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Ron Harris
Director of Communications

Religious Leaders, Community Activists Tackle Social Issues At
School of Divinity’s 93rd Annual Convocation

WASHINGTON -- Sex, HIV/AIDS, the imprisonment of African-American males and churches’ financial stability in a stumbling economy will be among the issues that clergy and lay people will wrestle with Nov. 4 to Nov. 6 as the Howard University School of Divinity celebrates its 93rd annual Convocation.

The three-day event features some of the nation’s most important religious leaders, including Joshua Dubois, the 26-year-old that President Barack Obama picked to be executive director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the Rev. Delman Coates, leader of the highly-publicized “Enough Is Enough Campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment.”

The theme for this year is “Our New Day Begun: A Theological Call to Action in a Time of Change.” Through sermons, lectures and panel discussions, participants will seek theological solutions to HIV/AIDS in the Washington metro area, the high incarceration rate of the nation’s black males and the impact of the nation’s current economic crises on churches.

Wednesday, Nov. 4

The Convocation begins Wednesday with registration at 3 p.m. and opening worship at 5:30 p.m., led by the Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, founder of the Skinner Leadership Institute. A nationally recognized spiritual leader, teacher, lecturer and writer, Skinner has degrees in social work, religion and law. She and her late husband, the Rev. Tom Skinner, a former Harlem, N.Y., gang leader, founded the Skinner Leadership Institute in 1992. Using outreach and leadership development, the Institute works to produce leaders who operate in technical and moral excellence. It has produced a number of graduates who have assumed clerical and political leadership.

At 6:30 p.m., there will be a reception and book signing for works by Howard University School of Divinity faculty, alumni and students, including Called to Discipleship, The Busy People Bible Study Plan.

Thursday, Nov. 5

R. Drew Smith, director of the Public Influences of African-American Churches Project and scholar-in-residence at the Leadership Center at Morehouse College will give the morning lecture at 10 a.m. on “Black Clergy Activism in a Transformed Public Square.”

Drew Smith, an expert in religion and public life, has initiated and directed a number of projects on the subject, including the Public Influences of African-American Churches Project and the Faith Communities and Urban Families Project. These projects have collected research data on political involvement, community development activities, and outreach ministries of African-American churches in numerous parts of the United States. The projects have also convened seminars, conferences, and roundtables that have brought clergy, policy makers, and community leaders together to discuss matters pertaining to the church’s public mission and ministry.

Following lunch, there will be a session overview for each of the seminars beginning at 1:00 pm. The sessions will begin at 1:30 and will run concurrently.

In one, Bert L’Homme, director of Education Policy and coordinator of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign at the Children’s Defense Fund, will discuss the high incarceration rates of African-American males. In August 2008, there were 4,777 African-American male inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, compared to 1,760 Hispanic male inmates and 727 white male inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents.

In another panel, the Rev. Penny Willis of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will lead a panel in efforts to stamp out HIV/AIDS, which has a higher infection rate in D.C. than in some African nations. African-American churches have been slow to adopt a theological approach to HIV/AIDS, in large part due to its association with the gay community.

Willis and her organization have been wrestling with the issue for 10 years during its annual “Summit on Sexuality,” an attempt to engage faith-based organizations in discussions on faith-based approaches to action and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

In the third panel, the Rev. Gerald Kisner, pastor of the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., will lead a discussion on “Financial Literacy for Pastors and Parishioners in a Time of Economic Recovery.” An expert on financial management, Kisner, who recently rebuilt his church after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it, will discuss how to maintain at a time when some churches are downsizing or closing their doors.

All three panels will be repeated at 3:30 p.m.

At 7 p.m., Pastors Daniel and Sabrina Mangrum of Cornerstone Peaceful Bible Baptist Church host the Convocation banquet at the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University.

Friday, Nov. 6

The featured event is a 10 a.m. panel discussion on religion and politics that includes the Rev. Joshua Dubois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the Rev. Harold Dean Trulear, who has served as associate professor of Applied Theology and director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Howard University School of Divinity since 2003. He currently teaches Church Music and Worship, Prophetic Ministry, Ministry and Criminal Justice, and Church and Community Studies. Skinner and Smith will also be featured panelists.

The panel is moderated by the Rev. Cheryl J. Sanders, senior pastor of the Third Street Church of God in Washington and professor of Christian Ethics at the Howard University School of Divinity, where she teaches courses in Christian ethics, pastoral ethics and African-American spirituality.

The Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., will give the closing worship. Coates has been featured on CNN, ABC News 7 in Washington, National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Associated Press, Essence Magazine and many other media for his efforts to end what he says are corporate sponsorship of images and messages that degrade women, glorify criminal activity, and negatively stereotypes black and Latino men as gangsters, pimps, and thugs.

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