Pastor’s Statement on Racial Injustice
Pastor Chris Neufeld-Erdman and Pastor Eunbee Ham
The National Council of Churches has just issued its statement on the shooting of unarmed Black men, Jacob Blake III and Trayford Pellerin. Add to this, there’s the killing of two anti-racist protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin by white supremacist militia.
We too are deeply troubled, along with many of you, about the unceasing racialized violence directed against black people and those who desire a more equal America. Underneath the current racial unrest lies a long history of institutional racism, laws, and policies that disproportionately oppress and endanger people of color. These shootings are intricately related to the roots of white supremacy that run deeply in this nation and in our own communities.
In response, we recognize how broken our systems are and reaffirm our vision and commitment to action as articulated in our Vision2028 statement: “We will seek to embody the ways Jesus challenged the assumptions, structures, and systems of power and privilege that created injustice, oppression, and abuse, and kept in power those who benefited from their privilege. We will embody the courageous way of divine love not only outside the congregation but inside it as well–facing our own complicity with injustice and our blindness to its effects.” We remember the words that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote to clergy from a Birmingham jail:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Dr. King’s words incisively point out the dangers of lukewarm words and inaction. As we reflect on our own complicity with injustice, we pray that our community will embody a different path–one of discomfort, soul-searching, and courageous moral action.
Davis Community Church has had several sermon series on biblical faith and racism, and we continue to explore ways our faith challenges racial bias. We’ve hosted book and film groups, framed vision statements, and offered Racial Healing Circles. Our leaders reflected on racial bias in retreat settings. A number of us are engaged in our own studies, trainings, and daily challenges to unmask bias, understand privilege, and leverage our faith to make a change in the world. We are heartened by these efforts and wish to carry our vision further forward.
In the next few weeks, the Diversity Working Group and Compassion Peace and Justice will review a proposal for our church to engage in congregation-wide antiracism training and advocacy initiatives. This proposal seeks 1) pastors’ coaching 2) an internal audit and leadership training that will analyze our internal policies and procedures that maintain white power and privilege, and 3) congregational racial literacy and advocacy training.
The Spirit is moving again over the turbulent waters of our nation. We understand that stress levels are high, the dangers acute. It is tempting to back off, seek neutrality, and find a calmer path. We’ve been here before—a half century ago—after the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Moral convictions easily slide back into complacency, entrenching racism once more. The conflation of crises we face today could deter us from the path we must walk for the gospel’s sake.
James Baldwin once wrote: ‘Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated.’
We must not–indeed, we will not abdicate this time.
Together, and by faith, through soul-searching and vigorous moral action, we will join with others, and the Spirit of God, to pursue a more racially just and equitable future.