For several decades there has been a rise of concern in our country about issues of racism and segregation in the church.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation,” going on to call rampant racial segregation in American churches “tragic.” Decades later, the same issue is on the minds of many pastors who still claim that houses of worship are among the most divided institutions in American society. And recent poll of pastors conducted by LifeWay Research found that 86 percent of church congregations are, indeed, comprised of mainly one racial group — seemingly affirming this sentiment.
So what about this issue of racism? Despite all the problems in society today can we really work towards impacting our society? Can we really see our local parishes change in demographics to become as diverse as the neighborhoods in which they reside? Rev Kathy Dwyer of Baltimore wrote about her concerns for the church to do more about racism.
Every time I turned on the TV, I just felt like I was getting punched in the gut from watching the issue of racism just escalate in our country,” said the white pastor of a predominantly white United Church of Christ congregation in Arlington, Va…….some white church leaders say they can no longer check off their racial-justice to-do list by hosting a Black History Month event. Instead, they are holding workshops that address white privilege — not experiencing or knowing the unfair treatment endured by nonwhites
This past March; Trinity Episcopal Church in Indianapolis hosted weekly series on race called REAL TALK, Community conversations on race with weekly topics including “Awakening Community,” “Bias in the Classroom,” “Mass Incarceration,” and “Faith and Action.” On April 6, 2017 Jennifer Baskerville- Burroughs, Bishop Elect of the diocese of Indianapolis, presented the final seminar on “Fearless and Faithful Conversations.” She introduced herself and gave a brief history of how her life was negatively impacted as a young child due to segregation and racism in her new community after a move. For the majority of the session, however, Jennifer challenged everyone in the room to learn techniques for discussing issues one on one addressing the issue of racism utilizing an educational series titled “Fearless Conversations.” This series teaches participants how to have valuable difficult conversations with others instead of giving into complacency and ignoring issues involving specific members of the church community in order to come to a place of reconciliation.
Collective action is an important part of the church, but individualism is also important as in the church we are all individuals and speak of honoring diversity of beliefs on theology, but as a collective group we can reach out to our community to make a difference when there are social challenges in the church as daunting as the scourge of racism. We are challenged to individual action while supporting each other in techniques to have those “difficult conversations.” As Episcopalians answer this call to reconcile as individuals, it is possible to work together collectively to make a positive impact on society.
An African American woman from St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church was recently asked what racial reconciliation means to her…..
The closest thing I can say is it would probably look like heaven where we’re all God’s children and he treats us the same, loves us equally, would not hurt one or another because of color or gender identity, or any other differences among people or humanity.