Racism Letter from Shenandoah Presbytery
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, June 5, 2020
Our hearts are broken by the events in our country that began with the unnecessary deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, February 23, Breonna Taylor, March 13, and George Floyd, May 25. We believe in the right to peaceful protest and we condemn the actions of those who have rioted, destroying and defacing property, as well as harming law enforcement and others. Though we may not want to know, the proof is before us, that racism is rampant in this country where our foundational document states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As followers of Christ, we believe that everyone is made in the image of our Creator: “So, God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NRSV) It is time that we acknowledge that not everyone is treated equally and that we, as the church, have a responsibility to work for the inclusion of all. If this is to be accomplished, there is much to be done!
Further, when Christ was asked which was the first commandment, he followed his answer, “to love the Lord your God…” with the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30 & 31a, NRSV) Jesus was not just talking about those who were like him. We are challenged by our Savior to love everyone and we are called by him to lift up the downtrodden and treat them with respect and love.
Our sisters and brothers of color have endured, not just the last three months, but years and years of injustice. We who live in the south know the history of slavery, of lynching, of red-lining, and if you do not know this history it is time to learn.
Shenandoah Presbytery voted to become a Matthew 25 presbytery in the PCUSA. We began the work of anti-racism last year, but it was only a toe in the water. Friends, it is time to pick up the cross and follow Jesus. How do we do that? We begin by educating ourselves.
- Go to facing-racsim.pcusa.org and use the tools that are there;
- Go to presbyterianmission.org/
ministries/Matthew-25/racism and participate in the 21-day Racial Justice Challenge.
- Read Waking Up White by Debby Irving and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- and then go from there.
Listen, listen, listen to the voices of people of color. Hear what they are saying. The woman who says that she just wants her child to be able to go to the store or play in the park without fearing for his life. The father who will not walk alone in his own neighborhood without his little daughter and their fluffy dog because he is afraid someone will call the police on him.
Friends, as those who believe that all humanity is made in the image of God, it is time to come to terms with our own fear and biases concerning people of color. What are we so afraid of? What have we been taught that we need to unlearn?
The time is now. We are called by God, in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit to do this work of reconciliation and renewal. We cannot stand by and do nothing.
“Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40 NRSV)
Yours in Christ.
Bronwen Boswell, General Presbyter-Stated Clerk
Rick Comstock, Moderator
Rachel Crumley, Moderator Coordinating and Planning Council
Judy Hensley, Vice Moderator
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Join us on ZOOM Wednesdays in July: 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, at 10-11 am.
Shenandoah Presbytery voted to become a Matthew 25 Presbytery last year. Matthew 25 contains 3 stories: The Story of the Wise and Foolish Women; the Story of the Talents; and the Story of the Sheep and the Goats.
We will spend the first 2 weeks looking at the Gospel of Matthew, and then spend the last 3 sessions looking at the stories of Matthew 25. We will meet for the Bible Study on Zoom for approximately 1 hour, for 5 Wednesdays in July. A link to join the Zoom Bible Study session will be emailed by the Presbytery to those who register.
These Bible Study sessions are for all: pastors; congregation members; interested readers. Join us for all – or just some if you can’t make all the sessions. These Bible Studies are interactive, so you are welcome to join/think out loud/read through Matthew together. The sessions will be recorded for those who cannot join us at that time, to be viewed later. A study guide will be sent out each week.
TO REGISTER: please contact the Presbytery at firstname.lastname@example.org