In 2016, the World Council of Churches challenged the leadership of the National Council of Churches to re-spond to the racial inequity in this country.
A year later, Bishop Francis Krebs asked that Deacon Joan Crawford convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission within the ECC.
At our first meeting in June 2017, Bishop Francis gave us the task of developing a statement that rejected racism and white supremacy. Commission members declared that such a statement and subsequent actions could only be undertaken with focus given to truth telling between the Black American and White American communities in this country. This objective was affirmed at the National Consultation of Black Churches in December 2017, where John and Bernella Phelps, Joan Crawford, and Bishop Francis Krebs had an opportunity to learn and listen as black church leaders passionately spoke of the far reaching negative aspects of systematic racism fueled by the avoidance of truth.
Our secondary task, given by Bishop Francis, was to work in coordination with the NCC; and to be a visible presence at the NCC’s April 2018 event commemorating the 50th year anniversary of MLK’s assassination.
In April 2018, seven of us walked from the MLK memorial to the National Mall, where we attended an inter-faith memorial. Not only did we have a booth, but Bishop Francis was one of the church leaders who spoke before the crowd and the nation.
Between June 2017 and April 2018, the commission met five times via conference call. We read about the Truth and Reconciliation Task Forces in South Africa, Canada, and Greensboro, NC. We spent a great deal of time looking at statements written by various churches. We particularly liked the statements written by the Southern Baptist Convention and The Theological Commission but found them to be too lengthy.
In May, 2018, we came to the conclusion that we needed two statements: a brief statement that faith communities could read during liturgy; and a longer statement that allowed for more detail and explanation. We were determined to have that brief statement ready by the Synod in September, 2018.
We were pleased to present the ECC Anti-racism Statement at Synod that year. Future work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission includes providing resources and developing a more in-depth statement.
We close with the opening statement from the NCC platform:
Our commitment is to awaken to the trauma of racism and the legacy of white privilege in the United States through self-evaluation and institutional assessment of embedded racism; to confront racism and white privilege through disciplined truth-telling coupled with strategies in the areas of church life and practices, and thus transform the hearts, minds and behaviors of people and institutions. This is a Kairos moment. Time to step out of our comfort zones