by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director
I remember the first time I heard a leader say, “There is no room in the church for racism.”
My response? “Where is that church?”
Growing up in New Orleans in the ‘60s, I saw numerous examples of racism and just this past Sunday, right here in Houston, Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma posted this on Facebook:
Leading worship with one of our historically black congregations, we prayed for peace but walked out to a white lives matter protest with Confederate flags and AR’s and body armor across the street at the NAACP office. #LordHaveMercy
When I started reading scripture intentionally through the lens of “love your neighbor as yourself,” it was a little bit of a shock to meet Jesus again, calling us into a radical community where all people are welcomed.
Into the same community.
Four years ago, I traveled to the Central African Republic, a country in the midst of an ongoing civil war. I saw for myself what happens to God’s people when we say some people matter more than others. It is a trip I am still unpacking as part of my life’s pilgrimage of faith.
Then in 2015, on a LEAD pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece, I discovered that first-century Christians wrestled with and ultimately confronted racism by working to build an inclusive church outside of the official faith community; a church that welcomed:
The God-fearers (Gentiles).
The women and children, regardless of race.
Racism is not exclusively a foreign or a domestic issue; it is an issue that effects all of us, everywhere. We are trying to be church in a very interesting, challenging time in our country and in our world. Leaders need knowledge and resources in order to enter into the hard conversations going on around us or to start them when others are unwilling or unable to.
Here are three books and a number of helpful downloadable PDFs from the Women of the ELCA (WELCA) that I recommend. Take a look around your own community. Seek out those people and organizations addressing the racism in your own backyard. Or join us for LEAD’s webinar Crucial Conversations.
Downloadable WELCA Resources:
- How to have helpful conversations about race in the church
- Historical timeline of race relations
- Listening to the third slave
- The Story of Peter & Cornelius
Then engage your leaders in this conversation. We are called to walk alongside our neighbors and to create healthy spaces for conversation.
Lazy racism is the worst kind because it means we don’t care enough to understand how we are all complicit.
We must care about the way people are treated. Certainly all lives matter, but in a time when it is Black people being targeted, we can say with confidence that Black Lives Matter. We can move, even incrementally, to being the church where there is no room for racism. How can we call ourselves Jesus-followers without this effort?