Original Preface to the Commitment to Becoming an Antiracist Church
As people of God, we lament and confess the sin of racism and we commit to work without ceasing, led by the Spirit of God, to resist and deconstruct racism wherever it exists. Our hearts have been broken by the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks; and, we know that their killings are among too many children of God whose lives have been ended as a result of the dehumanization and devaluation of Black lives. We lament the deaths of all impacted by this sin and violence that has plagued our beloved country for far too long. We mourn with all who have seen loved ones taken from them, have experienced racial violence and those who’ve lived with the pain and trauma of ignored, rationalized and/or justified interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism.
According to the scholar, activist and author, Angela Davis, and Ibram X. Kendi, the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, there are no non-racists. There are only anti-racists — those who expose and eradicate racist ideas wherever they encounter them (including within themselves) — and racists — people who allow racist ideas to spread without opposition. Being anti-racist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem and understanding that we all have a role in stopping it. That being said, being anti-racist is different for White people than for people of color. No one is born racist or anti-racist; these result from the choices we make.
As we see embodied in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind and that the oppressed be freed, as Christ-followers, we must choose to be anti-racist both individually and collectively.
In order to become an anti-racist church, we believe that White people must acknowledge and confess their participation in systems of racism and White privilege. Just as we approach God in a spirit of confession in our worship, we believe that the transforming love of Jesus Christ is most fully experienced when we begin from a place of humility and acknowledge our sins both known and unknown. We believe in the power of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation offered in Jesus Christ to transform individual hearts and social systems. It takes commitment to walk together in this sacred, yet difficult, work.
As we commit to transform our lives, our churches, and our society, we acknowledge that we each enter this work in different places. We acknowledge that some people have been fighting for human rights for a significant amount of time, some people have actively engaged in the NEJ Call to Action for Racial Justice, and some don’t want to engage in this conversation at all. We acknowledge that no matter what we put in this document, it will not be enough for some and far too much for others. The chasm of experience between being a White person and a Black person in America must be crossed. This bridge requires not only faith in God, but enough faith in one another to begin the journey of healing and hope.
We know that all people are sacred and worthy. We are made equal by God, who created humanity in God’s own image. Out of our deep love of God and neighbor, when we see people being treated as less than equal we will speak out.