Dreams for Racial Equity in the WNCC
October 25, 2018
As incoming United Methodist clergy, we are no strangers to an all-day meeting. Often such meetings remain in the informational realm. On September 17, a meeting of folks in our second year of Residence in Ordained Ministry (RIOM) turned into an encounter with the Living God.
Our group of eighteen gathered at Central United Methodist in Concord for "Wade in the Water: An Introduction to Antiracism” led by Amaris Carr and Kim Strong from Green Street UMC in Winston Salem. In the afternoon, we began to dig deeper into the topic of institutional racism.
Our kairos moment occurred when an African American male and a white female clergy in our group asked, “What are we doing about our own institutional racism in the Western North Carolina Conference?” A question that opened up a time of lament and an opportunity to do what new clergy do best: dream.
Here is our dream of a just and equitable annual conference:
1. Education and Formation around Racial Justice (Romans 12:2)
- More courageous conversations
- Increase spaces for listening and healing
- Programs/resources for white clergy to learn about white privilege, systemic racism, and dismantling racism as an act of their discipleship and baptismal covenant
- Address the work of racial justice at annual conference through worship, business, and workshops
2. Direct Ministry that contributes Racial Justice/Beloved Community (Luke 4:16-21)
- Conference to create a plan to do ministry in closing the racial disparities in education, economics, housing, healthcare, and mass incarceration
- Commitment to long-term engagement with communities of color
3. Support and Care for Current Pastors of Color (Luke 10:1-24)
- Accountability for congregations that turn pastors away (especially cross-cultural appointments)
- Support for pastors that have been marginalized - proactive/preventative measures, including knowledge that someone has their back
- Intentional training of cohorts to serve cross-cultural appointments (in the same way as interim pastors) and family support
4. Response to the Urgent Need for Racial Diversity within the Conference (I Cor. 12:12-20)
- Strategic/intentional plan to recruit more leaders and pastors of color within the conference
- Intentional ethnic minority and multicultural church starts (places for these leaders to use their gifts)
- Identify and address barriers for people of color to follow their call into ministry in this annual conference
- Develop laity of color to serve on conference boards
We are grateful for the space created for this kairos moment. We were exposed to the sin of racism, and began to see what it would look like for the kingdom to show forth amongst United Methodists in Western NC as it is in heaven.
We experienced another kairos moment when Board of Ordained Ministry members and conference staff expressed their yearning with us for transformation in our conference. There was a sense of broken-heartedness within the group as we learned that only EIGHT PERCENT of active clergy serving in the WNCC are persons of color.
The same Spirit that inspired scripture, who raised Christ from the dead, who fell upon Christ’s disciples on Pentecost, who delivered the seal of our baptism, and called us to ordained ministry was present in the room with us. We are grateful to the Board of Ordained Ministry and all who responded to the opening of the Spirit to create this space. Like all means of grace, we place ourselves in a posture to discipline our hearts and minds and bodies, so that when the Holy Spirit comes, we may be response-able.
In our baptismal covenant, we implore “people of all ages, nations, and races” to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world ... repent of your sin [and] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
For the sake of the church we love, for the sake of our calling, for the sake of our baptism, for the sake of our Lord, we must dream dreams and make plans to heal racism in the structures of our conference.
This is hard, holy, messy work that is far beyond our human capacity. But isn’t all Kingdom work?
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Written by: Revs. Luke Edwards and Stacey Lundy
Edited by: Revs. Brandon Wrencher, Ellis Carson, Nikki Raye Rice, Sam Lewis, and Annalee Allen
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