Jennifer McLaughlin, Co-Founder
Jennifer co-founded the Justice and Faith Collective after 25 years of experience working in Church and Seminary settings. Her passion for introducing social justice and anti-racism learning to faith communities led her to incorporate anti-racism into Vacation Bible School (VBS), the biggest community gathering opportunity of the Church year. She describes her anti-racism VBS curriculum as a revolution of love, first piloted in 2017. The transformative results of these VBS experiences led her to found Community Allies VBS, inviting over 675 other communities into an antiracism VBS by 2020. Jennifer has an MDiv from Fuller Seminary and an MA in Social Justice and Community Organizing from Prescott College. She also serves as Vice-Chair & Commissioner for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission for her local city government.
Courtney Wooten, Co-Founder
Courtney, a community leader, community organizer, and co-founder of the Justice and Faith Collective is a leading speaker and consultant on antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is committed to intersectional equity work and collective liberation. A graduate of Stanford University and Prescott College’s Social Justice and Community Organizing MA Program, Courtney is also the founder of Suburbia Rising: Stories of Self and Solidarity, an organization for cross-cultural community building. She also serves as Chair and Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission for her local county government.
Transforming communities of faith through interactive antiracism learning and action for all ages.
We educate children, youth, and adults to dismantle racial bias. We cultivate active, loving, connected communities of faith, and work collectively to liberate people by dismantling structural oppression.
The Justice and Faith Collective began with a dream birthed in 2017 with the creation of the antiracism curriculum for Vacation Bible School at Edmonds United Methodist Church in Edmonds, WA. Inspired by increasing awareness of structural racism and learning at the March 2017 Faith Forward Conference, Jennifer McLaughlin envisioned a community experience that would engage children, youth, and adults in conversations about racism.
Author Brian McLaren spoke at the conference about how to prepare children for life in dangerous times. Among his guidance were two goals that drove this vision. “1. Help children identify as participants in a never-ending spiritual revolution/evolution of love. 2. Equip children as lifelong Christian activists for these dangerous times.”
After a test run in 2017 and securing grant funding, work began to create a 2018 curriculum and camp focused on racism. An interdisciplinary team of volunteers agreed to learn more and work with an equity consultant to write a VBS curriculum. The result was our 2018 camp, “The Power of Inclusion.” The curriculum was targeted at our mostly white, middle-class community, inviting them into awareness about race and responsibility. We defined racism, discovered beauty in diversity, and explored privilege and resources (playing games that teach us that some start further ahead in life and others start further behind).
The team grew and created a new curriculum for a camp in 2019 and another in 2020, CommUNITY Allies VBS. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 curriculum was created digitally. This crisis became an opportunity for us to market our content digitally. CommUNITY Allies VBS was sold to more than 675 communities in 2020.
With the death of George Floyd in the midst of our CommUNITY Allies VBS curriculum creation and distribution we realized the need was greater than we’d seen before. Churches all over the world need this work. Children, youth, and adults need to be engaging in this conversation together. The Justice and Faith Collective responds to this need by providing curriculum with tracks that are age appropriate for children, youth, and adults. Our content includes current antiracism theory and practice, as well as liberation theology that invites communities towards transformative change. If we want to see the world change, it must begin with us. So, join us! The most effective antiracist work would include members who are both white and people of color. For people of color learning with us, we hope this will be a safe place. And we hope to help you experience liberation. We welcome your input, feedback, and creativity.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement
Perspectives are informed by the social arrangements we live within. Just like the term disability is used because we are socialized to see able-bodied as normative and superior, all marginalized groups are oppressed by the language of the dominant culture. We are socialized to rank race, class, gender, sexuality, immigration status, age, religion, and language through the lens of our societal norms (ADRESSING model created by Pamela Hays and adapted by Dr. Leticia Nieto). We have systems that uphold these rankings so that some benefit through access and opportunity while others do not. Present-day American society is infused with oppressive racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, heteronormativity, xenophobia, colonialism, and Christocentric ideologies. These systemic forces embedded in our society blind us to the unfair systems at play.
The Justice and Faith Collective prioritizes telling the stories that are often ignored, the stories of those marginalized. We listen for the truths that help us understand how dominant group understandings serve the interest of continued domination. We create brave spaces for recognizing the humanity in all people through reflection. Where we find inequity, we confront it, along with the deficit views that feed disparity.
We, the leaders of The Justice and Faith Collective, have privilege and power. We endeavor to use it for good while also working to dismantle the power that privileges us. The Justice and Faith Collective will not abandon our pursuit of justice, even when justice does not serve our interests. Restitution for economic inequity is prioritized through equitable compensation for people of color. No longer ignoring injustice, but knowing we will make mistakes, we commit to listening, learning, and working to do better.
While there are many means of oppression, as listed above, our primary focus is on racism as a means to identity-conscious inquiry. The solution to racism and oppression is not education alone, but dismantling systems of privilege and liberating people from the internalized lie of identity-based inferiority. We mobilize all ages to re-humanize selves and others and to take action against the system that historically serves the interest of domination. We believe liberation must come through the oppressed. As community organizers, we commit to participation in grassroots bottom-up community organizing campaigns in support of liberation. Lastly, Community Allies educates children, youth, and adults in the work of justice, as we believe all are needed in the work of transforming hearts, souls, and minds.