, small group encounters, pastoral care and counseling, were the disciplines and practices that shaped Michael’s work in that diverse and vibrant community. Throughout it all, Michael believes there are individuals whose lives beg for the transformation that can come from an encounter with the living God, and that congregations and people of faith can make a difference as incubators for a radical love that grows strong seeking peace through justice.

1/16 – No R&R Session – (Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend)

1/23/22 – Dr. Gary Dorrien, American Social Ethicist & Theologian, Union Theological Seminary, an expert on Riverside Church’s founding pastor, the Rev. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, will lead this session on Riverside Church’s founding and early years.

Gary Dorrien teaches social ethics, theology, and philosophy of religion as the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. He was previously the Parfet Distinguished Professor at Kalamazoo College, where he taught for 18 years and also served as Dean of Stetson Chapel and Director of the Liberal Arts Colloquium.

Professor Dorrien is the author of 20 books and more than 300 articles that range across the fields of social ethics, philosophy, theology, political economics, social and political

theory, religious history, cultural criticism, and intellectual history. Philosopher Cornel West describes him as “the preeminent social ethicist in North America today.” Philosopher Robert Neville calls him “the most rigorous theological historian of our time, moving from analyses of social context and personal struggles through the most abstruse theological and metaphysical issues.” Dorrien told an interviewer in 2016: “I am a jock who began as a solidarity activist, became an Episcopal cleric at thirty, became an academic at thirty-five, and never quite settled on a field, so now I explore the intersections of too many fields.”

In 2018 Dorrien won the Choice Award of the American Library Association for his book Breaking White Supremacy: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospel, which Choice described as “intellectual history at its finest…A triumph of careful scholarship, rigorous argument, clear prose, unblinking judgments, and groundbreaking conclusions…. Indispensable.”

In 2017 Dorrien won the Grawemeyer Award for his book The New Abolition: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel. The citation quoted theologian William Stacy Johnson: “This is a magisterial treatment of a neglected stream of American religious history presented by one of this generation’s premier interpreters of modern religious thought operating at the top of his game.”

In 2013 Dorrien won the Association of American Publishers’ PROSE Award for his book Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit: The Idealistic Logic of Modern Theology, which cited philosopher Frederick Ferré: “Gary Dorrien is a superstar interpreter of modern religious thought. This unique, fascinating, aggressively revisionary book will have no competition until books appear to argue against it.”

In 2010 Dorrien won the Choice Award for his book Social Ethics in the Making, which Choice described as “simply the definitive history of Christian social ethics in the USA…masterful, careful, and encyclopedic.” The Christian Century characterized it as “magnificent, sprawling, monumental, captivating, expertly written, and exhaustively researched. Social Ethics in the Making will soon be recognized as a classic.”

More than 50 reviewers described Dorrien’s trilogy, The Making of American Liberal Theology, as definitive. Modern Intellectual History said its “magnificent scholarship” set a new standard for religious intellectual history. The Journal of Markets and Morality called it “monumental, encyclopedic, breathtaking.” The Expository Times called it “an endeavor best described, by all accounts, as magisterial, definitive, and authoritative.”

Dorrien has written about economic democracy and social justice politics, post-Kantian philosophy, and modern theology throughout his career. His early books on these subjects include Reconstructing the Common Good (1990), The Neoconservative Mind: Politics, Culture, and the War of Ideology (1992), Soul in Society: The Making and Renewal of Social Christianity (1995), The Word as True Myth (1997), and The Barthian Revolt in Modern Theology (2000).

Three of Dorrien’s books on social justice topics derive from his lecturing at universities, conferences, civic groups, and religious communities. Imperial Designs (2004) grew out of his extensive speaking against the U.S.’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice (2010) features his lectures on economic democracy, racial and gender justice, and anti-imperial politics. The Obama Question: A Progressive Perspective (2012) draws upon lectures he delivered during President Obama’s first term.

Dorrien also wrote Social Democracy in the Making: Political and Religious Roots of European Socialism, published in April 2019 by Yale University Press, In a Post-Hegelian Spirit: Philosophical Theology as Idealistic Discontent, published in 2020 by Baylor University Press, and American Democratic Socialism: History, Politics, Religion, and Theory, published in 2021 by Yale University Press.

Dorrien has taught in recent years as the Horace De Y. Lentz Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School and the Paul E. Raither Distinguished Scholar at Trinity College. He lectures frequently in Germany, England, and Canada, and writes for Cross Currents, American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, Tikkun, Christian Century, Telos, Commonweal and other journals. His wife, Brenda Biggs, a Presbyterian minister, died of cancer in 2000; his partner Eris McClure is a fitness trainer; and his daughter Sara Biggs Dorrien-Christians and son-in-law William Christians are Presbyterian pastors in Memphis, Tennessee.


1/30 – A roundtable conversation of four seminary presidents, moderated by a seminary dean, on preparing future pastors and resourcing today’s church leaders to address issues related to “Remember and Repair.”

President Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary

A highly respected scholar and public intellectual, the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is the 16th President of the historic Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. The first woman to head the 182-year-old institution, Jones occupies the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy. She is a Past President of the American Academy of Religion, which annually hosts the world’s largest gathering of scholars of religion.

Jones came to Union after 17 years at Yale University, where she was the Titus Street Professor of Theology at the Divinity School, and Chair of the University’s Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is the author of several books including Trauma and Grace and, most recently, her memoir Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World. Jones, a popular public speaker, is sought by media to comment on major issues impacting society because of her deep grounding in theology, politics, women’s studies, economics, race studies, history, and ethics.

President Emma Jordan-Simpson, Auburn Theological Seminary

The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson became President of Auburn Seminary on October 1, 2021.

Auburn is a leadership development and research institute that equips bold and resilient leaders of faith and moral courage to build communities, bridge divides, pursue justice and heal the world. Founded more than 200 years ago by Presbyterians in upstate New York, Auburn is committed to right relationship with a truly multifaith, multiracial movement for justice.

The sixth of seven children raised by her mother in Newark, N.J., Rev. Jordan-Simpson was the beneficiary of the first generation of Head Start and free church-based after school programs.

She embraced her call to ministry and service early in life and preached her first sermon at age 17 at Newark’s House of Prayer Episcopal Church. She attended Newark public schools and graduated from Arts High School before going on to Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., as a first-generation college student.

At Fisk, Rev. Jordan-Simpson was a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and served as chaplain to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Alpha Beta Chapter. In the absence of a Dean of the Fisk Memorial Chapel, she served as Student Chaplain for 18 months, organizing the Chapel’s worship and religious life for her peers.

She graduated Fisk with honors in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious and Philosophical Studies and Music. She went on to earn her Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1988.

Ordained by The Concord Baptist Church of Christ in 1989, Rev. Jordan-Simpson joined the church’s pastoral team in 1995. Her bi-vocational ministry has been grounded in the call to community and has been representative of her congregation’s convictions.

Her leadership among New York’s advocates and community organizers has centered on justice for children. As Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund – New York, she worked with advocates to name and address New York’s cradle-to-prison pipeline crisis, to prioritize youth justice within New York’s diverse faith communities, and to close abusive youth prisons and redirect resources to invest in youth and their families.

She was founding Executive Director of Girls Inc. of New York City, and before that served as Executive Vice President of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

Rev. Jordan-Simpson has been called upon to provide “quiet” emergency executive leadership and interim management for New York social service agencies, ensuring stability for vulnerable populations. She is an authorized facilitator of the Stewards of Children® program and trains adults (with a focus on faith communities) how to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.

Previously, Rev. Jordan-Simpson served as Executive Director of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR USA), the U.S. branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR). Under her leadership, FOR USA built capacity to strengthen relationships with local chapters and affiliates, launched a new fellowship for emerging leaders, made a critically important investment in its own mission in the form of a new board-controlled fund, and deepened its work with IFOR branches around the world to make a just peace the new normal.

Rev. Dr. Jordan-Simpson earned the Executive Level Certificate from the Columbia Business School Institute for Not-for-Profit Management in 1995, and the Doctor of Ministry Degree (with distinction) from Drew Theological School in 2009.

She is President of American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York and a member of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation’s Sterling Network – a network of systems leaders advancing racial justice and economic mobility in New York City.

Rev. Jordan-Simpson is married to the Rev. Dr. Gary V. Simpson, Senior Pastor of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, and delights in their three adult children.

Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Jewish Theological Seminary

Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Irving Lehrman Research Professor of American Jewish History, a groundbreaking scholar of American Jewish history and visionary institutional leader, is the eighth chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, and the first woman to assume this role.

From 1993 to 2018, she served as dean of the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies, JTS’s undergraduate dual-degree program with Columbia University and Barnard College. In 2010, she was also named dean of the Gershon Kekst Graduate School. In 2018, she assumed the provostship, while continuing as dean of the Kekst School. Among her publications is the award-winning book, The Rabbi’s Wife, a trenchant examination of the role of rabbis’ wives in the development of American Jewish life.

President LaKeesha Walrond, New York Theological Seminary

Educator, visionary leader, sought-after speaker, and change agent, Dr. LaKeesha Walrond encourages those she encounters to embody their infinite possibilities. In June of 2019, she became the first woman and the first African American to serve as President of New York Theological Seminary in New York City. The seminary aims to prepare faith and thought leaders to engage relevant, restorative, and revolutionary ministry.

Dr. Walrond is a dynamic speaker. Over the years, she addressed a number of national and international audiences. She has received recognition for her work, including honor by the New York Liberty WNBA, National Action Network, McDonald’s GospelFest, National Council of Negro Women, NAACP, Spelman College, and Union Theological Seminary. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio named October 26, 2019, “Rev. LaKeesha Walrond Day.”

A native Texan, Dr. Walrond earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga. She subsequently earned an M.Ed., M.S.A, Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Upon receiving her divine call to the minister in 1995, Dr. Walrond served as an Associate Minister at Zion Temple United Church of Christ in North Carolina for six years. She also served as the Executive Pastor and Chief of Staff of First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in Harlem, N.Y., for 13 years. As Chief of Staff, she used educational and organizational strategies to maximize FCBC’s influence in the community and abroad. In her role as Executive Pastor, she created a culture of learning, which evolved into a community of learners.

In an effort to reach the hearts of women, Dr. Walrond launched the Getting to Greatness Women’s Conference (G2G) in 2013. G2G promotes women’s holistic health through empowerment, leadership development, and spiritual and mental well-being.

She is the author of two books: My Body is Special (2017), the first of a six-part “Let’s Talk About It” children’s series that addresses sexual violence against children, and an e-book, Stronger Than Your Worst Pain: A Spiritual Guide to Activating Your Inner Power (2018), which empowers women to recognize their potential to overcome life’s most difficult challenges.

Dr. Walrond is married to The Reverend Michael A. Walrond, Jr., and they are blessed to be the proud parents of two beautiful children, Michael III, and Jasmyn Dominique.

Moderator The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary

The Very Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas was named Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Theology at Union in September 2017.  She was named the Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology in November 2019.  She also serves as the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral and Theologian in Residence at Trinity Church Wall Street.

Dean Douglas’ academic work has focused on womanist theology, sexuality and the Black church, and racial and social justice.  Prior to Union, she served as Professor of Religion at Goucher College where she held the Susan D. Morgan Professorship of Religion and is now Professor Emeritus.  Before Goucher, she was Associate Professor of Theology at Howard University School of Divinity (1987-2001) and Assistant Professor of Religion at Edward Waters College (1986-1987).

In addition to preaching in pulpits across the nation and speaking at universities around the globe, Dean Douglas is a frequent and vocal presence in today’s print, broadcast, and digital public square, speaking on racial and social justice, among other matters.

She is the author of numerous articles, op-eds, and books, including her most recent book, Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter (November 2021, Orbis Books).  Her other books include the groundbreaking and widely taught Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective (1999), which was the first to address the issue of homophobia within the Black church community; Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (2015); and The Black Christ (1994 and 25th Anniversary edition 2019).

Ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1983, Dean Douglas holds a Master’s Degree in theology and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary.

2/6/22 – Rev. Jim Keat, Digital Minister, The Riverside Church, asks, “What is Truth?” or “How Do We Know What We Know, or Think We Know?” He will focus on the Media’s role in perpetuating, understanding, and combatting racial inequity.

Rev. Jim Keat is the Digital Minister at The Riverside Church in New York City and the Director of Online Innovation at the Convergence Network. He is also a Digital Consultant to various progressive faith agencies and organizations. He is the producer of original media projects from The Riverside Church like Be Still and Go and Church Talk as well as the creator of the Thirty Second Bible project and Thirty Seconds or Less.

Previously Jim served as the Associate Minister of Education at Middle Collegiate Church, a Product Designer at Sparkhouse/Augsburg Fortress, and the Middle School Program + Content Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church. He received his M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary where he received The Faculty Award for Advocacy in Racial Ethnic Reconciliation and The President’s Community Life Award.

Jim co-founded Free and Simple with his wife Chelsea, a platform to share their Airstream travels and thoughts on minimalism and simplicity. After living full time in a 27’ Airstream Globetrotter for a year they moved back into an apartment to have a baby and traded in their 27’ Globetrotter for a 16’ Caravel for part time adventures in all of Michigan’s State Parks. You can follow their Free and Simple adventure online or by following Free and Simple on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Jim is a divergent thinker, an ideation specialist, and an aspiring minimalist. In his spare time he enjoys solving a Rubik’s cube, going on a long run, cooking dinner, playing board games, editing videos. To find out more about Jim follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @IdeasDoneDaily.

2/13 – No RAR Session (Break)

2/20 – Diane Russo and Vincent Kelly, Riverside Church Archivists, will share archival findings relevant to “Remember and Repair” and ways researchers can use those resources.

Diane Russo is the Director of Archives at The Riverside Church in the City of New York. She has worked in archives and special collections for over 10 years. Prior to coming to Riverside she was the Senior Collections Manager at Girl Scouts of the USA.

Diane holds an M.A. in History from Fordham University and an M.S. in Information and Library Science with a specialization in Rare Books and Special Collections and an Advanced Certificate in Archives and Records Management from Long Island University. She received her B.A. in Art History and History from Queens College, CUNY and is certified as a Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) through the Society of American Archivists. Diane is currently completing a third M.A. in Art History and Archeology from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.

Vincent Kelley is the Archivist at The Riverside Church Archives where he oversees issues related to preservation, and works to gain wider recognition of Riverside’s collections from the scholarly community and the general public. He serves as the Project Manager of a major grant-funded initiative to digitize and preserve the audiotape collection of Riverside’s now-defunct radio station, WRVR-FM. Previously, he worked at The New School Libraries & Archives in the Digital Libraries & Technical Services Department. He has a Master’s degree from The New School for Social Research where he studied politics and philosophy.

2/27 – Roundtable discussion among Riverside Church’s lay leaders on “what’s next.”  What specific actions could Riverside Church take to make positive changes in itself, its neighborhood, New York City, and the nation to contribute to repair?