Racial Justice and Reconciliation
This year of “pandemic-tide” has shown the world the importance of racial justice and reconciliation. Many Forma members have participated in anti-racism training, book studies, or small groups. The Forma Council would like to know the kinds of training available, so we are encouraging every Forma member to complete this short survey about anti-racism resources. We will be using this information to collect, curate, and create useful resources for Christian educators and their communities. The survey can be found HERE. For more information, please contact Wallace Benton. The Forma Council released a statement earlier this year about Black Lives Matter.
Wallace Benton, Forma Council member, Assistant to the Rector for Youth Ministry at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Roswell, GA, and coordinator of the Forma anti-racism working group.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. —Micah 6:8
The Forma Council recognizes the deep pain and overwhelming injustice felt across the country and within our own individual contexts. The gaping flaws of our justice system and the deep roots of racism are not to be ignored. Your leadership at Forma stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and pledges to take action as Christian formation leaders. Forma is committed to moving toward dismantling racism within our own context. Action as an organization will begin by asking ourselves and encouraging others to consider the following:
Commit to telling the truth as individuals and as a collective group. We will encourage formation leaders to ask themselves the following questions and recognize “racism as a sin.”
- How do I or how do I not respect the dignity of every human being?
- In what ways am I embodying justice, love, and kindness (Micah 6:8)?
- What can I and my community do to begin the important and active work of dismantling racism?
- What relationship has my church had with people and communities who are black and of color throughout history (local congregation and wider Episcopal Church and even Christian faith)?
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in his address at the Missional Voices National Gathering in Indianapolis in 2018, shared his story of visiting the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana where, hundreds of years ago, African men and women were imprisoned in the horrid dungeon. All that was juxtaposed by the chapel above where slave traders prayed from the Book of Common Prayer. He wondered how folks could reconcile their atrocious and reprehensible treatment of others yet pray to God above. Bishop Curry went onto say there was a “fundamental failure of formation.” He continued, “It’s what happens when Christians play games instead of forming followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Slavery was a failure of formation. The Church lost its way, its roots, its origin. It strayed away from Jesus of Nazareth.”
To summarize Bishop Curry, sin is caused by a lack of formation. Racism is sin, and we have much work to do. In order to support and equip our network of Christian Formation leaders, Forma, with the support of the Episcopal Church Foundation, will do the following:
Forming an anti-racism working group, which will consist of 8-10 people who will meet monthly to share best practices, resources, etc. with the broader Forma network. They will liaise with other working groups (yet to be formed) to ensure the conversation continues and that the work of dismantling racism in our church and beyond is actively being engaged.
Sponsoring a number of small groups to engage with Sacred Grounds and Becoming Beloved Community, for those interested in facilitated conversation to personally grow in their own response to racism and white privilege.
Actively increasing the diversity of our membership, workshop presenters, leaders, etc. With the help of the newly formed anti-racism working group, the Forma Council will create a plan that will outline and assign strategic next steps.
Develop a resource hub for multi-generational resources to help formation leaders in their own ministry contexts.
Friends, our collective work as formation leaders is to help form the Church and to help support Jesus followers in the ongoing reconciliation work of loving God and neighbor. To be effective leaders, we must also be mindful of our own formation and commitment to personal growth.
It is through our Forma network we can better find support, encouragement, collective wisdom, and camaraderie. Together, we can be better. We are formed to transform ourselves, one another, and the world, with the help and by the power of the Holy Spirit. May we all move forward together with integrity, through intention and inclusion.
Roger Hutchison, chair, Wallace Benton, April Caballero, Kate Huston, Dorothy Linthicum, Cathlena Plummer, Erin Redden, Melina Smith, Chris Yaw, Bronwyn Skov (The Episcopal Church), Melissa Rau (Episcopal Church Foundation)