In EPU’s Divided By Design findings, we noted that faith leaders and institutions can play a powerful role in bringing communities together and facilitating discussions on race. Faith leaders can help shape, and therefore change, the narrative. With that perspective, EPU conducted the Southern Faith Leaders Listening Sessions, a series of six facilitated discussions with leaders of different faith traditions on issues of race and equity. Thirty faith leaders from 10 faith traditions participated, representing Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and various Protestant and Christian denominations. Participants included a mix of ordained and lay leaders, men and women, and multiple races and ethnicities. The listening sessions provided insight around:
- How faith leaders and official texts present issues of race to congregants,
- Challenges and tensions between decisions at the institution’s leadership level and the congregation level, and
- The types of support and activities that would help faith leaders engage effectively with their congregations around issues of race and inequity.
The findings gleamed from the listening sessions also led to the development of a joint project between EPU and the Public Religion Research Institute for further research on the messaging around the intersection of faith and memorialized spaces. The project kicks off in 2022.