For this week’s Pastor’s Message, we have a message from Bishop Michael McKee and the North Texas Conference.
To the Clergy and Laity of the North Texas Conference:
The events of the past few days and weeks have added new and chilling chapters of prejudice, discrimination, police brutality and the senseless loss of life to our broader American history book. These chapters tell the stories of the lives of Ahmaud Arbery of Georgia, George Floyd of Minnesota, Breonna Taylor of Kentucky and Christian Cooper of New York. Each of their individual chapters has evoked passionate responses from many, as evidenced by protests taking place in cities across our nation. Their stories have evoked a passionate response from us, as well.
We feel it necessary to be “on the record” in this moment and to stand with our African American clergy and laity so they know that we are in solidarity with them as they endure yet again feelings of anger, anguish and frustration. These horrifying events have once again stoked in our hearts and spirits the fires of desire for justice for all of our brothers and sisters. No matter what part of the North Texas Conference you call home, we hope that you will stand with us.
Racism lives; as much as we would like to proclaim that the days of racism, prejudice and bigotry are behind us, we have far too many painful reminders that we simply have not achieved that righteous and biblical goal. At the conclusion of our clergy “Covenant Day” in January, we cast a vision for the “Journey Toward Racial Justice” in our conference (see here for information). The high aim of this journey to achieve racial justice and equity is not just an aim for our conference; it is an aim for the entire North Texas community.
In far too many places and spaces, African American children, youth, young and mature adults are judged not by the content of their character but rather by the color of their skin. Even with all of the progress we profess to have made, the unsettling truth is that melanin-rich skin of various colors is too often seen as criminal, untrustworthy, suspicious and less worthy of the American dream. In this moment, the testimony of a 100-year old African American mother in our conference who prays daily for the safety of her 80-year old son comes to mind. At the age of 100, she is concerned that her son, at age 80, will not make it home safely. Many of us will simply never be able to comprehend the weight of racism, and the dual life it causes so many African Americans and other people of color to live in our society.
The sin of racism must die; our African American brothers and sisters in particular need to hear that the responsibility for its demise is not in their hands alone. We all have a role and a responsibility in removing it from our society forever.
The “Journey Toward Racial Justice” is ostensibly before all of us each and every day. As we root racism out of our conference system, we also pledge to be passionate partners dedicated to driving it out of the systems of business, education, government and community life in our world. This is not merely a statement; it is a commitment to redouble our efforts to work on Christ’s behalf for racial justice and equity.
The work of the “Journey Toward Racial Justice” has already begun. The “Journey Toward Racial Justice” teams, as well as the Appointive Cabinet, have been meeting over the past few months and discerning what next steps we will take together to deepen and broaden this important work. In the coming days, we will be detailing the next steps and inviting you to join us. For now, we can say that the next steps will fall under three areas of work:
- Vital Conversations, which calls us to engage one another in conversations about racism, cultural diversity and institutional injustice in ways that are candid, respectful, holy and transformational.
- Intercultural Competence, which calls us to cultivate leaders with the skills and awareness to make disciples across cultures so that the North Texas Conference will be more diverse and better reflect our mission field.
- Institutional Equity, which calls us to build systems, policies and processes in the North Texas Conference that level the playing field for all people.
The voices of protestors this weekend challenge us to grasp the depth of the pain of the African American community and the desperate need for change in our nation. We pray that these protests can hold to nonviolent means of creating change. For our part, we commit to being a part of the change that our God longs to see and create living legacies that honor the names and families of those we lift up today.
There is great work before us; we look forward to the opportunity to work with all of you. The vision of a country where the justice meted out for everyone will be the same justice meted out for anyone is our driving force. Equity is our aim and we will lean into the power of our God to achieve it.