By Janet Ober Lambert
What does the affirmation “All War Is Sin”* mean when wars are waged on drugs, on crime, on poverty, when the designated enemy is not a soldier on foreign soil, but citizens of one’s own country?
What does it mean to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) when your neighbor doesn’t experience the world in the way you do, when walking a mile in their shoes would feel to you like walking in a foreign land?
These are the sorts of questions students wrestled with during the Brethren Academy course “Race and the Congregation,” which was hosted by the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on Feb. 21-24. The seminar-style course was led by Eric Bishop, vice president of student services for Chaffey Community College in southern California and an adjunct professor at the University of La Verne and San Diego State University. Bishop currently serves as a member of the Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees and has served on the Program and Arrangements Committee for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.
During this course, participants explored the foundations of the modern realities faced by many black Americans, first-hand accounts of black Christians reckoning with ministries in which they are minorities, statements about race adopted by Annual Conference, and the distance the church still needs to go to meet its own goals in this area. The course concluded with students creating their own action plans, outlining for themselves next steps in listening, learning, and becoming allies for people of color within the church and the wider community.
Readings for this course included “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown and “Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond” by Marc Lamont Hill.
* “War: 1970 Church of the Brethren Statement,” originally adopted by the 1948 Annual Conference as the “Statement on Position and Practices of the Church of the Brethren in Relation to War,” revised by the 1957, 1968, and 1970 Annual Conferences. Find the full statement at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1970war .
— Janet Ober Lambert is director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. For more information about the academy go to https://bethanyseminary.edu/brethren-academy .