2001-03-09 Grand Rapids Press Faith community is ready to put Summit On Racism efforts to work

Faith community is ready to put Summit On Racism efforts to work
Grand Rapids Press

Churches face challenges that may test their resolve to carry on in the spirit of the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, which was held last month at Hope College.

Representatives for each of the seven key arenas – business, community, education, faith communities, media, health care and government – drew up “action team strategies” at the summit for implementation later.

While each team will have much to consider and act on, the faith community set for itself a particularly auspicious mission.

“It is m personal opinion, as a pastor, that this world can’t model (racial healing) without Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The faith-based community must model what Jesus said about all people” said the Rev. Ronald James, pastor of Antioch Christian Church in Grand Haven.

As one of the faith community section’s leaders, James, an African-American, said that even churches need to learn to model these teachings to a much greater degree.

To that end, one action team strategy was to convene “Institutes of Racial Healing” to which pastors will be especially encouraged to attend.

During these sessions, people of diverse backgrounds will have a forum to talk openly about the history of racism, the overt and covert ways in which disparity and discrimination exist in the region, and how to become part of the healing process.

James is a veteran of institutes of this kind. He said the results can be very positive toward helping, especially the religious leadership, discover the realities of racism and their unique roles in healing its wounds.

The need for such institutes, James added, is evident because “many people and churches don’t believe racism still exists here.”

Other action team strategies developed by the faith community section at the summit included:

-Prayerfully challenge all faith communities to establish relationships through worship, join projects, potlucks, etc. across ethnicities.

- Prayerfully establish a diverse roundtable discussion group to address social justice issues (systems, structures, etc).

-Prayerfully create and adopt an educational process to establish an atmosphere of understanding, awareness and consciousness rising about cultural differences.

-Implement programs that promote the dismantling of racism for grassroots and leadership.

- Promote “relational’ experiences across boundaries – through mentoring, pulpit exchanges and prayer.

- Create education and healing opportunities that include individual and collective dialog, such as the institutes.

- Be intentional about developing multicultural opportunities and fostering multicultural relationships.

These action items are aimed at Realizing a vision set forth at the summit by faith community participants.

All interested parties are invited to the next faith community planning session to be held at 7pm Tuesday at the Multicultural Lounge at Phelps Hall, on the Hope College campus.