Disciples News Service

College of Regional Ministers offers letter to Church

Pastoral letter to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from the College of Regional Ministers concerning excessive force against unarmed African American men

 

April 9, 2015

To our Sisters and Brothers in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ. The College of Regional Ministers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is writing this open letter to the church on a subject of deep concern to us. As Disciples of Christ, we have spoken of our calling to become an Anti-Racism/ Pro-Reconciliation church. This letter invites you to seek God’s leading with us to answer this call.

For over two centuries, the Disciples of Christ movement in North America has lived amidst great promise and great disparities. Throughout most of this history, the opportunities of citizenship came to some rather than to all. Immigrants from Europe and their descendants routinely enjoyed greater access to resources at the exclusion and expense of Native peoples, people taken from Africa to live as slaves, immigrants from other lands, and the descendants of each of these groups who often lacked full standing in the laws of the land. Christians could be counted in large numbers, both among the oppressors and the oppressed.

Most recently the struggle around racial reconciliation has been centered upon justice or the lack thereof mediated around police shootings and the deaths of unarmed African American young men. The aggregates of protesters—mostly young adults in Ferguson, MO, New York, NY and other urban cites across America—are waging a fight for justice regarding excessive force resulting in the deaths of Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Tony Robinson, Eric Garner, Jon Crawford, Tamir Rice, Anthony Hill, Rumain Brishon, Kajieme, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tyree Woodson, Johnathan Ferrell, and Walter Scott—the list goes on.

Our heritage as Christians includes times when the church has acted decisively to uplift the needs and rights of all. In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the “I Have A Dream” speech as part of the March on Washington. In the next year, the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination based upon race, color, religion or national origin, which was signed by President Johnson, who was himself a Disciple. In 2015, thousands of marchers walked across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama, remembering that 50 years earlier state troopers had attacked non-violent marchers who were demanding voting rights. The Rev. Denise Bell, Regional Minister of the Christian Church in Georgia, observed that some marched believing that nothing has changed in 50 years, some marched believing that at the feet of the first African American president, we live in a post racial society, and some marched cognizant of the gains that have been made while realizing that the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others marched and died for has not yet been realized.”

Your Regional Ministers believe that much more work remains both in church and society to counter the effects of racism. Our own congregations too often reflect or experience little of the diversity found nearby. In society, the news has brought a series of calamities where unarmed, young African American men have been killed by police or others, often with no indictment to follow. While leaders in other arenas have sought to address the issues, the church as a collective has not given to voice to the heinous acts of discrimination and disregard for human life.  We, the College of Regional Minsters of the Christian Church (DOC), believe that “Black lives matter.”

The Department of Justice has called for local communities in Ferguson, MO and many other cities to rectify the strained relationships between their police forces and their citizens. We note with alarm the high rates of incarceration, racial profiling, poverty and unemployment among people of color in the U.S. We are further grieved by current daily expressions of racism, whether privately by a basketball team owner or publicly in fraternity meetings. These incidents underscore the continuing presence and damage of racist attitudes in society, much like the thief described by Jesus who comes only “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

To pursue our calling to more abundant life as an Anti-Racism/Pro Reconciliation Church, the College of Regional Ministers calls upon the Church, as:

General and Regional Ministries

  • to form Anti-Racism teams to develop strategies and training for pro-reconciling action, consulting with the Disciples’ Reconciliation Ministry;
  • to review the goals of each ministry to confirm that pro-reconciling objectives are implemented and realized; and
  • to utilize the Executive Search Model as recommended by the Office of the General Minister and President when preparing to call new executive leaders.

Congregational Ministries

  • to work in partnership with other congregations, ecumenical ministries, schools and community organizations to become reconciling agents between law enforcement and communities of color, and to support the health, security and education of at risk youth;
  • to give full and fair consideration to pastoral candidates of varying race and cultures;
  • to reach out to a congregation of another culture for both fellowship and shared community action; and
  • to work in partnership with your regional church as pro-reconciling strategies are developed, and with your general church by interpreting and supporting our Reconciliation Ministry in the local church.

Individual Disciples

  • to pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit in moving the Church beyond the normal comfort zones to build up all of God’s people;
  • to advocate for public policies that respect and empower all people;
  • to pray for and support Disciples Reconciliation Ministry financially and to participate in Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation training when offered in your region; and
  • to speak up when you see or hear something that demeans people through racist individual comments or institutional practice.

Jesus prayed for the church to be one, that the world may believe (John 17:21). As 21st century Disciples, we are shaped by a history of racism, by the legacy of those who have courageously stood for justice, and by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who lived, died and rose with love for all and who promises to sit at the table and break bread with all who would seek a new and redeemed future (Rev.3:20). We now share the responsibility to make choices that will shape the character of Disciples witness as our third century unfolds. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada, much like the two nations in which we reside, is becoming a much more racially diverse body. While some may react to these demographic changes with isolation, fear or aggression, we see tremendous potential for the Church to glorify God. The way of Christ leads us to more abundant life following the One who breaks down the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14).

For all of your faithful witness and service as a Disciple of Christ church, we give thanks. We pray that “you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we may ask or think, according to the power at work within us. To God “be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:17-21).

In the Name of the Christ who is our Peace,

College of Regional Ministers
Meeting April 9, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri

Christian Church in Alabama and Northwest Florida
John P. Mobley, Regional Minister

Christian Church in Arizona
Dennis Williams, Regional Minister-President

Christian Church of Northern California-Nevada
LaTaunya Bynum, Regional Minister

Christian Church of the Pacific Southwest
Don Dewey and Susan Gonzales Dewey, Regional Co-Ministers

Christian Church in Canada
Rev. Richard E. (Rick) Hamilton, Interim Regional Minister

Christian Church Capital Area
Bob Perry, Interim Regional Minister

Central Rocky Mountain Region
Rev. Dean Phelps, Interim Executive Regional Minister

Christian Church in Florida
Juan Rodriguez, Regional Minister

Christian Church in Georgia
Denise Bell, Regional Minister

The Great River Region
Barbara Jones, Executive Regional Minister

Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin
Teresa Dulyea-Parker, Regional Minister and President

Christian Church in Indiana
Richard Spleth, Regional Minister

Christian Church in Kansas
Paxton Jones, Regional Minister

Christian Church of Greater Kansas City
Donna Rose-Heim, Intentional Interim Regional Minister

Christian Church in Kentucky
Gregory Alexander, Regional Minister

Christian Church Michigan
Eugene James, Regional Minister

Christian Church in Mid-America
Penny Ross-Corona, Southeast Gateway Area Minister and Lead Regional Minister

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Montana
Ruth A. Fletcher, Regional Minister

Christian Church in Nebraska
Katrina Palan, Interim Regional Minister

Christian Church – Northeastern Region
Mary Anne Glover, Regional Minister

Christian Church in North Carolina
John Richardson, Regional Minister

The Northwest Regional Christian Church
Sandra Messick, Regional Minister and President

Christian Church in Ohio
William Edwards, Regional Pastor and President

Christian Church in Oklahoma
Pamela Holt, Regional Pastor

Christian Church in Oregon and Southwest Idaho
Doug and Cathy Myers Wirt, Regional Ministers

Christian Church in South Carolina
Sotello V. Long, Regional Pastor

Christian Church in the Southwest
Acting Regional Minister: Coretha Loughridge

Christian Church in Tennessee
Beth Dobyns, Interim Regional Minister

Christian Church in the Upper Midwest
Bill Spangler-Dunning, Regional Minister and President

The Christian Church in Virginia
Lee Parker, Regional Minister

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
in West Virginia and Pennsylvania
Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister and President