Burns Brings Social Justice Discussions to E&H

Posted by Rachael Wilbur
Rev. Leah Burns of Knoxville Tenn. visited classrooms and hosted a Lyceum to invoke discussions on social justice in the Methodist Church and college campuses.

Rev. Leah Burns of Knoxville, Tenn. held a lecture for the Emory & Henry College community on Monday, Sept. 16, titled “Conversations on Race for College Campuses.” 

Burns serves as associate pastor at the historic Second United Methodist Church in Knoxville. She seeks to cultivate racial literacy in churches and in the community by creating tools and leading workshops, seminars, book studies, discussions and Bible studies. Burns also spoke to students in two Religion classes and lead a sermon at Emory United Methodist Church.

Rev. Leah Burns speaks to E&H students.Rev. Leah Burns speaks to E&H students.In her classroom discussion, Burns spoke of two different stories from the Bible: the story of Jonah and the whale from the Book of Jonah, and the story of Jesus Christ from the Book of John. She focused on a theme of empathy and connectivity between people. “I really appreciated Revered Burns being available to come visit with us. I have admired her passion for racial reconciliation for a number of years. She reminded all of us that injustice, especially racial injustice, has been a part of this country’s story for a long time, and that part of seeking justice in the present is to make amends for the sins of the past – to balance the scales of past wrongs, so to speak,” said Rev. David Jackson, who’s classrooms Burns visited. “I think this is an important message for all of us to take to heart as we seek to make our communities more fair, equal, inclusive, and respectful.” Burns also discussed the future of the United Methodist Church after the 2019 General Conference, with an emphasis on social justice. The General Conference this last February voted to strengthen its ban on gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriages in what is called, the “Traditional Plan.” This decision has led to a concern that there may be a split within the UMC. Burns is a part of UMC-Next, a group within the Methodist Church that seeks the reformation of any discriminatory policies. 

The Lyceum she led in the evening covered a wide array of topics related to racial justice on college campuses. She has developed resources in each of the four dimensions of racism: internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic (based on Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation). 

  • Rev. Leah Burns during her classroom lecture.
    Rev. Leah Burns during her classroom lecture.
I think this is an important message for all of us to take to heart as we seek to make our communities more fair, equal, inclusive, and respectful.
-Rev. David Jackson

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