15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” – John 14:15-16 NRSVUE
In the verses of John leading up to this passage, there seems to be some concern and confusion among the disciples regarding Jesus’ announcement that he was leaving, and that they could not follow. As we continue our journey, we know that we are not alone and that our companion, our advocate, is the truth.
I did a quick Google search for a definition of “advocate,” which produced a myriad of variations of both the noun and verb forms of the word, all pointing to supporting, upholding, and defending an individual or a cause. My favorite was in an uncredited “people also ask” question regarding Biblical usage- “God’s call to advocacy — to plead another’s cause — is spread across the pages of the Bible, and we see powerful stories of Biblical characters who put that call into action. In both the Old and New Testaments, God calls on advocates to speak boldly, whether or not they believe they’re qualified.” But one thing all had in common was the distinction between advising, which could be done in private, and advocating, which is always a form of public support.
I think it is fair to say that the Dismantling Racism and White Privilege team has been able to achieve what it has so far due to the advocacy it has received. The members on the bus trip to Montgomery, when confronted with the awful truth they had encountered at the museums and memorials including The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice pictured above, had to self-advocate for what they thought needed to be done, and to share their personal reactions in difficult conversations. The support they gave each other made possible the writing of the Apology, and in turn, the support of the Presbytery brought the Overture to the entire denomination. In addition to the concurrences from other presbyteries, it received support from agencies and committees within the PC(USA):
Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA)
“Dismantling structural racism” is one of three core priorities of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s (PMA) Matthew 25 vision. We commend the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy for their courage to offer this apology to the whole church for its consideration.
Should the committee and assembly discern that God’s will is to approve this overture, PMA would be enthused to coordinate this work, on behalf of the assembly, as part of its Center for the Repair of Historical Harm.
We also note that synchronized coordination and delivery of these actions among agencies and the larger church will be essential to trustworthy engagement of this matter of profound spiritual and material importance. The PMA Board has authorized formation of the Center for Repair of Historical Harm (Center for Repair), in cooperation with Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and Administrative Services Group (ASG) for the express purpose of ministering together with mid-councils, congregations, domestic and international partners in the ministry of repair and reconciliation from the sins of structural racism and white supremacist ways of being. We understand we are entering a season, a kairos moment, if you will, in which the spiritual integrity of the future church depends on repairing the past.”
Special Committee on Racism Truth and Reconciliation
“The Special Committee on Racism Truth and Reconciliation’s report acknowledges that “the PC(USA) cannot move forward without looking back and cannot tell its history apart from White supremacy.” This overture apologizing for the sin of slavery and its legacy arises out of the church—not a denomination-level committee or entity—and is precisely the work that the church needs to do in confronting its past in order to move toward a reconciling future. We give thanks for the leadership of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy and the commitment of all concurring presbyteries.
Racism and white supremacy are a corrosive and violent agent that harms real human bodies and the Body of Christ. Confronting our complicity with the sin of slavery, both historical and all its contemporary manifestations, reminds us of our incarnational theology and awakens us to the continuing impact of racism on the bodies of people of color.”
More information regarding the Special Committee on Racism Truth and Reconciliation and the Presbyterian Mission can be found here- https://www.pcusa.org/news/2022/4/18/final-report-special-committee-racism-truth-and-re/ and here-https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/racial-equity-advocacy-committee-reac/
DRAWP, as part of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Vision Team https://glpby.org/ has been uplifted and supported by all of the Presbytery Ministries, as well as by individual congregations including Webster Groves Presbyterian Church https://wgpc.org/ministries/advocacy-team/. It has also been an advocate for racial justice issues in the broader community by participating in events sponsored by the Reparative Justice Coalition https://www.rjcstl.org/, and through the public witness of taking a stance through letters written to publications and elected officials. This is from a letter written to the Post-Dispatch-
“DRAWP is deeply concerned with any effort by elected officials to whitewash our country’s painful history of slavery, segregation, and structural racism. The suggestion we should teach only the positive parts of our shared history is an affront to our hearts, minds, and souls. We can never move faithfully into the future until we remember rightly our past. To suggest otherwise is to victimize our African American brothers and sisters further by denying the gift of their memory and subjugate them to additional pain. Yale Divinity School’s Dr. Miroslav Volf provides these prophetic words for our time, “To remember a wrongdoing is to struggle against it.”
The entire letter can be read at https://glpby.org/wp-content/uploads/DRAWP-Letter-to-Editor-August-2021.pdf.
The focus for the Advocate Team in 2023 is to participate in Guns to Gardens, a program started by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and designed to remove unwanted firearms from the cycle of violence in communities across the country. An excellent overview of this project can be found at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/congregations-communities-host-presbyterian-peace-fellowship-inspired-guns-to-gardens-events/ and a discussion of why gun violence is a racial justice issue can be found here- https://www.bradyunited.org/issue/gun-violence-is-a-racial-justice-issue. If you would like to discuss and explore this topic further, please contact Travis Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Several members of DRAWP have undergone training in anticipation of events to be held later this year, and a planning meeting will be held on April 13th from 11:00 to 12:30. If you are interested in attending, please contact John Northrip at email@example.com, or Megan Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again to the Gospel- 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” – John 14:15-16 NRSVUE
As we continue on the road to the empty tomb, we know the suffering we will see, but we also know the joy of how the story ends. And we know that we are not alone, that we have an advocate, and that we can act to bring that truth to a world that “neither sees him nor knows him.” We know in our hearts that we can work to build a world where God’s Love is shared, and abides in all of us.