Chi Alpha diversity panel discusses racial divide in the Christian church

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Abby Taylor
Staff Writer

The issue of racial divide within the Christian church was discussed in a unity and diversity panel in order to help students come together on this issue.
The panel was sponsored by Chi Alpha, an on-campus Christian ministry group, along with G.E.N.E.S.I.S., a fellowship group of the St. Paul AME church.
G.E.N.E.S.I.S. is an acronym for the group’s stated purpose of “guiding, encouraging, nurturing each student in salvation.”
The three panel members included Belkis Lehmann, the Chi Alpha diversity specialist, the Rev. Elijah Shafah from St. Paul AME and the Rev. Dwight Johnson from the First Assembly of God.
The event was hosted in Hawkins-Adams-Long Hall on Monday, Feb. 8. Advertisements for the event included a Facebook posting and event and fliers around campus.
Justin Felch, one of the directors of Troy’s Chi Alpha, said that he wanted the students to be able to talk about racial divide in the Christian church and bring awareness to this issue.
“I think it will bring awareness to an issue that people don’t really focus on that much,” Felch said. “I think it’s really easy for Christians to do the church things they’ve always done, the way they’ve always done them, and just to continue on with the status quo.”
“I’m hoping that this will encourage people to challenge the process and to challenge the way we think about the way that we do things,” Felch said.
Whitney Hartselle, a senior broadcast journalism major from Montevallo, discussed her excitement before the event.
“I’m really excited to see how tonight will go and what I will learn,” she said. “I have been thinking about the racial divide within the church, and I can’t wait to see how the discussion is handled tonight.”
Throughout the panel, students asked the panelists about why they should care about this issue and how to resolve it.
“Acceptance is not enough. We need to celebrate,” Lehmann said. “We must renew our minds to be transformed.”
“I thought it went extremely well. I thought that we were able to have an honest conversation about our feelings,” said Kari Clohan, a senior biomedical sciences major from Dothan. “It is something that should be exposed and dealt with because it’s a real problem.”
Sydni Sweet, a sophomore communication major from Huntsville, said the panel helped open her eyes.
“I think it went really well because it brought up certain circumstances that are happening that people just want to ignore, and now that we have our eyes open, hopefully we are able to change that in the future,” Sweet said.
“Going into this panel, I wanted to learn how I could change this,” Sweet said. “The answer to that came from Belkis Lehmann, and that was to love one another.”
Monica Riley, a senior economics major from Monroe­ville, said the panel was a stride in the right direction.
“Troy, as a university, has taken great strides to bring us together, and this is where we start; we start by not only having a conversation, but listening with the intent of learning,” Riley said.
Trojan Outreach, a peer education program for Troy students, is also having a series of seminars titled “Embracing Diversity” every Monday throughout February.
Nelson Delucca, a senior psychology major from Smiths Station, says that Trojan Outreach has been spreading awareness across campus.
“We have had gingerbread cutout people around campus, throughout February we will have speech bubbles with statistics about diversity, and we will also be having speakers every Monday night of this month,” he said. “The purpose is every year we want to take one month to promote diversity.”

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