January 25 – January 25, 2018
Judge Griffen will be one of our featured preachers for Summer Conference 2016. Recently we were able to ask him some questions about his work, passion for social justice, and hopes for Summer Conference.
Wendell L. Griffen is an Arkansas lawyer, jurist, legal educator, business leader, ordained Baptist minister, and public speaker. He is currently a judge to Arkansas’s Sixth Circuit for Pulaski County. In addition to this, he serves as pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock and CEO of Griffen Strategic Consulting. He also runs a blog called Justice is a Verb!.
BPFNA: What led you to become involved in your current peace and justice work? When/how did you know this was the work you were called to do?
WG: I was born in 1952. During the month of my fifth birthday (September 1957) nine black students braved hateful mobs and defied opportunistic politicians to enter Little Rock Central High School. That was three years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared racial segregation in public education unconstitutional. Yet, black and white children in my home county did not begin attending school together until fall 1964, a decade after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. During the 1960's my family was inspired by the courageous work of civil rights activists. Years later, I drew on those memories and lessons to become a political science (pre-law) major in college.
As an Army officer I served with soldiers who had served in Vietnam, and saw firsthand how racism, sexism, and militarism intersected to wreak havoc on lives and hinder social justice. And as a law student, lawyer, and minister, I came to understand how religion is often used to justify oppression.
I accepted social justice as my ministry after I entered my first pastoral charge in 1988.
BPFNA: What gives you strength and what keeps you motivated to do this work?
WG: I draw strength from the people (past and present) who demonstrate courage, persistence, and commitment to justice.
BPFNA: Who inspires you? Who are your role models?
WG: My role models begin with Jesus. They also include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Malcolm X, Dr. James Cone, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Representatives Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisolm, and Barbara Jordan, Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, President Jimmy Carter, and Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
BPFNA: What do you hope Summer Conference attendees take away from this week focused on breaking social and structural injustice?
WG: I hope attendees will develop a better understanding about the interconnectedness of systems of oppression, how the religion of Jesus has been misused and distorted to justify injustice, and ways to overcome those evils.
BPFNA: What’s one thing people can do in their own communities to raise awareness about or work toward changing these systems of injustice?
WG: I believe we all should take personal responsibility for and engage in collective ongoing actions to dismantle the systems.
BPFNA: Any additional thoughts for our members?
WG: I appreciate the chance to participate in Summer Conference, and look forward to meeting Conference attendees and other presenters.