“We believe that the church must…stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream; We believe that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.” Excerpted from the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Confessions: Confession of Belhar
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is a confessional church in which we seek to articulate what we understand Scripture leads us to believe and do. We believe that God desires full equity among God’s children. We believe that scripture witnesses to God’s love for diversity and justice, as seen in the words of the prophets as well as the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We believe that we, as the church, are called to reflect the kingdom of God on earth. We recognize that we live in a flawed and unjust society, and that Black lives are daily exposed to significantly higher physical and emotional risk. We recognize that our Black and brown siblings regularly endure racism and injustice in institutional, personal and systemic realms because of societal biases. We believe we must dismantle racism if we are to live into what we claim we believe. Black lives must matter in order for those systems and institutions to change.
For these reasons, the session of Eastminster Presbyterian Church, East Lansing, Michigan unequivocally affirms that Black lives matter. We believe it is our Christian responsibility to speak and act to stop the ways in which our culture devalues the humanity of Black lives and other peoples of color. For us, this is a proclamation of the gospel.
As we affirm this statement of faith, we confess that we haven’t always gotten it right. Systemic, structural racism and injustice have no rightful place in the kingdom of God nor among those who seek to follow Jesus Christ. We have not always made this witness of our faith explicitly clear, nor said it often enough. We confess that:
- The Bible and Christian churches were used by some to justify slavery and segregation, the very antithesis of what we believe;
- Implicit and explicit racism have existed in the Christian churches’ history;
- The vestiges of those wrongs continue today in church school curriculum, arts, hiring practices, conversations, worship, church meetings, discussions and decisions;
- We have been complicit, individually and collectively, in contributing to systemic racism and injustice whether born out of explicit or implicit bias, ignorance, apathy or unawareness;
- Our lack of awareness and/or insensitivity to these issues have perpetuated institutional systems of injustice and undermined progress; and
- We have too often stayed silent when we know Christ demands that we speak up.
We can do better. We must do better.
Even when we fall short, even when we get it wrong, we are claimed, called and loved by God and reconciled to one another through grace. We seek forgiveness from God and our siblings of color for the ways we have fallen short. While we have done occasional work on the long road toward anti-racism, we acknowledge that we need to do much more.
With a renewed sense of purpose and commitment, Eastminster Presbyterian Church will build on previous and ongoing efforts of:
- Unpacking the Realms of Racism series;
- Reviewing and curating Eastminster children’s library and teaching resources to remove materials with inaccurate or biased images and create a more diverse collection of art, materials, books and Bibles; and
- Aligning mission efforts with local organizations that support Black lives and people of color.
Our next steps will be to:
- Distribute and support use of a newly-created resource list that highlights books, podcasts and films dealing with racism and local Black-owned businesses and organizations working towards justice and reconciliation;
- Promote congregation-wide participation in the PC (USA) adaptation of the 21-Day Racial Justice Challenge, with weekly discussions;
- Encourage the Eastminster Page Turners book group to select some books from the resource list;
- Develop and offer regular classes, speakers and discussions about the church’s history with slavery and oppression, becoming anti-racist, identifying, understanding and deconstructing the issues of white privilege, methods to reconcile and repair past and present transgressions and injustices, and related topics;
- Search for ways to unite with other local faith communities and organizations to strengthen anti-racist efforts to eliminate racism, injustice and inequity; and
- Examine Eastminster Presbyterian Church’s culture to identify, change and improve its culture to reflect the radical hospitality of Jesus Church to which we strive.
The Session of Eastminster Presbyterian Church East Lansing
June 23, 2020