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Mendenhall Lecture Series

"The Criminal Injustice System: On Death, Faith, and Black History in America" with Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Rev. CeCe Jones Davis, Shane Claiborne, and Antoinette Jones

February 5 and 6, 2023

Gobin United Methodist Church (305 Simpson St, Greencastle)

As our annual Mendenhall lecture, in collaboration with The Prindle Institute for Ethics, the Center for Spiritual Life presented a historic two-night symposium on death, faith, and black history in America. For better or worse, the story of capital punishment is bound up in a particular set of ideas about faith and justice. The story of black history, the story of the freedom movement, is bound up in another set of ideas about faith and justice. Is it possible that big ideas about religion, ethics, God and meaning are actually killing people...is it possible that only bigger ideas about religion, ethics, God and meaning could make it stop?

We brought together artists, activists, and faith leaders to explore these very high stake questions--Rev. CeCe Jones Davis, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Shane Claiborne, and Antoinette Jones. This also served as a launch event for Shane's brand new book, Rethinking Life: Embracing the Sacredness of Every Person, released to the world February 7th, and Dr. Moss’ just released book, Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times. 

Cece Jones Davis is as an award-winning faith leader, facilitator, public speaker and impact strategist working at the intersections of faith, art and social justice. Her activism ranges from fighting to abolish the death penalty to advocating for menstrual equity—work that she does both on the ground to create immediate impact and in high-level rooms to drive policy changes, awareness and education. She served in the historic Obama Administration under Ambassador Ron Kirk, the first African American U.S. Trade Representative. She is known most recently for her work in creating the #JusticeforJulius campaign that saved Julius Jones in Oklahoma just hours before his scheduled execution in 2021.

Shane Claiborne is a prominent speaker, activist, and best-selling author.  Shane worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and founded The Simple Way in Philadelphia.  He heads up Red Letter Christians, a movement of folks who are committed to living "as if Jesus meant the things he said." Shane is a champion for grace which has led him to jail advocating for the homeless, and to places like Iraq and Afghanistan to stand against war. Now grace fuels his passion to end the death penalty and help stop gun violence. Shane’s books include Jesus for President, Red Letter Revolution, Common Prayer, Follow Me to Freedom, Jesus, Bombs and Ice Cream, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers, Executing Grace, his classic The Irresistible Revolution, Beating Guns, and his newest book, Rethinking Life.

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III is senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ (https://trinitychicago.org/) in Chicago. He is a preacher, poet, activist, author and filmmaker with an eye toward justice and equality. He founded The Unashamed Media Group, a justice centered, faith-based agency committed to producing and curating stories to inspire the heart and challenge the mind. His most recent book is Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair (2015). In October 2020, Dr. Moss created Otis’ Dream, a short film about his grandfather's unsuccessful attempt to vote in 1946. Dr. Moss preaches a theology of liberation rooted in a Black Spirituality of love and justice. Dr. Moss was identified by the Baylor University George W. Truett Theological Seminary as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English language in 2018. 

Antoinette Jones’ brother Julius sat on Oklahoma’s death row for over 23 years, despite maintaining his innocence and compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted. After an international movement to fight for #justiceforjulius and TWO favorable votes by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, Governor Kevin Stitt commuted Julius’ sentence to life WITHOUT the possibility of parole four hours shy of the scheduled execution on November 18, 2021. Antoinette is a passionate advocate for her brother both in Oklahoma and around the world, fearlessly highlighting both the particular injustices of Julius’ case, as well as the broader issues around capital punishment in America.