Annual Report 2022

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Bryan Stevenson Inspires CTS and the Indianapolis Community

On October 5, 2021, Bryan Stevenson visited the CTS community as the featured guest for the Faith & Action Project’s Fall Event, “American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity and Making a Difference.” Stevenson spoke to a packed Clowes Auditorium before engaging with Dean Leah Gunning Francis in conversation.

Stevenson is founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the bestselling book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. The Faith & Action Project invited Stevenson to address the CTS community about how we might overcome poverty by attacking the systemic and social injustices that fuel it.

Stevenson spoke passionately about our current moment, about the current reign of a politics of fear and anger, the need for truth-telling, and the importance of hope. He spoke about the injustices of mass incarceration, racism, and poverty, as well as their interrelations. He also stressed the significance of faith, both his own personal faith and the important role of faith leaders and communities in meeting the crises before us.

One major theme of Stevenson’s address was the need to get proximate to those who have been marginalized, a point which he connected to his faith. “A calling of proximity has always been central to the theology of Christianity,” he said. “Our faith has to empower us to stand next to those who are condemned. It is essential that we understand that there is no beauty, there is no justice, there is no power in our expressed beliefs if we are not responding to the needs of the poor and the excluded. There is power in proximity.”

He continued, explaining, “And the beautiful thing is, I don’t want you to get proximate for somebody else. I want you to get proximate for you, because in proximity you’ll understand your capacity to be an agent of love in the world. You’ll understand your capacity to be an agent of healing in the world. You’ll understand your power to make a difference in the world.”
Stevenson also spoke about the need for a full reckoning with our country’s past, particularly its treatment of its Native peoples and Black Americans: “I’m interested in liberation… but to get there we’ve got to have an era of truth and justice. And here’s the kicker: the church needs to lead.”

Stevenson then joined Dean Gunning Francis for a conversation about finding purpose and clarity in the struggle for justice. Throughout, Stevenson continued to emphasize the important role of faith communities, insisting, “This is not a moment for the church to be silent. It’s not a moment for students to be silent. It’s not a moment for anybody to be silent. This is a moment of crisis, and we’ve got to lift our voices.”

The morning after the event, the Faith & Action Project organized an intimate conversation with Stevenson and a small group of local non-profit, religious, and community leaders. At the gathering, which provided key voices and decision-makers a unique opportunity to engage on a deeper level, Stevenson encouraged leaders to understand the importance of identifying causes rather than symptoms, of learning about the deep history of our local and national crises, and of finding a sense of purpose and joy in their vital work. Along with larger-scale theoretical matters and every day practical advice, Stevenson stressed the importance of his own faith in the struggle for justice: “The spiritual for me connects all these things. There are moments of crisis that are really disorienting, and without some capacity to manage spiritual disruption, it can destroy you, it can overwhelm you.”

Learn more about Stevenson’s background here.

Learn more about the Faith & Action Project here.