DCIA calls for justice, helping the poor

Feb. 05, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

The largest collaborative faith organization in Durham held its annual banquet meeting this week, with a speaker calling for justice. Durham Congregations In Action installed new officers, presented donations to hunger relief groups and listened to a keynote speech by Eboni Marshall Turman. DCIA has 60 member congregations and spiritual communities.
Turman is the new director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School and assistant professor of Black Church Studies. She said that in her time in Durham so far, it is clear to her that God lives here. Turman spoke about the intersection of spirituality and social justice. We are all God’s children, she said, and worthy of dignity and equity, living life not on the margins but at the center.
That is jeopardized, Turman said, by an assault on the poor, “by insisting that the first shall be first and last be the last.”
“We as the people of God…are the ones who must say no…to the political economy of misery,” she said. Turman talked about the hyper-criminalization of black men, and said that she is tailed by police as she “drives while black” to her job at Duke University. She talked about working in New York and seeing buses filled with young women of color going to spend their days visiting loved ones in prison.
“This is what social crucifixion looks like,” she said, and spoke out against mass incarceration of black men.
Turman previously served as assistant minister at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and is an ordained minister in the National Baptist Convention, USA. She has taught theology and ethics at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, N.C., and Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Turman spoke out against “21st century forms of injustice” like stand your ground laws as well as North Carolina’s changes to voting laws and assistance to the working poor “displaced by tax breaks for the rich.”
The people of God ought to be there as a voice crying out in the wilderness, she said.
“We are the ones who must say no,” Turman said. “Why, you ask? Because our God is a God of justice.”
In the black church tradition, she said, the cross is the heart of the gospel. Those whose identities are marginalized outside the church are trans-valued in it, she explained, where they are pastors or deaconesses. In likening the suffering of the poor with the cross, the black church announces Jesus as friend, Turman said. As people of faith, they are called to see what suffering looks like in the world that is brought on by “spiritual wickedness in high places,” she said.
After Turman’s speech, new DCIA President Hank Eichen prayed that they would take Turman’s words to heart and they are the community of faith who are sent forth to hold hands of the afflicted and lift hands in praise.
“We as people of faith have hope,” Eichen prayed.
Eichen, a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church, previously served as DCIA vice president. He and other new officers and board members were installed during the banquet this week at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church by the Rev. Joe Harvard, a DCIA board member and former DCIA officer. He welcomed new DCIA officers Eichen and the new vice president, Joy Mickle of the Shambhala Buddhist Center. LaNella Smith of New Creation United Methodist Church and Bob Newlin of Parkwood United Methodist Church will continue to serve as secretary and treasurer, respectively. New board members are Jessie Giles of Fisher United Holy Church, the Rev. Jonah Kendall of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and Gordon Whitaker of Watts Street Baptist Church. Outgoing DCIA President the Rev. Ginger Brasher-Cunningham of Pilgrim United Church of Christ will continue to serve on the DCIA board along with eight others.
The Rev. Spencer Bradford, executive director of DCIA, also talked about the organization’s focus on poverty and plans for the coming year. Its monthly lunch meetings, held at different congregations, will include programs on migrant farm workers, public service workers and fast food workers in the next few months. In the fall, meetings will center on affordable housing issues. DCIA also presented more than $34,000 to CROP Hunger Walk partners and thanked major donors to hunger relief efforts. For information about DCIA, visit www.dcia.org.