The Anti-Racism Task Force invites you to reflection this month.
We celebrate our time together at the Biennial Mission Summit. We prayed together, brainstormed ideas, and shared our stories. We embraced the sacredness of the human story, and we honored the human experience as a denomination and as a people. We are grateful for your interest, curiosity, and willingness to explore with us in the work of anti-racism, especially in the context of our faith. Together we created brave sacred spaces where we answered the call to prayer, self-understanding and listening, and learning, unlearning, and relearning. We answered the call to reflection and introspection—to look inward and inward and to examine our individual and collective thoughts and feelings. As the ABCUSA, we dared to open ourselves to better understand who we have been, who we are, and who we desire to become. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” We continue the journey.
In our quest to understand anti-racism and Christianity, we find ourselves journeying backwards in order to move forward. We begin to discover the historical context of anti-racism in the response to oppression that comes so often in the critique of the very system we hold dear. This is exactly what Frederick Douglass does in his memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (The Life of Frederick Douglass, 2018).
In 1845, Mr. Douglass wrote: “…between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families, — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls!”
Frederick Douglass challenges us, ABCUSA in 2021, with these poignant expressions of his personal narrative. He calls us to reflection and introspection as we live forward into the “Beloved Community” and as we aspire to be co-creators of God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Have we delineated the Christianity of the ABCUSA from the Christianity of Christ even in the slightest way? What does our faith look like and feel like to those who experience us in our homes, churches, communities, denomination, and world? Does our neighbor see Christ in us? Do we see Christ in our neighbor?”
In his book, Seek My Face (2011), Rabbi Arthur Green wrote, “We are created in the image of God, if you will, and we are obliged to return the favor.”
Are there ways that we, as ABCUSA, can live more authentically as those created in the image of God?
The Anti-Racism Task Force continues the work of dismantling systems, privileges, and everyday practices that reinforce and normalize the contemporary dimensions of white dominance. We will continue to offer opportunities to dialogue and conversations that may feel uncomfortable but can yield healing, wholeness, and healthier churches and communities. We invite all members of the ABCUSA denomination, especially those in leadership, to the Anti-Racism Symposium in the fall of 2021. We will share more about the date and structure of the symposium in August. This is another opportunity to come together, pray, heal, and create our way forward as we become the most anti-racist denomination in the world.
The ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force:
Rev. Justin Thornburgh
Rev. Dr. Eugene Downing
Rev. Joan C. Friesen
Rev. Dr. Don Ng
Rev. Rodney Lynch
Mr. Ethan Medley
Ms. Sandra Lee
Rev. Dr. Dan Brockway
Rev. Abner Cotto-Bonilla
Dr. Natalie C. Wimberly