Reconciliation and the Jesus Movement

Reconciliation and the Jesus Movement

by The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California

2016 Congregational Leadership Conferences: Anti-Racism Training and Beyond

In February 2016, 300 lay and clergy leaders from across the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California participated in anti-racism trainings. Responding to the urgent call to address racial reconciliation in The Episcopal Church, the diocese made anti-racism training the sole focus of this year's Congregational Leadership Conferences, training its diocesan leaders in the language and skills of racial reconciliation. The Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, said these trainings were opportunities to "better equip ourselves through meaningful conversations" to deal with racism. "We need each other to do this work," he told attendees. Anti-racism training is a requirement for all clergy and lay leaders in the diocese. Pictured above, diocesan members discuss racism, stereotypes and discrimination in small groups during the 2016 Congregational Leadership Conferences.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has called members of The Episcopal Church to be reconcilers, as part of the Jesus Movement. Evangelism and racial reconciliation are focal points of Curry’s vision for this movement, and during his February 8 address to the National Press Club, he reiterated this vision. “We came out of that convention [GC15] with the Episcopal Church having made a commitment to what I call the Jesus Movement and a commitment to following in the way of Jesus of Nazareth, not exactly knowing how all of this is going to play out, but following in the way of Jesus of Nazareth which is the way of God’s love in this world. And doing it by a way of evangelism and a way that leads to racial reconciliation in our society and in our world.” (Wilson, 2016). The 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the first African America presiding bishop and primate, Curry is known for this movement and it is the heart of his message. “There is a God who loves us, a God who will not let us go, and that love can set us all free.” (A Word to the Church, Curry, Nov. 2, 2015).

“At our best, we are communities where conversations and transformation can take place,” says the Rev. Canon Andrea McMillin, Canon to the Ordinary in The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California. “The Episcopal Church has innate gifts and graces in our sacraments, liturgy, and theology that our broken world desperately needs. Our call in this time and place is to live into our inheritance of these gifts and offer them to the wider world.” Canon McMillin was the plenary speaker at the March 2015 Congregational Leadership Conferences, where Episcopal Evangelism was the focus. “We learned and practiced articulating our unique identities as Episcopal congregations, and making a compelling invitation to our communities,” she recalls. “This year, we trained over 300 people in the first steps toward racial reconciliation, exploring topics like white privilege, dominant culture and institutional racism. We are grateful to Bishop Beisner for aligning our diocese with the wider Church, as we continue to look at Episcopal Evangelism and reconciliation in the years ahead.”

The 2016 anti-racism trainings in northern California titled “It’s More than Just Color,” were prepared and presented by the diocesan Commission on Intercultural Ministries. The commission was founded in 2008, and is made up of both lay and clergy members of the diocese who provide important support and training to help local congregations appreciate the diversity inherent in their faith and residential communities. The purpose of the commission is to support and initiate ministry and mission among people of all cultures present in our diocese. The Rev. Ray Hess was the co-chair of the commission when it was founded. “We wanted to create our own trainings that reflected the diverse culture in our diocese,” shares Hess. Northern California includes large Hispanic, Asian and Native American populations. "It was good that we worked to develop our own trainings that reflect our unique diversity," Hess noted, because much of the anti-racism training being done at the national level (in 2008) focused specifically on the tensions between white and African American cultures. Now retired, Hess serves as a trainer in the diocese and continues to support the work of the commission as an advisor.

An exercise called the Power Shuffle (pictured at right) was part of each afternoon session of the trainings, where attendees were invited to respond to a series of questions by standing or raising their hand if the question pertained to them. Some of the questions were, “Are you an immigrant?” “Are you or a family member gay, lesbian, or transgender?” “Have you served in the U.S. military?” “Did you grow up in a home where there was violence?” or “Have you ever been incarcerated?” The final question was “Have you ever been a child?” This exercise was designed to allow participants to observe their commonalities, to experience isolation, and to notice the thoughts and feelings that arose in both situations.

Another voice pointing to the diversity in our diocese is the Rev. Lewis Powell (Cherokee/Saponi), member of the Commission on Intercultural Ministries and Indigenous Missioner of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California. “Indigenous Ministries is not just ministry to and for indigenous peoples,” shares the Rev. Powell. “It is a ministry that invites all in the diocese to reflect on, pray about, repent from, and seek reconciliation for the hurts that we inflict on others and on ourselves. A line in the New Zealand Lord’s Prayer states it well, ‘In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.’ It is the Indigenous Ministries mission to remind us in the diocese that we still inflict hurts on our fellow human beings in so many ways that we don’t even realize that we are doing it. It is my mission to call some of them to our attention, with God’s help.” Being both African American and Native American in his heritage, Powell is able to share stories of his own diverse background at diocesan anti-racism trainings. “One of the charges to the deacon at ordination states, ‘You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.’ As a deacon and the Indigenous Ministries Missioner for the diocese, I take this charge to mean that I am to serve as one who invites all of us to repentance and reconciliation,” shares Powell. “That is my role in the diocese. The Commission for Intercultural Ministries is a place where I can contribute to that charge.”

During the February anti-racism trainings, the Rev. Bayani Rico, founder and co-chair of the Commission on Intercultural Ministries and president of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries Council, explained that racism is "still being played out everywhere,” and that “politeness and civility” often veil it, with many people still not clear about what racism really means. Rico spoke particularly about the racism and stereotyping that Asian Americans and immigrants experience, even within The Episcopal Church, and the need to continue the work of reconciliation in our church communities.

The commission focused the February 2016 trainings on clarifying the specific differences between racism, bigotry, stereotyping and discrimination. Patricia Heinicke Jr., who is now co-chair of the Commission on Intercultural Ministries, with the Rev. Rico, advanced the conversations around stereotypes to show how they are “untrue, incomplete, widely held and over simplified” projections. She reminded conference attendees that, "Stereotypes draw a veil over the real person and Jesus calls us to truly see each other.” Reflecting on the February trainings, Heinicke shared, "Whenever I participate in one of our antiracism trainings I am blessed and humbled by the depth to which people are willing to go in their sharing. In the small groups, especially, we are able to dig into some of the more challenging material, and the result for me is inevitably something I would not have thought of on my own; something I need to take home and chew on. It never gets old."

The work of reconciliation in the diocese continues beyond these trainings. Resources from the commission, as well as other books, videos and articles are available for use individually or by congregations. One online training resource that has been of particular interest in 2016 is the five-part ChurchNext series called "Listening for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice." The Rev. Donnalee Hart, Deacon at St. Francis’ Episcopal Church in Willits, California, and a commission member and trainer, recommends this online training. “The series provides a very accessible, engaging and effective means for initiating or continuing anti-racism conversations in small (or large) groups at the local level. It provides us with an opportunity to hear the thoughts of some of our finest teachers and leaders in short, digestible video clips,” she says."It also comes with a wealth of practical conversation starting questions to encourage us to share our own experience and to explore what we can do as individuals and as the Church in response.”

Bishop Beisner’s longstanding commitment to racial reconciliation stretches across his diocese and The Episcopal Church. On March 15, 2016, Bishop Beisner joined the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in their unanimous call for reconciliation, as published in their “Word to the Church.” Together, the bishops stated, "We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others,” and they called for “prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves.” (A Word to the Church, HOB, Mar. 15, 2016). This statement of solidarity has garnered much support and attention in the United States and around the world. In northern California, it has reinforced Bishop Beisner’s commitment to racial reconciliation and made the work of the Commission on Intercultural Ministries even more important. “This is front and center now,” says the Rev. Hess, pointing to Presiding Bishop Curry’s leadership and commitment. “It’s great! Sometimes it has been hard to get people to focus on these issues.”

In June 2015, Bishop Beisner led diocesan youth on the Lift Every Voice, Freedom Ride Pilgrimage, joining the then Bishop of North Carolina, Michael Curry, as they explored the historic footprint of racism in North Carolina. In 2016, diocesan youth from across The Episcopal Church will continue this work, as some explore apartheid in South Africa with the Lift Every Voice program and others explore historic racism in northern California, through the Pathways: Journey Toward Reconciliation youth event, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California. Diocesan Faith Formation Coordinator Anne Clarke will lead this summer’s pilgrimage, again, with Bishop Beisner. “The young people who participated in the Freedom Ride Pilgrimage last summer felt a strong desire to bring a similar experience back to northern California,” she shares. “The Pathways youth event will give us a chance to translate what we learned in North Carolina to our northern California history and culture. By visiting sites of oppression, resistance and healing in northern California, we will have the chance to reflect and plan for ways that we can foster the work of reconciliation through our own congregations.”

Bishop Beisner opened the first 2016 Congregational Leadership Conference anti-racism training saying that we are all called to witness and "stand for the Gospel in this world," as reconcilers. He closed by thanking leaders for making the commitment to do this work, and encouraging leaders to, "find ways to engage your congregations and support one another" in the mission of reconciliation, emphasizing that this is “what it means to be a mission driven church.”

References

Wilson, Lynette (2016, February 8).Presiding Bishop addresses National Press Club on creating a more inclusive society, Episcopal News Service. Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/02/08/presiding-bishop-addresses-national-press-club-on-creating-a-more-inclusive-society/

A Word to the Church (2015, November 2) Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/presiding-bishop-michael-curry-jesus-movement-and-we-are-episcopal-church

A Word to the Church (2016, March 15) House of Bishop of The Episcopal Church
http://publicaffairs.cmail20.com/t/ViewEmail/r/C1E79C36A6DD97C52540EF23F30FEDED/5202468315B7722ADCC9454293137CA2

 

 

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