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Racial Justice

Promoting Anti-Racism and Confronting White Supremacy & White-Centeredness

“Starting somewhere and starting local will mean you may perhaps be the first person to voice these issues in your congregation, but you are likely not the only person on this spiritual and moral journey of transformation. And there are other churches engaged in this work who have found it enlivening and life-giving.” (Robert P. Jones CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute)

The 2022 Annual Gathering passed a Resolution of Witness entitled United Church of Christ Witnessing “A White Supremacy Free Zone.”

Therefore Be it Resolved that the Southern California Nevada Conference calls for houses of worship, white United Church of Christ congregations, UCC congregations and institutions in general to declare their communities and settings as “A White Supremacy Free Zone” is to take away the quiet existence of racism and white idolatry and forces the issue into the communities in which UCC houses of worship exist. Declaring “We are confronting white supremacy” and publicly expressed forces the discussion and takes away the comfortable existence of white idolatry.

Implementation Ideas and Resources

To begin the conversation and practice around reparations, create a fund for a Reparations Royalty Program, similar to this project here and described in this article here.

Doing a focused study, or creating a task force, on reparations and how that relates to the Church and to individual congregations. 

In any property sale your congregation undertakes, tithing at least 10% of the proceeds of a sale to be redistributed to organizations that primarily serve the needs and interests of people of color, or direct giving to BIPOC persons through mutual aid networks.

Creating similar structures and practices of reparation and redistribution in any fundraising done over $10,000, including Stewardship drives.

Clergy and Lay book study groups for studying theology solely from theologians of color.

Tell a truer history of ourselves. Most churches that have been around for more than a generation have commissioned an official history that tells the story of the founding and early growth of the church. But these glossy accounts sitting in the church library or on tables in the foyer are typically incomplete at best. They, by design, are like a resume, usually written with a commitment to telling the most flattering, impressive story of the congregation.
Here’s one practical proposal. Pull together a group to write a more honest church history that begins with this simple question: Why is our church physically located where it is? Why is it in this part of our community and not another one? In nearly all cases this question will quickly lead to issues of racially segregated neighborhoods, white flight from cities to suburbs and land grabs from Native Americans, to name just a few. And other questions will flow from this beginning: Has the church ever had a policy or practice of prohibiting non-white members? Where was the voice of the church during past and present movements for civil rights? How different would a history of your church be if it were written by non-white members of your community? 

Doing a study on your congregation’s building and neighborhood to determine how their histories of construction were shaped by racist and racialized laws, practices, and assumptions, in order to understand how that has shaped the makeup and dynamics of your congregation today.

Requiring the entire staff or leadership team/board/council of a congregation to complete an anti-racism training. 

Requiring whatever percentage of members is constitutionally required to have a voting quorum in a congregational meeting to also complete an anti-racism training. 
(both these requirements would be renewed every 5 years, similar to the pattern for boundary training for clergy)

Develop a conference-wide collection of worship resources: liturgies, prayers, poetry, songs, etc, to make dismantling white supremacy and anti-racism regularly part of the focus in congregational worship. 

Creating an anti-racist lending library at your church, with both adult and kid books.

Take a walk around the church building and grounds. In what ways does the physical embodiment of your church communicate whiteness? If you have stained-glass windows, do they depict a white Jesus or other biblical characters who are presented as white? During Advent and Christmas celebrations that include a nativity scene, are Mary, Joseph and Jesus white? What about the paintings and bulletin boards that adorn the walls — are the images of people all white? And who uses the church facilities during the week? If only predominately white groups meet there, why is that? 

Evaluate the hymns and other songs being sung in worship. The imagery — associated whiteness with purity and goodness and blackness with sin and evil — performs powerful moral and theology work, often below the level of consciousness. Are we still unreflectively singing 19th-century hymns with lyrics like, “Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow/Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow”? Or the militant, Crusade-invoking “Onward, Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War”? 

Examine the church website and social media sites. These days, potential new members are as likely to see the digital footprint of the church long before they encounter the sign out in the front lawn. On shoestring budgets, it’s easy to grab unreflectively stock images featuring white people for landing pages and events. Do these images reflect the body of Christ? And is there anything communicating a commitment to be in solidarity with Black and Brown congregations and people in your community? 

Review the children’s educational materials. One reader recently wrote to me that she was appalled to find how many 1950s-era materials that depicted only white people were still on the preschool library and classroom shelves. And what about those pictorial children’s Bibles, with all the characters depicted as white?
One way not to pass along white supremacist assumptions (and to communicate a more accurate history of what characters from the Middle East and Africa would look like!) is to correct the materials we use to teach the next generation about our faith. 

Read your church budget as a document expressing its moral and spiritual priorities. This one is straightforward but vital if white congregations are going to move authentically from confession and truth-telling to the work of repentance and repair. We have it on good authority that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Given the history and complicity of white Christian churches with white supremacy, every white Christian church should make a commitment to support a predominately non-white church or nonprofit that primarily serves non-white people in their community, with three stipulations: a) The support should be significant, an expression of confession and repair; b) The support should not just consist of a one-time offering but be incorporated as a multi-year commitment reflected in a regular line in the church budget; and c) The support should be in the form of “no strings attached” general operating funds rather than to a specific project. Relinquishing control is an important spiritual practice for white Christians. 

Assess what’s being addressed from the pulpit and other church-wide educational events. To give just one example from the Roman Catholic context: After 25 years of regular proclamations from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the importance of addressing racial justice, a 2004 survey found that 64% of Catholics had not heard a single sermon on racism or racial justice during the entire three-year cycle of the lectionary. Even in the midst of the effervescence last fall, following months of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, a recent Pew study found that only 40% of congregations heard sermons that even mentioned race or racism. Was this widespread silence from the pulpit the witness of your church? Historically, white pastors have heard a loud cacophony of voices warning them from speaking out against white supremacy. Does your pastor know there are congregants longing for leadership on issues of racial justice? 

Robert P. Jones, CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute

One sure sign of the continued presence of white supremacy is the outright resistance you will inevitably encounter from some and the protests of discomfort from others. But this is also evidence of the importance of the work. (Robert P. Jones is the CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute and the author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity.” This article was originally published on Jones’ Substack #WhiteTooLong. Read more at robertpjones.substack.com. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.) 

Christianity Today


“The conciliation of blacks and whites in America calls for and demands the death of the idolatry of “whiteness,” white privilege, and white supremacy. I place these as gradations of whiteness as I believe they belong on a continuum with people at different stages. I define white supremacy as a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of people of color by white people, the defending of a system of wealth, power, and privilege as an inalienable right. This remains the white elephant in the room whenever blacks and whites come together as a show of unity each time the beast of racism rears its ugly head.”

A Gospel That’s Big Enough to Heal the Racial Divide 
By Jarvis J. Williams

In the aftermath of the recent racial violence in Charlottesville, many Christians and churches are rightly asking with more urgency, “How should we respond to white supremacy and racial injustice?” Race relations are bad in America. Yet, churches may be tempted to think the message of the gospel is irrelevant to the problem of race relations or that racism is a “social issue” instead of a “gospel issue.” But this impulse reveals a small understanding of the gospel—one that offers no hope for overcoming white supremacy in our churches or in society.

The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers

Five Recommended Ways for Religious and Traditional Actors to Fight Racism

The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers recognizes the need to address race inequality across the communities where we work. We remain committed as an organization to confront injustice, listen and learn from those on the frontlines, and to bring to light the intersections between discrimination and all forms of violence. Religious and traditional leaders have taken transformative roles in supporting peace and changing oppressive systems around the world and have been central to many anti-racist movements. When we collectively speak for love, truth and justice, we stand against systemic exclusion and oppression, allowing us to strive for a world of sustainable peace.

Bold Humility; Dismantling White Supremacy Culture in White-Dominant Churches (Marcia W. Mount Shoop)

Bold Humility: Dismantling White Supremacy Culture in White-Dominant Churches

“White culture has distorted our shared humanity and our full humanity because it formed us with an expectation of safety and self-protection.  White culture has tried to tell us we can erase our vulnerability, our grief, our fragility, our uniqueness, our idiosyncrasy—and from this attempted erasure we have learned repetitive, dehumanizing habits. We are habituated to ask, “How can we help?” But rarely do we ask, “How can we change?  How can we BE the change?”  White supremacy is a powerful demon that must be exorcised.  This does not mean all white people are bad, this means the culture spawned by white supremacy is a disease that afflicts us all—it permeates our instincts, our muscle twitches, our gut reactions, our intimacy, our self-understanding. Jesus, help us, help us not be afraid to tell you the truth of our affliction. We are naked, we are afraid.[2]” 

Father Bryan Massingale, author of “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church”

Father Bryan Massingale, author of “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church” and Professor of Theology at Fordham University, joins America’s National Correspondant Michael O’Loughlin for a conversation on racism, white privilege and what the church can do to address these issues moving forward. You can read Fr. Massingale’s article, “The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it,” at this link: https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinio… 

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