I had the privilege of providing the September 4, 2014 message for Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. I focused on our need to address racism within the church and our society. I am grateful to Sara Lisherness, Sera Chung, and Toya Richards for editorial input.
As followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we claim the biblical vision of the day when swords are beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Our faith in Christ compels us to work for a world filled with justice and peace.
The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, in partnership with other Compassion, Peace, and Justice and World Mission programs, helps Presbyterians witness and work for justice and peace in Syria, South Sudan, Israel/Palestine, and other places that experience conflict and injustice. We commemorate theInternational Day of Peace, September 21, a day the United Nations invites all nations and peoples to take concrete steps to strengthen the ideals and reality of peace.
We respond to Christ’s call, and the message of the International Day of Peace, whenever and wherever we work for justice and peace in the face of brokenness and strife. The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the killings of other African American males, demonstrate the need for such work in our own country.
Such events painfully remind us of the ongoing reality of racism and poverty as well as the impact of the militarization of police forces in our country. Too many African American men have been killed by the police. Too many issues of racial injustice have festered unresolved, leading to distrust and fear, anger and violence. Ongoing disenfranchisement has resulted in hopelessness and despair.
Presbyterians have a mixed record when it comes to responding to race. We have taken important steps on the journey to racial justice. At the same time, we have often failed to sufficiently recognize and repent of our complicity in the creation and continuation of systems and structures that perpetuate racism. We have been slow to undertake the difficult work of dismantling systems of privilege and disadvantage.
This summer, Presbyterians have prayed and stood with the people of Ferguson, Missouri; we have witnessed and proclaimed the good news of God’s love for all in pulpits across the country. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, in partnership with the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy and First Presbyterian Church of Ferguson, is providing support and resources to the church and community through two members of the National Response Team with significant experience in public violence disaster response.
As we give thanks for these and other efforts, we need to continue the journey to justice and accelerate our pace. Resources are available to help Presbyterians confront and address the persistence of racism.
The Season of Peace, which begins on September 7 and ends on World Communion Sunday, provides a time to reflect on, and work for, racial and economic justice and peace. During this season, we receive the Peace & Global Witness Offering that supports peace and justice efforts around the world and in our communities.
A team comprised of staff from the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly has gathered to identify further actions Presbyterians can take to address racism, the militarization of police forces, and poverty. Watch for more information and opportunities for engagement.
As our Brief Statement of Faith reminds us, In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace. May we be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading as we share the good news of God’s peace.
See you along the Trail.