New UCC justice executive to lead by example
When the Rev. Traci Blackmon begins her tenure as the United Church of Christ’s acting executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries on Jan. 1, she will be jumping in with both feet, stepping into the lead-off role in the UCC’s 2016 initiative to speak loudly and publicly on issues tied to the denomination’s core mission.
Blackmon, a prominent civic leader, gifted preacher and much-loved pastor and teacher at Christ The King UCC in Florissant, Mo., is well known for racial justice work in her St. Louis community. She became one of the new voices for civil rights in America, thrust into the national spotlight after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson in 2014. As one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Blackmon will make a statement of solidarity with the movement on behalf of the United Church of Christ leadership that is planned to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.
“We will both critique injustices, and we will shine the light on solutions that point the way to God’s peaceable realm, in which the rights and dignity of all people and all creation are respected,” said the Rev. James Moos, executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries.
All the UCC national ministries––the Office of the General Minister and President, Justice and Witness Ministries, Local Church Ministries and Wider Church Ministries––are involved in this initiative, in partnership with several UCC conferences, to amplify the denomination’s bold public voice in 2016 around a dozen issues which are part of the church’s DNA.
“One of the central affirmations we make as Christians is that ‘Christ is alive and goes before us,’ which means to me that, as followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to minister to the hurts and ills before us, in all the places where Christ leads us,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of UCC Local Church Ministries. “Surely a Stillspeaking God, if that’s in whom we trust, still has a lot more to say about unprecedented incarceration, mass human migration, the victimization of children, the denial of human dignity based on race or belief, or human-manufactured destruction of the planet. Engaging tough issues in the public realm, especially through the lens and language of faithfulness, is what gives faith its muscle.”
UCC mission teams are already brainstorming creative ways to address issues of racial justice, refugees, the environment, voting rights, and ecumenical solidarity and will be sharing ideas with the rest of the church and the wider world through multimedia events.
“Many of the issues we will be addressing have both local and global dimensions,” said Moos. “In matters of racial justice, the environment, human migration and others, we will be listening to the voices of our global partners and amplifying their voices.”
“We have mapped out a full year of events and messages on a variety of relevant issues to fully embrace that mission, designed to ensure that the voice of the United Church of Christ will be taken seriously as an agent of transformation,” said UCC General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer. “Our voice belongs in the market place of ideas. Our voice matters. When we speak with clarity, with conviction, and with competency lives are changed.”
“These initiatives are a form of evangelism in which the good news of God’s love and justice is proclaimed utilizing a variety of communication tools,” said Moos. “In the process, the good news will reach people where they’re at.”
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