by Torin Eikler
Among other business accomplished by Northern Indiana District at its district conference this year was the affirmation of the resolution “We Reaffirm that Racism is a Sin Against God and Our Neighbors.” The conversation was characterized by a unified desire to express the pain felt by the gathered body on the heels of the protests and counter-protests witnessed in Charlottesville, Va., and in other places around this country.
One of the very few areas of contention in the discussions concerned how to broaden the resolution from the focus on African Americans evident in our Annual Conference statements, to include all those racial minorities that experience racially motivated discrimination.
The final resolution reached back across the years of Annual Conference decisions and all the way up to the statement by current Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya, to “name racism as a sin against God and against our neighbors” and to challenge members of the district to respond to ongoing individual and systemic racism “in works as eloquent as our words, in practices as profound as our prayers, in action as heroic as our gospel.”
The full text of the resolution follows:
Northern Indiana District Church of the Brethren
2017 District Conference
Resolution: We Reaffirm that Racism is a Sin Against God and Our Neighbors
We, the delegates of the 2017 Northern Indiana District Conference, reaffirm Annual Conference reports and statements which name racism as a sin against God and against our neighbors.1 In 1991, a study group reported that, “Members of the Church of the Brethren face the subtle temptation of thinking that because there are not many black Americans in the denomination, or because many of us do not live in physical proximity to black people, that the problem of racism is not our concern. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of us benefit from racist practices, without being direct participants, because of decisions and policies already in place in our religious, economic, and political institutions.”2
We confess that we as the church have not taken the lead in transforming the understanding or the agency of racism in our society whether to African Americans or to people of other minorities. We confess our need to recommit to Bible study, prayer, and lament, and to reaffirm the witness of Jesus Christ in response to white supremacists, hate crimes, and an awareness of social injustice; we must connect our faith with our actions.3
The words of a 1963 Annual Conference Resolution carry the same challenge and urgency now as they did then: “The call of Christ is for commitment and courage in such a time as this. This call comes to every one of us, every congregation among us, and every community in which we live. We can dodge neither the revolution nor the call of Christ. Let us respond in works as eloquent as our words, in practices as profound as our prayers, in action as heroic as our gospel.”4
1 1991 Annual Conference report: Brethren and Black Americans
2 1991 Annual Conference report: Brethren and Black Americans
3 2018 Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya, Church of the Brethren Newsline, August 14, 2017, www.brethren.org/news/2017/and-who-is-my-neighbor.html
4 1963 Annual Conference resolution: The Time is Now to Heal our Racial Brokenness.
-- Torin Eikler is district executive minister of Northern Indiana District.