Churches have leadership role in Summit on Racism
BY DALE DIELMAN
“I want to believe you are here because you really care,” said Teresa Lamb of Latin Americans United for Progress.
In the closing moments of last Friday’s leadership conference of the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism at Hope College, Lamb stood behind the podium and spared no feelings, minced no words.
“We minorities are tired of mission statements,” that laud lofty idealism, but evidence no realism, on fronting racism.
“We are tired of being used as tokens… we are tired of this word” – at which point, Lamb held up a paper with the word “HOPE” on it.
She addressed the gathering of business, education, church and agency leaders represented at the event, which was another step in the journey toward the Ottawa Area Racism to be held Feb. 13 and beyond.
Organizers say the summit is the beginning of a five-year process to put into place actions and strategies for confronting racism in the area. The event demonstrated, as did the two town meetings in Holland and Grand Haven earlier, that we are both a hurting community – and, within in is the potential to be a healing community in the workplace and schools, agencies and churches.
Potential, yes. But will we act upon those great ideas we drafted and passed on newsprint during our breakout sessions?
The time of testing will not be gathering at the February summit, but in the weeks, months and years to follow.
Everyone who signed on, every agency and business name that appeared as underwriters of the leadership event, every individual involved crossed a line.
There is not stopping the process, no turning back. If we all go to the summit, institute action plans and then don’t act, we literally will set back all the limited progress that has been made, and then some.
We who came together now must lead, model, march, insist, instruct and instigate whatever it takes to see justice done. At least that, if not the ultimate goal of beating back racism in our communities.
The summit is not the end, but part of the beginning in confronting and rectifying racism among us. If all this is an attempt to pacify minorities into a flash sense of hope, such motives will be found out.
From the summit in February, a thunder call to action will roll. And people will act. One way or another – united in harmony, or, divided in disillusionment, deception, and disintegration of whatever trust between the races has been built to this point.
Answering this call to action, in word and deed, the faith community must stand and be counted.
What can – or must – churches do? What they are called to do: Be prophetic.
First of all, to preach the simple truth that racism is sin. I encourage clergy to keep reminding us all that racist thoughts and actions, subtle or overt, are evil.
But the Good News is more than “repent.”
The church also must model reconciliation. One person with another. Those hurt, with ones who, overtly or without intention, caused the pain.
Yes, reconciliation is seeking forgiveness, but many falter at what must come next –reparation.
Righting the wrongs is where it can all fall down.
All the lofty rhetoric, even the passionate sinner’s repentance comes up hollow without redress of the effects of racism in real terms, however they may play out.
Then, we have cause for rejoicing, and rejoice we all shall in all our diversity and unity under God.
Repent. Reconcile. Reparate. Rejoice.
If there ever was a time in our communities for the church to stand and be counted, to walk and not grow weary, to fight and not grow faint – it is here and now.
The church’s prophetic voice is that which calls us all to be the “city on the hill,” biblically encisioned as being ‘of every tribe and nation.’
What a vision this paints! A vision that can be realized if we are bold enough and have faith enough to take up the brushes.