In a couple of days the Witness, a ‘black Christian collective that engages issues of religion, race, justice and culture from a biblical perspective’ and whose mission is ‘addressing the core concerns of black people from a Christian frame’ is putting on their yearly national conference called the Joy and Justice.
The content of the conference is described on their website, and their purpose is to
“Elevate voices of truth who speak prophetically toward a holistic, diverse Black Christian community.’
We believe our tradition is theologically rich and holistic. We will lean into our unique church history to bring those principles into our modern day.
We will center the voices, theological perspectives, and ecclesial practices of the Black Diaspora. We desire for Black Christians to find healing, encouragement, and inspiration from the conference.
We desire for each of our attendees to take principles that can transform their local communities and faith families.
So on the face of it this would seem that this is a Christian conference, from a Christian perspective, for the benefit of building up Christians and affecting their communities.
And yet it doesn’t take much to see that there is something seriously theologically askew with several of the speakers at this conference. It’s to the point where you almost have to ask: does this black collective have a pro-choice problem? Let’s look at three speakers in brief.
The first is Ally Henney (she/ her/ hers)
She’s a regular contributor to The Witness and writes about race, cultural identification, black motherhood, and topics related to the black experience from a faith-based perspective. She is also overtly and unabashedly pro-choice .
She recently tweeted about how black people should join the Episcopal/ Anglican church. When pressed on why any Christian should do that, given the denominations stance on abortion and homosexuality (they are openly and enthusiastically in favor of both) she demurred for a minute, then made her viewpoint on abortion very clear.
When asked to elaborate on the issue of homosexuality, she said
‘I believe that all people should be welcome to worship and serve in the church regardless of their identity….
I actually considered joining the “other” Anglican denomination here in the US, but I decided against it. My nephew came out as trans at the same time I was taking steps to enter into discernment. I realized that I could not be ordained somewhere he could not be his full self….
There are disagreements within the Anglican Communion on this issue. As a new Anglican, my hope is that we would err on the side of love and not pronounce anathemas against one another because we disagree.”
The second speaker is Michelle Higgins.
She is a notably a #blacklivesmatter activist and the director of Faith for Justice, a self-styled Christian advocacy group. She is no stranger to controversy and was brought into greater scrutiny when her 2016 conference comments were unearthed where she stated:
Some of you know this shirt: ‘I met God. She’s black.’ Does anybody have that shirt? I have got to get me one… Have you met God? Do you know Him? She’s black… Do you know Jesus? Jesus is a trans-person of color… Your God is not heterosexual… Your God is the deepest, most forgotten, most ignored pieces of you and of your community…
In a similar vein, Faith for Justice sought to host a church event at a PCA church where they had an openly lesbian speaker preach. Once this was discovered, the church hosting the event announced they would no longer be holding it and Faith for Justice found another church to host it- Oak hill Presbyterian Church, an inclusive church that supports homosexuality and abortion.
As to the question of her pro-abortion/ anti-prolife perspectives, on her Witness conference bio she said that she is a ‘proud supporter of OBS’ which is the Organization for Black Struggle. This is a group that she ‘collaborates and finds solidarity with’. This is also a group who has a key part of their agenda
‘We will struggle to ensure that all women enjoy equal access to quality health care and full reproductive rights, including the right to determine when or whether they will bear children and the right to a safe, legal abortion.”
And post stuff like this:
Michelle Higgins is also the Co-Director of ‘Action St Louis’, which is another group that is also vocally pro-choice, pro LGBTQ+ and routinely posts Facebook updates and tweets about the need to support Pride week, Planned Parenthood and the demand for ‘full reproductive justice’ and access to abortion.
Michelle also has the pro-choice connection when during a keynote speech at the Urbana conference in 2016 she said some very unsavory things about the prolife ideology that caused many of the conference speakers to denounce her. She had made the following comments.
“We can wipe out the adoption crisis tomorrow…we could wipe it out this week, but we’re too busy arguing to have abortion banned, we’re too busy arguing to defund Planned Parenthood. We are too busy withholding mercy from the living so that we might display a big spectacle of how much we want mercy to be shown to the unborn.”
After this went down, Michelle Higgins sought to clarify her remarks. When the New York Times covered the story and the fallout, they reached out to her and had this interaction. According to the NYT:
In an email, Ms. Higgins said that she, too, opposed abortion, in that she believed that “babies are fully human from conception” and that “it would be good to see adoptions increase and abortions decrease.” But she is “against the ‘pro-life’ demands that abortion should be fully banned and carry criminal charges.”
This is not surprising, as she also has retweeted pro-choice politicians railing against abortion laws like Georgia House bill to ban abortion after 6 weeks.
The third speaker is Ekemini Uwan.
She is a ‘public theologian’ and co-hosts a theological, Christian podcast with the aforementioned Michelle Higgins. She’s been published in several well known publications and Christianity Today recently named her as one of the top new or lesser known female theologians worth knowing.
Ekemini is a bit different from the first two in some ways, but not so different in othes. While not as openly pro-choice as Alley Henney and not as controversial a figure as Michelle Higgins, nonetheless she has more than a few problematic views on abortion.
A self-identifying Democrat and supporter of Black Lives Matter, she likewise does NOT want to abolish Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal. She is quoted in the New Yorker as saying that she agrees with progressive Jonathan Merritt that she would not pull a lever and overturn that infamous court ruling.
“I’m not pro-repealing Roe v. Wade,”… As law of the land, the landmark decision should stand…. “Let’s move forward. Let’s not go back and fight wars we’ve already lost.”
If you can look at a law that allows for the butchery and murder of a million babies a year in the United States, and declare that you wouldn’t want to overturn that and make abortion illegal, I don’t see how that can make you anything but pro-choice, whether you would welcome the label or not.
To be fair, in the same interview she tried to make a distinction between being pro-life (ie ‘whole life’) and anti-abortion, but I fail to see how it’s a detail that makes a difference in light of her identifying as a Democrat and supporting the Democrat party- a group that has all but made abortion rights a sacrament and an integral part of their platform.
It’s difficult to understand how she presents herself as pro-life and yet supports and seeks to have others support democratic political candidates who have as their mission to openly entrench and protect the right of women to murder their unborn children.
As it were, these were just three of the speakers that I looked at out of nine total. I reached out to the other speakers to ask if they knew their fellow conference speakers were this theologically compromised on issues of abortion, or if they could clarify or elucidate their views on the abortion/ pro-homosexuality issue, but due to no response from them and no publicly available information I wasn’t able to make a determination if the others shared the views of Ally, Michelle and Ekemini. The one exception is Jemar Tisby. I was able to review blog articles and podcasts where he speaks out against abortion and says that he hates it.
But once I had accumulated all the information, I reached out to Jemar, who is the President and co-founder of The Witness, the organization putting on the conference, and asked him if he knew the theological perspectives of some of the women he had invited to speak. Specifically, I asked him if he knew there were people speaking at his Christian conference who were either openly or functionally pro-choice, and I got no response. I tried as many channels as I could think of, and nothing. I then reached out to the rest of the staff at the Witness and gave them several days to get back to me, and no one responded.
There’s a few conclusions can be drawn from this, primarily being that this black collective, for all their talk of biblical justice, don’t really find abortion and the murder of 300,000 black babies every year to be something intolerable and particularly loathsome. If they did, they would not have at least a third of their speakers at their national conference being varying degrees of pro-choice, some openly, some more muted. Apparently this is an acceptable view to have.
They would not have someone openly saying that she wants abortion to be safe, legal and rare, and that the woman should decide whether she kills the baby in the womb or not, and not have that be a factor over whether she is welcomed or not.
If The Witness found abortion truly to be a grievous sin and murderous action, they would not have speakers who tweet out support for Planned Parenthood – rousing up the crowds and their ungodly fight to keep abortion legal, nor would they give platforms to those who refuse to abolish abortion and overturn Roe V Wade, and neither would they encourage others to support the same candidates who support the Holocaust of a million babies a year.
Right now, I think Jemar Tisby and the rest of them have a pro-choice problem. This is just three speakers out of many, and who knows what the rest of the speakers believe. I hope one day they’ll let us know, but in the meantime, these progressives are being touted as important voices with important theological things to say and yet when it comes to issues of race and biblical justice, given their hypocritical proclivities it’s hard to take them seriously.