Monday, July 18, 2016

Mobilizing to Overcome Racism

On Sunday, July 10, after the July 7 shooting of 12 Dallas police officers and two civilians, Church Council co-chair Tina Simpson read a Dallas News article saying that local clergy planned to organize to overcome racism. With Rev. Nancy DeStefano, Lay Leader Keith Fulenwider and Church Council co-chair Teddi Fulenwider on vacation, Tina asked Communications Chair Cynthia Astle to find out more about the meeting.

A call to the office of Dr. Joe Clifford, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas where the meeting was to be held, determined that the meeting was open to all Dallas-area religious leaders. So Cynthia and John Astle attended to represent St. Stephen UMC and find out more about the group and its plans.

When we arrived, we discovered that our good friend and former St. Stephen member, the Rev. Freddie Orr of Owenwood UMC, also was attending. We sat together at a table and spent an instructive and enlightening two hours listening to many people, both clergy and laity, talk about their hopes, dreams, fears and suggestions for how to combat racism in the greater Dallas area. To avoid overwhelming everyone with details, here's the gist of the meeting:

About 110 clergy and laypeople agreed that they wanted to begin the process working together toward reducing and eliminating racism. An ad hoc steering committee provided a propose covenant with the following actions:
  1. We commit to connect regularly to cultivate relationships for a year.
  2. We commit to lead our churches in having courageous conversations about race.
  3. We commit to practice racial sensitivity and work against racism in practical ways.
  4. We commit to equip our people to engage in the work of racial reconciliation.
  5. We commit to participate in the Dallas pulpit swap on March 26, 2017 or in March 2017.
  6. We commit to support law enforcement and the community by partnerships that serve the great good.

Each of these actions has detailed suggestions, and the full statement has been given to Pastor Nancy. As a first step, Nancy, Freddie and the Astles are scheduled to meet together on Thursday, July 21 to review the clergy covenant and look for ways that St. Stephen and Owenwood can begin to build relationships. In addition, Cynthia has collected resources from the United Methodist General Commission on Religion & Race for St. Stephen to consider a conversation on the topic of "white privilege" as a precursor to having "courageous conversations" about race.

How St. Stephen will respond to the crisis of racism in our community is still in the works, so be sure to keep up with the news via our website, Facebook page and Fluid App for smartphones.

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