“When we asked ourselves, ‘what kind of new churches are we being called to start?’” Regional Minister Rev. Bill Rose-Heim remembers, “we knew a new church would take seriously the four priorities of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but we realized we didn’t have anyone on our regional staff trained in the anti-racism/pro-reconciliation work we’re called to do.”
The region explored a variety of ways to focus on that priority to become an anti-racist/pro-reconciliation Church and is eager to move forward in several directions.
Partnering with Reconciliation Ministry, Greater Kansas City has begun offering anti-racism trainings, most recently an Introduction to the Analysis of Racism workshop, attended by participants from four Disciples regions and one ecumenical conference. This course is a pre-requisite for Reconciliation trainers and is often participants’ first time diving into in-depth conversations about race.
“Part of what makes this training different,” explains Rose-Heim, “is the attention given to how these issues show up in the Church, so we can begin to recognize how racism is at work in our own ministries and communities.”
Starting in 2020, Greater Kansas City will require anti-racism training every three years for all clergy to maintain standing, and plans to offer different opportunities, including ecumenical and local programs, to match that requirement with individuals’ ministry contexts.
Beyond offering trainings, the region is intentionally searching out local ecumenical partnerships on anti-racism efforts. They are also building up their anti-racism/pro-reconciliation (ARPR) webpage to house other resources, networks, and partnerships.
A renewed focus on anti-racism work also “opens up a lot of possibilities to re-engage with general ministries,” Rose-Heim suggests.
“In the past, we have not taken full advantage of our partnerships with NAPAD, Obra Hispana, and National Convocation. That’s about to change. Our anti-racism work reminds us that, too often, we’ve tried to go it alone when we didn’t need to.”
Moreover, Greater Kansas City wants to identify local Disciples who have an interest in this work, and gifts to share, to develop a regional anti-racism team, to help expand this program.
“I hope as a denomination we will become better equipped to make a positive difference,” Rose-Heim says. “We won’t all become trainers or activists, but we can all do something. I hope we’re all inspired to make the correlation between anti-racism work and being a disciple of Jesus.”