Special Edition: A New Conversation on Race
Joining neighbors, serving boldly, loving all, through Christ.
The South Carolina Lutheran eNews
A Prayer for the Current Events in Baltimore
Let us pray:
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams.
God, our refuge and strength, you have bound us together in a common life. In all our conflicts, help us to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, to listen for your voice amid competing claims, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Additional Prayers page 76.
Bishop Yoos Invites A New Conversation on Race
Campolo and Battle expose the realities of racial division in the churches and then lift up a vision of a church without racism. To achieve reconciliation within and among the denominations, they argue, both the black and the white church need to acknowledge and overcome substantial problems in their traditions.
When was the last time you had an honest conversation with an African American about the racial climate in South Carolina?
Recently I was invited to attend Governor Riley's The Diversity Leadership Initiative, which consists of five day-long conversations with business leaders, teachers, leaders of social services organizations, persons in law enforcement and religious leaders. At the February meeting we began a conversation related to the shooting of African Americans by white officers. I was surprised to hear from the half dozen African American men in the room, that while growing up they had all experienced incidences of racial profiling - of being stopped for no other reason than the color of their skin and the section of town that they were driving in. Each of them also said they have had to carefully instruct their sons about how to behave and how to keep their hands on the steering wheel whenever they are stopped by police for any reason. Suddenly, I realized from their experiences that there was a great need in our society for a new conversation on race.
Several weeks later, the urgency for this conversation was made ever clearer through the shooting of Walter Scott, a North Charleston African American male who was stopped for a broken tail light and shot 8 times in the back by a white officer. Some might think, "There is nothing I can do about this, after all there are bad apples in every organization." While there is truth to this thought, it greatly misses the larger point. All of us, either actively or passively, by words, actions and relationships contribute to the atmosphere of hostility and mistrust among whites and blacks in our communities.
About 10 years ago, a group of Midlands Conference pastors read together the book The Church Enslaved by Tony Campolo, a white evangelical pastor and Michael Battle, a black Episcopal Theologian Over and over again they exposed the realities of racism from the past to the present that contributes to why the 11:00 hour on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in our country today. They identified five behaviors of white Americans that contribute to this climate: "patronization of whites towards blacks, blaming the victim, avoiding social contact, denying cultural differences, denying the political significance of these differences."
As we talked about these realities, it occurred to us that we didn't have any significant relationships with African American pastors to begin such a conversation. We initiated a lunch with about a dozen white and black pastors to see if we could have a conversation on race. Several of the black pastors said, "If you just want a book study group that makes you feel better and some superficial relationships to prove how open minded you are, then we are not interested. It isn't worth our time. But if you want to build real friendships that deal honestly with these issues, and where we can meet and break bread together in each other's homes, then we would welcome this opportunity."
What emerged from this initial conversation was a group we called "the Race and Reconciliation Group". We began to meet monthly in each other's homes and churches. There we shared our stories of how we grew up very differently because of our racially divided society and what impact that has had on our lives. Slowly, we began to see each other as friends and allies on this journey of reconciliation together. Although this group now only meets several times a year, these friendships have continued to be a blessing in my life and have helped me to grow and understand my own racial perceptions and blind spots.
In Ephesians 2, Paul writes: "Christ Jesus is our peace; in his flesh he has broken down the dividing walls of hostility." In 2 Corinthians 5: we read, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us." Both of these passages clearly speak about the urgency of building relationships across every racial, cultural, social and political division in order to reflect the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ for all people.
So what are some ways that we might make a difference in bridging some of these divisions? First, I encourage us to pray often for the Holy Spirit to bring comfort and strength to the family of Walter Scott and to everyone who has experienced hurtful abuses of power and authority. We also need to pray for all our law enforcement officers for better training and building of the respectful relationships in our communities. Second, I invite you to consider starting your own conversation around race and reconciliation and to seek out persons who are racially and culturally different that would be open to having these kinds of conversations. Third, I encourage you to visit a link to our South Carolina Synod's Talking Together resource for congregational workshops. The link is http://scsynod.com/index.php?page=Inclusiveness. Our synod Task Force on Inclusiveness would be glad to bring one of these events to your congregation.
In closing, I would like to go back to my first session of the Diversity Leadership Initiative. There, Juan Johnson, our Diversity Leadership Trainer shared an insight that is worth repeating. He said, "Most of us think of issues related to diversity as being primarily about obvious differences that we can observe, like the color of one's skin or the accent of one's voice. Instead, he said the most significant sources of diversity come from what we can't see, one's inner values, belief systems, and perceptions. The only way to get to know these inner attributes and their meaning is to sit down and have a conversation together." What do you think would happen if, we were willing to engage in more of these kind of open conversations with persons of different racial and ethnic backgrounds? How might God be at work in and through these kinds of conversations helping us learn and grow as instruments of Christ's reconciling love in our world? Why not try and find out for yourself?
Herman R. Yoos
ELCA presiding bishop continues call for conversation on racial equity
By Melissa Ramirez Cooper, ELCA News
ELCA leader continues call for racial equity
ELCA leader continues call for racial equity
Citing recent events across the United States, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), noted that "we are not living in a post-racial society." In a March 25 letter and video message to the 3.8 million-member church, Eaton expressed the need for conversation - not only among Lutherans but "all Americans" - about racism in "honest and productive ways."
"I know it's difficult to talk about race because too many Americans do not want to believe racism still exists in our country," Eaton said. "Yet, as always, Christ promises to be alongside us, even in the most difficult of times, working for our reconciliation. Because of God's promise, we can and must have a deep, honest and even painful conversation about racism."
In her letter and video, Eaton commends a list of resources and background materials to help the nearly 10,000 congregations of the ELCA to engage "in this important conversation."
The full text of the letter is available here >>
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