Dear Covenant Partners,
The United Church of Christ, throughout its history and the shared histories of our predecessor bodies, has shown clear commitments to racial justice and equality. As Conference Ministers we feel compelled to speak out at this moment in time.
Our ancestors in faith led the movement for abolition. They were a voice of reason at the dawn of Reconstruction, when America attempted to rebuild a nation buttressed by white power and privilege. They fought long and hard during the time of Jim Crow to gain new ground in the equality of all races. They fought to end red-lining districts that forced black families into ghettoes. And they walked arm in arm with our brothers and sisters of color during the Civil Rights movement.
They were willing to be jailed, persecuted, ridiculed, and even at times martyred for the cause of racial justice and equality.
Our own commitments to this movement of equality for all races are now being put to the test. In the days following the re-election of this nation’s first black president, there are painful reminders of how pernicious the evils of white power, white privilege, and white supremacy remain in this great land of ours. And now is not the time for those who see with new eyes the fresh face of a richer, more diverse people to be silent. We must also let our practice and behavior reflect our commitment, by constantly examining ourselves lest we fall prey. (2Cor. 13:5)
Like the women and men who in previous times found their courage, their voice, their call to action – so must we now find ours as well. Let us hear again, and be inspired by, the words of the great abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell, who in “The Present Crisis” wrote:
“New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth.”
Long before white men once again claim by divine right a privileged place at the expense of all others; and long before America loses the forward momentum gained in her great and interminable struggle with racial equality; and realizing that, though momentum has been gained and big steps taken toward racial justice, there is yet more light and truth to break forth in this ongoing struggle for equality: let us in this day renew our commitment to the struggle for racial justice and equality. Let us awaken to the new threats that are emerging in these days to this embrace of equality. Let us not be daunted by the long, hard road – but be invigorated by the gains made, emboldened by the costs paid already by true disciples, and energized by the promise of a vision of Shalom that many of us can see on the horizon of this new day.
We call on all settings of the church to maintain a vigilant voice in this struggle for racial justice and equality. We invite you to engage once again in Sacred Conversations on Race that open new doors for new understandings about race, prejudice, and privilege. We urge you to speak out when voices emerge on the landscape that threatens to turn back the clock and undo the work of those who came before us. We invite our white members, families, and churches to develop new skills as allies in dismantling white privilege and fostering new dimensions of racial justice and equality. We call upon preachers to find their voice and speak out when local and national leaders reclaim the old language of white power and privilege. And we invite us all to be in fervent prayer for that hoped-for day when all “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
With a new hope for a new day to inspire us, we remain your humble servants in Christ,
Rev. Douglas Anders, Conference Minister, South Central Conference
Rev. James Antal, Conference Minister, Massachusetts Conference
Rev. Walter John Boris, Conference Minister, Central Pacific Conference
Rev. Charles Buck, Conference Minister, Hawaii Conference
Rev. Lynn Bujnak, Conference Minister, Vermont Conference
Rev. Char Burch, Interim Conference Minister, Penn West Conference
Rev. Marja Coons-Torn, Conference Minister, Penn Central Conference
Rev. R. Kent Cormack, Acting Conference Minister, Kansas-Oklahoma Conference
Rev. Sheldon Culver, Conference Minister, Illinois South Conference
Rev. Edward Davis, Conference Minister, Southern Conference
Rev. John Deckenback, Conference Minister, Central Atlantic Conference
Rev. Michael Denton, Conference Minister, Pacific Northwest Conference
Rev. John Dorhauer, Conference Minister, Southwest Conference
Rev. Tim Downs, Conference Minister, Southeast Conference
Rev. Roddy Dunkerson, Conference Minister, Nebraska Conference
Rev. David Gaewski, Conference Minister, New York Conference
Rev. Phil Hart, Interim Conference Minister, California Nevada Northern Conference
Rev. Campbell Lovett, Conference Minister, Michigan Conference
Rev. David Moyer, Conference Minister, Wisconsin Conference
Rev. Alan Miller, Conference Minister, Penn Northeast Conference
Rev. Bob Molsberry, Conference Minister, Ohio Conference
Rev. David Moyer, Conference Minister, Wisconsin Conference
Rev. Jorge Morales, Conference Minister, Illinois Conference
Rev. Rich Pleva, Conference Minister, Iowa Conference
Rev. Tom Rehling, Conference Minister, Rocky Mountain Conference
Rev. Bill Royster, Sabbatical Conference Minister, South Central Conference
Rev. Wade Schemmel, Conference Minister, Northern Plains Conference
Rev. Karen Smith Sellers, Conference Minister, Minnesota Conference
Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister, Florida Conference
Rev. Marc Stewart, Conference Minister, Montana Northern Wyoming Conference
Rev. John Vertigan, Conference Minister, Indiana Kentucky Conference
Rev. Felix Villanueva, Conference Minister, California Nevada Southern Conference
Rev. Jeff Whitman, Conference Minister, Missouri Mid-South Conference
Rev. Charles Wildman, Interim Conference Minister, Connecticut Conference
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, activist and public theologian. He led the 360 churches of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ from 2006 to his retirement in 2018. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, ...