NBA Welcomes the first Full-Time Senior Justice Coordinator with Plans to Expand Social Justice Work

Since the NBA’s founding in 1887, our mission work has had a central theme: to accompany Disciples as they create communities of compassion and care. Over the last several years, the NBA has heard and responded to many calls for justice, equity, and healing.

2019 Detention & Immigration Immersion Trip Participants

In 2014, as a response to the shooting death of Michael Brown, the NBA supported clergy and community activists in their ongoing efforts for justice and racial reconciliation. In 2018, the NBA Activist and Advocacy Peer Group launched. A group of 10 individuals spent two years together, learning from one another, and brainstorming potential solutions to address the root cause of social injustice. The group’s time together culminated in a final project which explored how faith communities could begin to have conversations and show up for Black LGBTQ+ individuals with HIV/AIDS. In 2019, the NBA put together the 2019 Immigration Detention Immersion Trip, to raise awareness regarding immigration detention issues in the context of the larger justice framework, and share action plans across the denomination that addressed immigration and detention issues in local communities and beyond. This trip was done in connection with NBA’s Prison & Jail Ministries work that has highlighted the invigoration of detention centers.

Rev. Héctor Hernández Marcial

The work of supporting communities engaged in social justice work doesn’t just exist in these moments. Instances of injustice are daily struggles, and the NBA is committed to doing this work in intentional, consistent, long-term ways. In 2021, we launched our Community Engagement Program with Rev. Héctor Hernández Marcial at the helm. This program seeks to nurture engagement strategies with health and social service ministries to address and transform the root causes of social injustice.

Since launching this program, we’ve hosted webinars that equipped congregations with the tools needed to support justice movements, held workshops that demonstrated the power of restorative justice practices instead of harsh prison sentences, and launched five Peer Learning & Wellness Groups, including La Lucha, a cohort of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) young adults, who were brought together to articulate the theological connections between Disciples’ identity and the biblical call to social justice through the art of storytelling. This peer group gave particular attention to the lived experiences of BIPOC identities and how their approaches to preaching, community organizing, coalition-building, and self-care differ but can work together to strengthen our denominational commitment to building wholeness in a fragmented world.

Rev. Angel Luis Rivera Agosto

The NBA is excited to continue our justice work in meaningful ways with the hiring of Rev. Angel Luis Rivera-Agosto, J.D., our first full-time Senior Community Engagement Coordinator for Justice Initiatives. Rev. Rivera-Agosto comes to the NBA with more than 30 years of experience serving in various missional, ecumenical, and pastoral settings. Most recently, he was at Global Ministries–a joint organization of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, focused on international mission partnerships and advocacy related to global social justice issues. While there, he served as the Global Relations Minister for Latin America and the Caribbean. His time at the NBA started in January 2024.

Welcoming Rev. Rivera-Agosto is an important next step in NBA’s work as a justice ministry. In the coming months, he will meet with NBA staff, partners, and others working on justice issues in the NBA community to understand what social justice needs exist across communities and where the NBA might be able to support.

“Working for justice has been my vital commitment in my ministry for many years. Accompanying workers, the unemployed, victims of abuse, children whose physical and emotional integrity has been threatened, immigrants, Indigenous communities, everything has been from a lens of defending dignity and the real possibilities of life,” Rivera-Agosto explains. “This service opportunity at NBA allows me to continue this closeness with communities and groups that fight for better living conditions while focusing my gifts and talents on collaborating in empowerment, awareness, the walk of love, denunciation, and strategies so that justice becomes a reality amongst the communities NBA accompanies.”

In addition to the work Rivera-Agosto will be doing, the Community Engagement team is working to launch four new Peer Learning and Wellness Groups in September 2024. They are the Young Adult Asian and Pacific Islander group, a chaplains group, the returning Executive Leaders, and the Prison and Jail Ministries group.

La Lucha Peer Learning & Wellness Group visiting NBA partner, Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries.

“Our talented team of Peer Group Conveners is working hard to develop the group’s two-year curriculum together, as well as the application process that will take place this summer to select members for these new groups,” Rev. Hernández Marcial shares. “We’ll share more details about these new peer group offerings over the next few months leading up to the application period. Please stay tuned for forthcoming announcements about application timelines.”

The program also plans to host a series of virtual workshops in the summer and fall and will be present at this summer’s Disciples ethnic constituency convocation gatherings.

“This year is a new beginning, full of fresh opportunities and renewed efforts. We are excited to welcome Rev. Angel Luis Rivera-Agosto to the NBA. His life experience and passion for justice will enrich the Community Engagement Justice Work and the NBA,” says Rev. Hernández Marcial. “Currently, we are in the assessment and planning phase, evaluating how the NBA’s programs and partnerships can promote justice, equity, and healing. Soon, we will be implementing expanded plans to further this important work through new restorative and community-based initiatives.”