A release from the Standing with People of Color Committee of Annual Conference
A newly-formed Standing with People of Color Committee met via Zoom on Sept. 13 and 21 to begin work delegated by the 2022 Annual Conference.
The 2022 delegates affirmed the “Standing with Persons of Color” query sent by Southern Ohio and Kentucky District with this statement:
“We recognize the struggles faced by many of our sisters and brothers of color and believe the church should be agents of change. We encourage congregations, districts, agencies, and other denominational entities to continue to follow the teachings of Jesus by living out the great commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We understand the great diversity that the word neighbor implies. So, we encourage congregations to study the teachings of Jesus and how they apply to our relationships with all people of color, to express solidarity with all people of color, offer sanctuary from all forms of violence, and identify and dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions, and then begin to live out those findings by being Jesus in the neighborhood.”
Please pray… For the work of the Standing with People of Color Committee,
and for each committee member.
Southern Ohio and Kentucky District and On Earth Peace were tasked to collaborate in developing a plan and resources to help the Church of the Brethren denomination study and act on issues of racial justice. The two-year study/action process will run from Annual Conference 2023 to Annual Conference 2025.
Over the next few months, the committee will clarify objectives for the process and connect with many people and groups in the denomination to learn what’s already happening related to racial justice learning and action in the Church of the Brethren. Please contact the committee to ask questions and share ideas, hopes, or information. An email address to contact the committee will be shared soon.
Representatives of the Southern Ohio and Kentucky District’s Racial Justice Team including Robert Jackson, Christy Schaub, Lucas Keller, and Bruce Rosenberger, along with Matt Guynn of On Earth Peace, LaDonna Sanders Nkosi as director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, Jennifer Quijano West of the Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference, and Rhonda Pittman Gingrich as director of Annual Conference were in attendance at the first meeting.
The group began with a time of sharing and prayer and a devotional shared by Gingrich, adapted from “A Prayer Service for Racial Healing in Our Land.”
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
Reflections (adapted from/inspired by Pastoral Reflections in “A Prayer Service for Racial Healing in our Land,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops):
In this familiar story, the lawyer poses this question to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” As he often did, Jesus responded with a parable, responding to a predictable question in a fresh way to prompt new insights and provoke change in the hearts and lives of his listeners. A man, presumably a Jewish man, is robbed and beaten while traveling. Whether from apathy, self-preservation, judgment, seemingly more pressing priorities, or fear, two men, also Jewish, each crossed to the other side of the road and walked by, intentionally ignoring the injured man, but a third–someone of a different race and culture–drew close to the injured man, saw his pain and suffering, and came to the man’s aid, tending his wounds and finding him a safe place to recover. He saw a neighbor in need and responded as a good neighbor. He stood with the man who had been victimized. In the example of Jesus, he did what God required: he exhibited justice, kindness, and humility.
I know I am preaching to the choir so to speak, but with this story in mind, let’s consider our current context, in which racism persists in our communities and in our churches. Too many cross to the other side of the road and pass by the victims of racism, without looking at them, without really seeing the deep wounds inflicted on them or the deep pain they carry as a result of those wounds. Many of these wounds have festered over centuries. Disparities in educational access and outcomes, housing, employment, economic well-being, policing, and the justice system, as well as leadership, are rooted in our country’s shameful history of slavery and systemic racism. Any act of racism injures the perpetrator and the victim, threatening the dignity of both. The failure to see and acknowledge the pain and suffering of those who are victims of ongoing racism, the failure to act to end systemic racism, which is often codified and embodied in our laws, policies, and structures, the failure to draw close to and stand with our brothers and sisters of color hurts those who are victimized and denies all of us the opportunity to benefit from the gifts of diversity.
Jesus’ parable calls us to live Christ’s love, to be a good neighbor: the one who graciously accepts the responsibility of healing; the one who sees, draws close to, cares for, and stands with the injured.
It is long overdue, but it is time to wake up, to stand with, and to speak up when we see racism. This requires compassion, courage, and creativity. But this is how we love our neighbor as ourselves. This is how we bear witness to the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ to individuals and society. This is how we act like Jesus. This is how we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). This is how we actively repent of the sin of racism and heal the wound of racism, living a new parable of racial justice in this pivotal time.
Prayer (adapted and expanded from “A Prayer for Racial Justice” by Jeremy Blunden):
Loving God, creator of all people, breathe in us a true sense of justice for all people. (Pause.) Forgive us when we allow apathy or fear or misplaced priorities to guide us in crossing the road and ignoring the pain of our brothers and sisters of color. Give us the compassion and courage to draw near and stand with our brothers and sisters of color in their pain. May our work together inspire your church to bear witness to your love for all and to speak truth to power, always. Amen.
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