Seeking to address the racial division in Detroit, the Metropolitan Detroit Association of American Baptist Churches (MDA-ABC) will screen Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism with a panel discussion at First Baptist Church of Detroit on the morning of April 12.

“This city and its surrounding communities have a gloomy history of racial tension, bigotry, and fear. This history exists in our congregations, as well as in the community at large, despite the fact that our American Baptist denomination originally formed in protest to slavery. This ought not to be so,” read the event invitation from Diana Thompson, pastor of First Baptist in Dearborn, Mich., and vice chairperson of the MDA-ABC board. 

Thompson told that “Detroit has been a racially charged city for many years…Unfortunately, most of our American Baptist congregations still reflect this separation.”

The association has some 50 churches, many composed of homogenous African American and European Americans.

Thompson said that the board “decided that this film could act as a catalyst for conversation, and hopefully reconciliation, among our churches.”

Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism won the award for best documentary at the International Black Film Festival of Nashville in October 2008 and was accepted in 2009 in the competition categories at San Diego Black Film Festival and the Texas Black Film Festival in Dallas.

Documentary interviewees included Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director, American Baptist Home Mission Society; Marilyn Turner, associate executive director, American Baptist Home Mission Society; Wayne Ward, retired theology professor, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jim Hill, executive director, ChurchNet/Baptist General Convention of Missouri; and Javier Elizondo, now dean of academic affairs of the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi.

The Detroit screening will focus on helping attendees see and heal racial division in their communities and congregations. The conversation to follow will be facilitated by the MDA-ABC board and will use the documentary’s discussion guide.

“Our hope is that we can then schedule opportunities, with the pastors’ encouragement, for the congregations themselves to come together, watch this film, and begin honest dialogue about our past, present, and future as the Body of Christ–to hear stories, to seek healing, to strive for understanding, and to pursue closer ties of love with one another,” said Thompson.

Editor’s note: To learn more about, or purchase a copy of, “Beneath the Skin,” click here.

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