United Church of Christ Sacred Conversation on Race
Introduction to the questions
The questions below are designed to assist you in preparing for the Sacred Conversation on Race. These questions are for your personal use only; your responses will not be handed in. Our hope is that they will offer you the opportunity to reflect on your experiences, values, and longings with regard to issues of race, racism, and your Christian faith. Please remember: there are no wrong answers.
We suggest that you set aside some quiet time to ponder these questions and write your responses in advance of the first meeting of your congregation’s Sacred Conversation. It may be helpful to first read through all the questions and begin with those that most deeply resonate with you. You might also find it useful to consult the Multiracial, Multicultural Glossary if you come across terms in the questions that are unfamiliar to you. We recommend that you return to these questions after the Sacred Conversation has begun and continue your reflection and writing over time. Use as many sheets of paper as you need for your responses.
1. What hopes, expectations, and needs do you bring to these Sacred Conversations on Race?
2. What fears do you have about what might happen?
3. What could you and others do to help create a safe and welcoming conversation where: a) everyone’s voice is heard and respected and; b) challenge and growth are encouraged?
4. Are there Biblical passages or spiritual themes that you believe are particularly relevant for this Sacred Conversation on Race?
5. In what ways were you aware of your racial/ethnic background when you were growing up? How would you describe that background?
6. In what ways has your racial/ethnic background shaped your current values, habits, practices, ways of worship, and personal priorities?
7. In what ways have you intentionally sought out experiences that helped you learn more about people who are racially different from you? What have you learned about yourself and others in those experiences?
8. In what ways do you experience disparity between your values/dreams about racial justice and your daily life? What feelings come up for you as you name that disparity? What do you intend to do about that disparity? (be as specific as possible)
9. How has racism affected your life in specific, tangible ways?
10. How does your Christian faith affect the way you feel or think about issues of racism and racial justice?
11. What or who has helped you become more aware of how race and racism are at work in your life and your community?
12. What or who has inspired you to become more involved in efforts to confront and challenge racism in your life and your community?
13. When and how have you challenged racism (please be as specific as possible)? What happened and what did you learn about yourself and/or others?
14. When and how have you failed to challenge racism? What happened and what did you learn about yourself and/or others?
15. What do you personally and spiritually have to gain by participating in these Sacred Conversations on Race?
16. What do you personally and spiritually have to lose if you do not participate in these Sacred Conversations on Race?
17. Do you have additional reflections about the upcoming Sacred Conversation on Race?
Created to live with God; created to Be In Community With One Another
I'm often asked, "Why does everything boil down to race?" It seems that the issue of racism is one which intersects all aspects of our being. Issues of privilege and advantage, inclusion and exclusion impact our relationships with each other and to the goods, services and opportunities of society. Our present racial/ethnic group relationships are informed by our histories and shaped by the realities of living in a racialized society. As people of faith, we are called to recognize racism?s impact on our relationships with each other and with God. The resource entitled, Transformative Justice: Being Church and Overcoming Racism, acknowledges racism as a sin and states the following:
Churches have declared that racism is a sin
Racism is a sin because it:
* denies the very source of humanity ? the image of God in humankind;
* destroys God?s likeness in every person and thus repudiates creation and its goodness;
* assumes that human beings are not equal before God and are not part of God?s family;
* is contrary to biblical teaching;
* denies basic justice and human dignity;
* is a blatant denial of the Christian faith;
* is incompatible with the Gospel;
* is a flagrant violation of human rights;
* separates us from God and from other human beings;
* makes us blind to the reality of people?s suffering and
* perpetuates racist attitudes, practices and institutional racism.
We have confessed that racism is a sin, not only as individual Christians, but also as churches. To affirm that racism is a sin has a radical implication for the churches: the radical commitment to overcome it.
—Transformative Justice: Being Church and Overcoming Racism, Resource Guide, World Council of Churches 2004
This is our prayer Dear God, Creator of the universe and all that inhabit it, we come as your Church, and as individuals, in humble submission to Your Word and Your Way. God, you who are Alpha and Omega, The Almighty Judge and The Forgiver of All Sins, we come with bowed heads and contrite hearts on behalf of generations past, present and those yet unborn. We now ask that you forgive us and create in us a new spirit. Bind our hearts and send forth the healing power that You and You alone can give to us and this sin sick world. Bring us into reconciliation with one another and restore us to thy path. Amen.
Adaptation of Alter Prayer, Acknowledging The Breach, from Reparations: A Process for Repairing The Breach: A Study and Discussion Guide for Local Congregations, Associations and Conferences of the United Church of Christ.
This is our covenant
O God, as people of faith, we covenant with you, with one another and our churches to:
* become better informed about people of other races and cultures, that we may overcome the fears and misconceptions that exist;
* consider how issues of racial prejudice and privilege affect each person with whom we come in contact;
* discover and acknowledge practices and structures that are racist in our churches and communities;
* work to erase the sins of racism and injustice where they exist in our churches and communities and
* prayerfully heed Your call to embrace people of all colors, faiths, economic and social backgrounds as our brothers and sisters.
—Submitted by Dismantling Racism Task Force, St. Louis Association, Missouri Mid-South Conference, United Church of Christ
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST CALLED TO BE AN ANTI-RACIST CHURCH
ADOPTED 2003 GENERAL SYNOD MULTIRACIAL/MULTICULTURAL ADDENDUM TO 1993 PRONOUNCEMENT AND PROPOSAL FOR ACTION
WHEREAS, racism is rooted in a belief of the
superiority of whiteness and bestows benefits,
unearned rights, rewards, opportunities,
advantages, access, and privilege on Europeans
and European descendants; and
WHEREAS, the reactions of people of color to
racism are internalized through destructive
patterns of feelings and behaviors impacting
their physical, emotional, and mental health and
their spiritual and familial relationships; and
WHEREAS, through institutionalized racism,
laws, customs, traditions, and practices
systemically foster inequalities; and
WHEREAS, the United Nations World
Conference against Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related
Intolerance affirmed that racism has historically
through imperialism and colonization created an
unequal world order and power balance with
present global implications impacting
governments, systems, and institutions; and
WHEREAS, the denomination has shown
leadership among many UnitedChurch of Christ
conferences, associations, and local
congregations by initiating innovative antiracism
programs, by developing anti-racism
facilitators, and in general have made
dismantling racism a priority, there is still much
to be done. As we continue in this effort, the
work we do must reflect the historical and
present experiences and stories of all peoples
impacted by racism. We must work from a
paradigm reflective of the historical
relationships of racial and ethnic groups and
racial oppression within the UnitedChurch of
Christ and society; and
WHEREAS, the United States finds itself in
increased racial unrest during this period after
the tragedy of September 11, 2001. New studies
show that hate crimes and blatant acts of racial
violence doubled in number during the last half
of 2002 and are continuing to rise. These
outward acts, combined with continued
institutional racism, emphasize the need for antiracism
mobilization within church and society as
we seek to do justice; and
WHEREAS, there are growing movements of
peace that have people of all races, backgrounds,
and ages involved, urging us to expand our
knowledge of what racism is and study its
ramifications on all people; and
WHEREAS, General Synods of the United
Church of Christ have, since 1963, voted eleven
resolutions, statements, and pronouncements
denouncing racism, and it is time to honor
mandates and expectations of this body and of
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the
United Church of Christ is called to be an antiracist
church and that we encourage all
Conferences and Associations and local
churches of the UnitedChurch of Christ to adopt
anti-racism mandates, including policy that
encourages anti-racism programs for all United
Church of Christ staff and volunteers; and
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that
Conferences and Associations and local
churches facilitate programs within their
churches that would examine both historic and
contemporary forms of racism and its effects and
that the programs be made available to the
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that
Justice and Witness Ministries provides
leadership in the development and
implementation of programs to dismantle
racism, working in partnership with the
Collegium, Covenanted Ministries, Affiliated
Ministries, Associated Ministries, Conferences,
Associations and local churches in developing
appropriately trained anti-racism facilitators; and
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that the
Covenanted Ministries of the United Church of
Christ work in concert to dismantle racism in
church and in society and partner with
Conferences and Associations in sharing
resources and costs associated with doing antiracism
LET IT BE FINALLY RESOLVED, that the
Justice and Witness Ministries will report the
progress of the development and implementation
of these programs at the Twenty-fifth General
Funding for the implementation of this
resolution will be made in accordance with the
overall mandates of the affected agencies and
the funds available.
Centuries of division between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity came to an end in 1997 when three Reformed churches (including the UCC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America agreed on a relationship of full communion through a "Formula of Agreement." A few years earlier, Reformed and Lutheran churches in Europe—where the division between the two Protestant families dates back to the time of Luther and Calvin—agreed to a similar reconciliation through the Leuenberg Agreement.
acknowledges common historical roots between the two traditions, with a deeply shared theological and liturgical heritage.
moves beyond the historic 16th-century condemnations that divided Lutheran and Reformed Christians.
accepts the reality that there are important theological, spiritual and liturgical differences between the two traditions, but that these are not church-dividing, but rather a gift to each other.
celebrates the potential for shared mission and ministry as the two traditions grow closer.
The United Church of Christ is the only church in the relationship that has roots in both the Reformed and Lutheran heritage. Our "German Evangelical" tradition drew from the wells of both Reformed and Lutheran Christianity. Many UCC congregations of our "German Reformed" tradition—especially in historically German-American communities in Pennsylvania—have lived together with Lutheran congregations as "union churches" since the 18th century.
|Links to Resources|
General Synod: 1997 vote for Formula of Agreement
Text of Formula of Agreement
Orderly Exchange of Ministers of Word and Sacrament
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA website]
Presbyterian Church (USA) [PCUSA website]
Reformed Church in America [RCA website]
In 1989 the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approved a historic partnership of full communion. The two churches proclaimed mutual recognition of their sacraments and ordained ministry.
Though remaining two distinct denominations, the UCC and Disciples have committed through their partnership to seek opportunities for common ministry, especially where work together will enhance the mission of the church.
The partnership is a unique experiment in U.S. ecumenism. In every setting of the two churches, UCC members and Disciples are serving Christ side by side. There are now more than 30 "federated" congregations affiliated with both denominations, and it is now common for Disciples and UCC ministers to serve congregations of the other denomination. The Common Global Ministries Board, formed by the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and the Disciples' Division of Overseas Ministries, unites the international mission work of the two churches.
|Links to Resources|
Report from Ecumenical Partnership Committee
General Synod: 1989 vote on Partnership
Common Global Ministries Board website
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) website
Partnership Website [unofficial]
The UCC's commitment to reconciliation among the separated branches of the Body of Christ includes our relationships of full communion. Among these relationships are the Ecumenical Partnership between the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Formula of Agreement (FOA) among the UCC, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed Church in America. Another relationship—which aims eventually to establish full communion among nine Protestant and Anglican churches in the U.S.—is Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC). For the first time, CUIC offers hope that full ecclesial reconciliation will be possible between historically African American and European American churches.
Full communion means that divided churches recognize each others' sacraments and provide for the orderly transfer of ministers from one denomination to another. For example, Disciples of Christ ministers frequently serve UCC congregations, and UCC ministers can be called by Disciples congregations. While full communion opens up broad possibilities for cooperation among the national and regional ministries of participating churches, it is above all in relationships between local congregations that agreements of full communion become alive.
Some of these relationships are new; others date back to earlier centuries. In 17th-century Holland, the Pilgrims (who later founded the first Congregational churches in New England) were in full communion with the French and Dutch Reformed churches. We have for decades been in full communion with the worldwide Reformed family through the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. In recent years, we have entered into bilateral relationships with the Union of Evangelical Churches (Germany) and the Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa. We are also exploring a closer relationship with the Baptist tradition through dialogue with the Alliance of Baptists.
Links to Resources
A Journey to Full Communion (United Church of Canada)
Ecumenical Partnership (Disciples/UCC)
Formula of Agreement (Reformed/Lutheran)
Alliance of Baptists
Churches Uniting in Christ
Union of Evangelical Churches (Germany)
Congregational Christian Church (American Samoa)
World Alliance of Reformed Churches [WARC website]
Links to Websites of Our Ecumenical Partners
African Methodist Episcopal Church 2
Alliance of Baptists
Armenian Evangelical Union 1
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 1 2
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church 2
Episcopal Church 2
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 1
International Council of Community Churches 2
Presbyterian Church (USA) 1 2
Reformed Church in America 1
Union der Evangelischen Kirchen 1
United Methodist Church 2
1 Relationships of full communion
2 Churches Uniting in Christ. The African American Episcopal Zion Church is also a member of CUIC but at present does not have a churchwide website.
Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry -- historic step by divided Christian churches towards a common understanding
In 1982 the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) published an historic theological statement titled "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" (BEM). The statement represents years of ecumenical study and dialogue on the the church's sacraments and offices of ministry. BEM explores what can be affirmed together by Christian churches of several (and historically separated) traditions—including churches of the Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican and Orthodox families. It also recognizes that much more work remains before these traditions as they explore the many different accents in sacramental life and the understanding of ministry in the Body of Christ.
In 1985, General Synod received and committed itself to further study of the BEM statement. Both the BEM text and General Synod's response are available here, along with links to other WCC resources.
|Links to Resources|
Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry Statement [WCC website]
Faith and Order pages [WCC website]
General Synod action on BEM
UCC response to BEM
The United Church of Christ is a founding member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and many other ecumenical agencies and projects. The NCC and WCC began to take shape in the late 19th-century in response to the worldwide ecumenical movement.
The UCC is also a member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches—the worldwide communion of churches in the Reformed, Presbyterian and Congregationalist traditions.
|Links to Resources|
The Alliance of Baptists, an affiliation of more than 100 Baptist congregations, has been in official conversation with the United Church of Christ since the mid-nineties.
Historically, Baptists and the churches that organized the UCC in 1957 have had a close but at times painful history. Conflict between Congregationalists and Baptists in 17th-century New England resulted in the flight of Baptist dissenters from Massachusetts Bay Colony and their founding of a new colony in Rhode Island dedicated to religious freedom. The growing relationship between the Alliance and the UCC has offered an opportunity for both traditions to explore their their history, but more than that, it has helped both traditions discover a wealth of shared biblical and theological conviction.
UCC and Alliance congregations are beginning to form strong and enduring partnerships. Many of these relationships are growing in the Southeast, where the Baptist tradition is particularly strong.
General Synod in 2001 affirmed the continuing dialogue between the two churches, and invited the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to join the conversation as observers. We hope that in the near future Disciples will be able to enter the dialogue as full partners.
|Links to Resources|
In 1999 General Synod declared a "Partnership in Mission and Ministry" with the Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa (CCCAS) as a way of acknowledging the deepening relationship between the two churches and the rapid growth of Samoan congregations in the United States.
Today, there are more than 60 congregations of the CCCAS in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Washington and Oregon. Many of them related to the UCC through our regional Conferences and local Associations. The partnership seeks to strengthen the ministry of these congregations and the mission of both churches.
In many places, Samoan congregations are actively involved in the life and leadership of UCC Associations. Many UCC clergy and lay leaders have immersed themselves in the life of Samoan communities and have traveled to American Samoa to learn more about its unique and ancient culture.
|Links to Resources|