Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith

Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith, WCC central committee member and senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Faith Engagement with Bread for the World, USA.


Through the Figel Ecumenism Award, the Washington Theological Consortium honors Christians who have made a significant contribution to ecumenism through work in ecumenical organizations and dialogue, scholarship in ecumenical theology, or through contributions to ecumenical ministries in worship, education, or social justice ministries.

Walker-Smith is a member of the World Council of Churches central committee, and also serves as senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Faith Engagement with Bread for the World in Washington, DC in the USA.

Introducing her, Rev. Dr Beverly Goines, from the National City Christian Church and Georgetown University, recalled inviting Walker-Smith to speak to her class while serving as a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

I wanted my students to know that there are Black women leading the global ecumenical movement, and I wanted them to meet Rev. Dr Walker-Smith personally,” she said.

During a special evening on 4 February, Walker-Smith delivered the 14th Annual Figel Address, exploring The Hope of Pan-African Peoples and the Contradiction of Visible Unity Deferred: Ubuntuas a Vision for Christian Unity.”

Ubuntu refers to behaving well towards others or acting in ways that benefit the community (I am because we are.”). Ubuntu embraces actions that are right roughly insofar as they are a matter of living harmoniously with others or honoring communal relationships.

In her address, after offering an overview of the history of the ecumenical movement through the lens of Pan-African peoples, Walker-Smith focused on why Pan-African people, and so many others, have been disproportionately affected by a lack of reconciliation that defers visible unity.

Yes, the unity of all of Gods children is affected when one part of the body struggles,” she said. Yes, Pan-African people as part of the oikoumene continue to live in the reality of dreams deferred.”

This persists despite—and contrary to—current popular narratives, she added.

First and foremost, Ubuntu justice values and believes in the repair of relationships,” she said. In the Christian world, I would say Ubuntu encourages the affirmation, the embrace of the living, our Creator God.”

This means moving not only toward the diversity of peoples but within the creation itself. I am glad to see the rewriting of the narrative by Pan-African peoples and many peoples who have been excluded and marginalized from the dominant cultures.”

In other words, she added, we are undergoing a renewed investigation of who we are.

I am glad to see a revisitation of moral discernment in the public circle located in the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches,” she said. But sadly here I must pause.”

Walker-Smith took a moment to acknowledge that, on the first day of Black History Month—observed during February in the United States—16 historically Black colleges and universities received bomb threats.

We should always be asking the question: what real and tangible structural and sustainable action will we make?” she said. These movements now and other movements step to move us closer to a visible unity more receptive of the oneness that has been given to us by Gods grace.”

In a response to Walker-Smiths lecture, Rev. Dr Herman Browne, Episcopal Church of Liberia, highlighted key aspects of Ubuntu. Ubuntu as a concept insists on dialogue,” he said. In my  mind, its not just about understanding each other or agreeing with other, its about acknowledging that the other is not going away.”

There is an openness within Ubuntu that goes beyond dialogue, added Browne. Meeting means bringing to ones mind, ones soul, ones being, the presence and the soul of the other person,” he said.

Video recordings of the event: Prayer ServiceFigel Lecture and Response and Q&A session


Pan-African ecumenical devotional guide "Lament and Hope"