Faith in Action, the nation’s largest faith-based grassroots network is prepares to launch new effort to organize White clergy around the country for an anti-racist vision of faith in America
WASHINGTON — Today, a coalition of White clergy and faith leaders joined a call convened by Faith in Action to commit to dismantling theologies and praxes that coddle or embody interpersonal, structural, and systemic racism by denouncing white supremacy, and replacing it with life-giving ways of making meaning and building relationships as the nation finds ways to grapple with the moment we’re in.
“In this instance, we want to bring attention to what is happening to black people in this country, because it is anti-blackness that is the root of the oppressive forces that makes life so unlivable and casts others into an undeserved privilege space,” said Rev. Alvin Herring, Faith in Action’s executive director. “The nation and the world’s attention is galvanized on the way anti-blackness and white supremacy brings violence, brings trauma, to its black citizens and to those who are also people of color. This is about fighting a battle to free your brothers and sisters and that you as a white person are instrumental in that fight.”
Today, Faith in Action asked clergy to sign on to the newly-launched White Faith Leader Declaration, a framework to create a body of work by white faith leaders that will complement and be accountable to Black leadership and broader work being led by staff and faith leaders of color across the Faith in Action network. Its goal is to lead anti-racism formation among white congregants; mobilize white people to support organizing and policy change goals led by minorities; and reject any public narrative that uses racism, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness to divide people in the run-up to the November elections.
Below, several clergy and leaders shared their thoughts on this moment we are in, how to evaluate behavior and empathy, and the best ways that we can heal and make effective change. Click here to watch the conference in full, on Facebook Live.
Doug Pagitt, executive director of Vote Common Good: “Take responsibility, publicly, for the struggle against anti-blacks in the world that we live in, for the ways that our systems and theologies, and our practices have – for centuries and on a weekly basis- continued to either support narratives of racism or have chosen to remain silent. When we choose to go to our knees for prayer, do we also need to be sure that our knees are not on the backs and the necks of people of color and especially black people in the United States of America?”
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA): “As white people, we are spiritually stunted by our white privilege, our racism, and our white supremacy, which prevents us from living fully and deeply in our community. For everytime we forget that each person is made in the image of g-d, we’ve moved further away from our own humanity.”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, NJ: “A couple of concerns that I have: one is, the whiteness of it all. And it’s not that white folks dont have something to look at. I worry that the uniqueness of the African American experience could be lost upon this. We are very quick to list the groups of injustice, but the experience of African Americans is unique. I think that we have to appreciate the uniqueness that has been perpetuated on them.”
Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp, Temple Sholom, Cincinnati, OH: “No matter where you look in our Jewish tradition, if we don’t protest, then we take on the sins of our people of our congregation and of our world. There is an extreme interconnection between white supremacy and anti-semetism, and that there is an opportunity for Jews to be visible and vulnerable right now. Taking care of our own right now, means everyone. There is no salvation, no grace, no g-d, if only a few of us are free.”
Rev. Aaron Graham, lead pastor of the District Church in Washington D.C. “I have recognized my responsibility as a white leader to help educate my white brothers and sisters, not only in my congregation, but across the U.S. about how our own complicity and racism has become a barrier to experiencing true revival. One of the things that I have committed to do as a white pastor and a white leader, is to repent for the ways that our nation has prospered at the expense of African Americans.”
The Right Reverend David C. Rice, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, CA: “We have a question before us… Are we going to take breath, or are we going to give it? We all have blood on our hands and choices to make. We should figure out ways to walk in solidarity with and be accountable to our Black, Brown, Pacific Islander, [and] Asian people.”
Faith in Action, formerly known as PICO National Network, is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. The nonpartisan organization works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 46 local and state federations. For more information, visit www.faithinaction.org.
Faith in Action is a 501c(3). Faith in Action and its affiliates are non-partisan and are not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office.