From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Churches Uniting in Christ Puts Forth Call to End Racism

Date Tue, 6 Apr 2004 16:20:36 -0500


April 6, 2004

Churches Uniting in Christ Puts Forth Call to End Racism

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Church leaders, academics, seminary
students and grassroots workers from across the country came
together here March 29 to answer Churches Uniting in Christ's
(CUIC) call to end racism.  Under the theme "Eradicating Racism:
Liberating Tomorrow's Children," about 85 participants gathered
to discuss how churches can work for racial justice.
     "The issue of racism permeates our churches and society.  We
have to act on it and that is not a choice.  It is what God
requires of us," said D. Christine May, director for racial
justice ministries, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Commission for Multicultural Ministries.
     May, who serves on CUIC's task force on racial justice, said
partner and member churches of CUIC "took an important step as
communities of faith working together to dialogue, address and
plan the next steps for action in addressing racism across the
various church bodies."
     The ELCA hosted the consultation, although it is not a
member of CUIC.  The 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly accepted an
invitation to become a partner in mission and dialogue with CUIC.
     Nine church bodies form CUIC.  They are the African
Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion
Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian
Methodist Episcopal Church, Episcopal Church, International
Council of Community Churches, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church.  They
include about 22 million Christians across the United States.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is an "observer"
and the Moravian Church (Northern Province) is a partner in
mission and dialogue.
     Through worship, a keynote presentation and a four-hour
"think tank" session, participants addressed seven key topics of
CUIC's anti-racism efforts.  They are: building a theological
case against racism; examining social ethics and racial justice;
exploring worship as an intentional witness against racism;
connecting Christian education and racial justice; eradicating
institutional racism; renewing churches and commitment to
advocacy; and developing resources to increase churches'
capacities to respond to new immigrant and cultural groups.
     Seven think tank groups were set up to examine each topic.
Each group identified a reporter to collect and forward
information to CUIC's task force, which met here March 30.  The
task force will "absorb" the information and develop "next steps"
to move forward, said the Rev. Bertrice Y. Wood, CUIC director.
     Wood said the task force "wrestles with the question, 'How
are we possibly going to liberate children from racism?'  When
you talk about eradicating, you go to the root of the problem.
We need to identify ways that will push us to the root of racism
and start the process of eradicating it from below the surface."
     May said, "The think tank dialogues were essential for
uniting us and enabling us to move together in working to
eradicate racism."
     The Right Rev. Steven Charleston, president and dean,
Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass., delivered a keynote
presentation at the consultation. Charleston is a citizen of the
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
     "You are one of the best kept secrets in Christendom," said
Charleston, who began his presentation with a question-and-answer
game that he called, "Can I get a witness?"  Charleston asked
participants a series of questions beginning with "have you
heard" and followed it up with the question, "Can I get a
     "Have you heard, 'We don't have racism in this community'?
Can I get a witness?" Charleston said.	"Have you heard, 'Yes, we
already have a person in charge of that.  We have a racial
justice ministry'?  Have you heard, 'Racial justice is important,
but we have other priorities right now.'  And, have you heard,
'We don't have any funding for that.  We'd like to [focus] on
racial justice but we just don't know how?'"
     "I want you to bear witness" to these questions, "because I
believe they serve as dimensions" to build an architectural plan
for racial justice ministries, he said.
     Charleston offered four principles to guide participants in
their dialogue.  "These principles are nothing new, but they are
the fundamentals of your work.	They are the basics."  The
principles are: racial justice is the core ministry of the
church; racial justice must be an intentional, visible and
consistent component of the church's mission; racial justice
training must be an ongoing requirement for all church staff and
leadership; and, consequently, support and resources must be a
funding priority for the church, he said.
     Charleston encouraged participants to "bring back these
principles in a new way, for the sake of your children.  How many
generations must face racism?  How many resolutions have been
passed that have dealt with this subject?  The four principles
are fundamental, but have any one of them been achieved in your
church body?"
     Racial justice is not a "sideline" ministry "for if and when
we can get to it," Charleston said.  "It is the core of our
spirituality.  Make it a visible part of all of our denominations.
Racism is not one-dimensional.	It is systematic.  It would be a
lot easier if racism [was] one-dimensional, but it is at all
levels, it is amorphous and masked.  There must be a long-term,
consistent strategy that is visible in all work."
     "Anti-racism training must be carried out in every community
and in all leadership levels, particularly in the privileged
communities or what is described as dominant culture, and for
people of color who must become active agents in opposition of
racism," Charleston said.  CUIC "must be insistent that this
training exist at all levels" in a church organization.  "That is
going to take money," and "we must be in the business of having
people open their pockets and make this a top funding priority.
Jesus spent a lot of time with rich people.  What do you think he
was doing?  You can't back off about asking for money.	This is a
deep, spiritual ministry," he said.
     Charleston encouraged participants to form a "covenant, a
spiritual bond, to articulate the faith in this ministry."  He
encouraged them to support, pray, forgive and love one another,
especially when "things become difficult.  And, it will become
difficult.  You are fighting against the very thing that destroys
community, but Christ rebuilds communities."
     "Receive the authority of God, so that when you tell the
mountain of racism to move, it will move," said Charleston.
     Wood said Charleston's words "put spirit and courage back
into all of our job descriptions."  She added that Charleston's
presentation was much more than a "keynote."
     "On behalf of ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, we are
delighted that you are here," said the Rev. Randall R. Lee,
director, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs.  "The work you
are doing here is the reason why the ELCA has voted to be with
you in dialogue," he said.  About 30 leaders of the ELCA took
part in the consultation.
-- -- --
     Information about Churches Uniting in Christ is available at on the Internet.
     Information about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America's Commission for Multicultural Ministries is available at on the Internet.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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