Several hundred believers are expected to attend the Presbyterian Church USA's conference on racial reconciliation and the Reformation.
This summer, the Mainline denomination will host its biennial Big Tent event, whose theme will be "Race, Reconciliation, Reformation."
Big Tent 2017 is scheduled to take place July 6–8 at the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and will include attendees from across the country.
Tom Hay, director of operations for the Office of the General Assembly, says in an article slated to be published in Presbyterians Today magazine, that the location for Big Tent 2017 was intentional.
St. Louis garnered national headlines for racial tensions following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in 2014 after he committed a theft at a convenience store and engaged in a physical altercation with the officer. The Justice Department under former President Barack Obama found on March 4, 2015, that the officer shot Brown in self-defense.
"Recent nationally televised events have told a story of conflict and pain in St. Louis. There is another story, too, of churches that struggle to find the right voice for speaking out and speaking up," said Hay.
"The churches in St. Louis are inviting us to learn from their experiences and to walk away better equipped to confront the challenges of racism, reconciliation and reformation in our own communities."
The first Big Tent event was held in 2009, with its original purpose being to combine various local church conferences in part for the sake of cost saving and sharing space.
"Big Tent has now become one large conference with participants joining together in worship and Bible study, and learning about such diverse topics as peacemaking, ruling elder leadership, multicultural ministry and other topics," noted the PCUSA's Presbyterian Mission Agency.
"Big Tent is a Presbyterian conference where people of all ages gather for worship, learning and getting to know other Presbyterians. Those attending past Big Tents say they value the opportunity to network, socialize and build community with other Presbyterians."
For the July conference, the opening worship preacher will be the PCUSA Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II and the closing worship preacher will be the Rev. Christine Hong of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
The last Big Tent event, held in the summer of 2015 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, was centered on the theme of "Living Missionally" and had an estimated 700 attendees.