It is past time to join the chorus of many inside and outside of the church crying out in the face of racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and any form of human hierarchy—conscious or unconscious—that diminishes the inherent dignity of those whom God created. We can no longer be silent. We cannot and will not retreat. We believe the good news of Jesus Christ is freedom to those held captive by bigotry, hatred and fear; liberating oppressed and oppressor alike.
A wide array of Christian faith leaders from across the United States have issued a Theological Declaration on Christian Faith and White Supremacy. This statement calls for a return to the liberating work of the Gospel and a rejection of racism and colonization and suggests action steps: listen, lament, repent, and re-imagine.
In the face of white privilege, white normalcy, white supremacy, and white nationalism, the Declaration offers an alternative vision, rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. The Declaration notes that:
The churc\\\h has always stumbled toward the promise of scripture. At times it has done well. Other times it has suffered under the weight of white nationalism.
The crafters of the Declaration write and act in the hope that followers of Jesus will reject hatred and violence and work to disrupt racism and work to renew both the Church and our society.
Check out the Declaration. As it states, if you hear God’s Spirit speaking, consider signing the Declaration and joining in the suggested actions and work. If you do not, pay no further attention.
See you along the Trail.
Saturday 30 June brought Riverside Conversations (the convention center is on the Allegheny) at the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Commissioners, advisory delegates, and others gathered to consider a range of topics. Some conversations looked at issues before the assembly, some at broader topics in the life of the church.
My friend and colleague Irene Pak and I (our mutual friend and colleague Bruce Reyes-Chow took the photo for us) led an introductory conversation on the church’s need to address racism if we wish to live into the wondrous diversity God creates.
We started with prayer and then had participants (somewhere near 50 in number) introduce themselves and share an experience of diversity. A brief reflection on diversity, race (social construct built on the diversity God creates) and racism (people with power granting themselves privilege based on that construct) followed. We acknowledged that the Presbyterian Church has a mixed record on race and racism – as do all churches and institutions. We have helped create racism – we help perpetuate racism – and we help dismantle racism. A litany affirming God’s intention that we live together in diversity and reminding us of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s commitment followed.
The group then heard three remarkable stories of efforts to dismantle racism: the work of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh that began with a focus on slavery in Western Pennsylvania; the New Beginning Initiative toward reconciliation between the Alaska Natives and Presbyterians; and a range of efforts that focus on racism in the criminal justice system.
Participants then used Mutual Invitation to engage in conversations about what they had heard. The event closed with the song “I’m Going to Live So God Can Use Me” as our prayer.
In my closing observations, I noted that working to dismantle racism is a calling for a life-time. It is ongoing work. It is challenging work. It involves us in encountering other systems of oppression, privilege, and domination. It is a journey. But it is a journey God calls us to make. And it is a journey on which we have wonderful traveling companions.
See you along the Trail.
The movie of the day was The Vernon Johns Story featuring James Earl Jones. It seemed a good choice given that tomorrow will bring an antiracism training.
Naomi Rose is who told me about this movie. I remember her call. “The Vernon Johns Story is on,” she said. “You need to watch it.”
And I did. For I had never heard of Vernon Johns – one of the forerunners of the Civil Rights Movement.
A while back, I found a copy in a Half-Price Book store.
It is a painful film about an unjust time. Yet it is a powerful film about the call to challenge injustice and a reminder of and tribute to all those who have done so through the years. That includes Naomi, my mentor and friend. Since we live in days that still know injustice, morphed and reconfigured and newly sprung injustice but injustice all the same, it is an important film as well.
With thanks for Vernon, Naomi, and all who travel the freedom road and invite us to join them – see you along the Trail.