17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. – Mark 10 17:22 NRSVUE
As Jesus makes his journey (more on that later,) let us continue ours, starting with a couple more accounts of the trip to Montgomery, and the writing of the Apology.
“I was fortunate to be part of the Giddings-Lovejoy Trip to Montgomery. This was an experience of listening, sharing and making new friends. One of the places we visited was The Legacy Museum. This museum showed the pattern of subjugation and terrorism that played out throughout the south. The struggle for equality has been part of the African American experience for over 400 years and continues still. People world-wide should recognize that those in the Civil Rights movement suffered hardships and endured terrorism and brutality. Those fearless people were instrumental in bringing about benefits for many marginalized people which include women. I owe a lot to my African American brothers and sisters. I know that many doors were open for me, a brown woman of Mexican heritage, because of the civil rights movement. Yet my black brothers and sisters are still fighting for equal justice and access in our country. The planning of the Trip to Montgomery and the writing of The Apology makes me want to continue working toward the goal of equal justice for all God’s People.
Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post “It is extraordinary that people who came to our country in chains came to understand the essence of Christianity and the essence of our country far better than their oppressors.”
Apology Writing Team
“Thank you for the invitation to share my experience in Montgomery and on the committee that wrote the Apology. To me, the former evolved into the later. That we took a bus together to Montgomery instead of vans or cars was no accident. Beginning as strangers, the twelve hours there and back allowed us to grow together – listening and dialoguing. We forged friendships for which I am forever grateful.
Growing up in North Carolina, I thought I already knew about racism. Yet I was wrong. A life-size photo of picnicking families in the Montgomery Museum said it best. In this picture, white boys and girls ate with their families with picnic cloths spread on the ground. Some kids played tag on this beautiful sunny day. Laughing children and smiling parents revealed some sort of celebration! Then I noticed the upper left hand corner of the photo. A black man hung there. I realized these families gathered to rejoice in this African American man’s torture, mutilation and death. Such widespread hatred embedded in the white culture horrified me. Where were those committed to obeying Jesus’ commandment to love God, self and everyone else as neighbor? We needed the Apology.
After discussion by members of the Apology committee, an African American woman leader named our goal- people need to apologize for reconciliation and new relationship to become possible. Therefore, we wrote an Apology to our African American Sisters and Brothers for the Sin of Racism. Others successfully took it to GA – now a part of PCUSA’s efforts toward forgiveness, reconciliation and restitution.
What a wonderful time to consider where God is asking us to seek forgiveness, reconciliation and beyond in our lives during Lent!”
Junie Ewing, Rev. Dr.
Apology Writing Team
After submitting the Apology as an Overture to be considered at GA225, it received concurrence from 11 other presbyteries, comments from several of them, and from other PC-USA entities as well.
Comment—From the 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 OGA and 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.”
Rationale for Concurrence from the Presbytery of Baltimore
“We are free to confess sin and repent because we are assured of and confident in God’s faithfulness in Christ to redeem, to save, to forgive, to renew, to make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Confession and repentance open us as the body of Christ to receive God’s grace, which alone has the power to move us, together, into a new day, a new future. Therefore, we applaud the Overture drafters for the comprehensiveness of the proposed apology. In countless meetings of the Presbytery’s Dismantling Racism Team, we affirmed that racism is sin, and therefore the Church’s responsibility to dismantle racism must be theologically grounded. Confession is a matter of the heart. As in all honest confessions, a public apology is not only a message to those who have been wronged, it can also open the hearts of those who confess to repair that which has been broken within and between us and God. This apology is long overdue.”
After being unanimously approved by the Race and Gender Justice Committee, the Overture was presented to the 225th General Assembly as RGJ-08 and passed by a vote of 373 yes and 19 no. After being adopted, according to General Assembly News – July 6, 2022, “The two-hour plenary ended with votes overwhelmingly approving both items, and with white Presbyterians reading aloud “A Litany of Repentance” found in RGJ-08, which begins with the words: “As white Christians we repent of our complicity in the belief in white supremacy.”
A LITANY OF REPENTANCE
“As white Christians we repent of our complicity in the belief in white supremacy: the belief that people of European descent are superior in intelligence, skills, imagination, and perseverance. We acknowledge that this belief in white supremacy has been the foundation of, and an excuse for, atrocities against people of African descent in the United States and in the world.
We repent of our failure to recognize and take responsibility for the legacy of slavery.
We repent of the injustice, pain, humiliation, and suffering imposed on African Americans by our ancestors and ourselves through actions and inaction. We repent of our complicity in failing to act in mutual loving relationship.
We repent of closing our eyes to the degradation and injustice forced upon African Americans who were enslaved, segregated, terrorized, and imprisoned.
We repent of covering our ears to the crying of families torn apart, to the sound of human flesh being struck, while songs of freedom and heavenly grace flow from our lips.
We repent that we have failed as an institution and as individuals to use our voices to abhor and end lynching, segregation, and racial profiling. We regret our generations of silence on these issues so that we could maintain a comfortable life in our churches, homes, and communities.
We repent of shutting our hearts to the experiences of fellow humans whose stories of pain, suffering, hardship, struggle, love, and joy mirror our own life journeys, yet are deprived of privilege and marred by racism. We have turned our backs and walked away pretending not to see, yet we saw, pretending not to know, yet we knew, and convincing ourselves that we were not complicit, yet we are.
We now know that we as white Christians have benefitted directly and indirectly from these injustices. We name ourselves as complicit and repent.
Finally, we repent of our violent actions to suppress Black agency. African Americans, since the time of slavery, have actively pursued their freedom … built this country … laid foundational structures … and demonstrated their capacity to fully participate in the construction of this American society in spite of white supremacy.
As repentance means turning and going the other way, with Christ’s help we seek to do so. At the same time, we commit ourselves to walking with people of African descent toward the goal of healing, reconciliation, and eliminating racism as we seek to dismantle white privilege.”
For those of you who didn’t get to see the Plenary presentation, vote, and reading of the litany of Repentance it is now up on the GA225 site at https://vimeo.com/727241788 as part of the July 6th Plenary 7 session. The presentation of RGJ-08 starts at the2:05:45 mark, and this link will take you to a another, more recent reading yhttps://www.tiktok.com/@presbyterianchurchusa/video/7200856721751936298?_t=8ZxeoEIUKOQ&_r=1 posted by PC(USA) staff members #PCUSA #PresbyterianChurchUSA #RacialJustice #BlackHistoryMonth
Once again, Mark 10 17:22 NRSVUE
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Some of you may have found my choice of scripture for this installment of the DRAWP Lenten Blog series a bit odd, but I went with it for two reasons- first, I was still thinking about an excellent sermon I had recently heard (thanks Pastor Dave Burgess!) based on this passage, and second, it made me think of the way I had been introduced to the Apology, and the journey I had been on with DRAWP since. I wasn’t on the trip to Montgomery, but I had done some photography and video as a volunteer for the Committee On Local Arrangements for GA-223 here in St. Louis, and shortly after the Apology was written I was asked if I might be interested in taping myself and other members at St. Mark reading it, with the thought that these clips might be used at the upcoming Presbytery meeting. The writers ended up presenting it in person at that gathering, far more effectively than any video could have, but the process of taping myself reading it had a profound and lasting effect on me. I had thought of myself as well informed on our sad history of racial injustice, of holding no bias towards African Americans, and of being on the right side of issues involving race. But what I saw when I watched myself read was someone not so sure of himself. I had felt that like the rich man in the scripture I had kept the commandments; the words rang true, but if I really believed them, why had I not done anything about what they described? What I realized at that moment was that even though I might sound convincing, it wasn’t because I was committed to those ideas. I was practicing the complacency I could get away with because I thought I understood, without having to live the daily reality of racial injustice in our culture. I wasn’t on the right side, I was on the white side, and just starting to understand that as privilege. The rich man may have grieved when told that what he had to give up, what was standing between him God, was something he just couldn’t part with. But what I think is true as well, and rejoice in my belief, is that some of the things I can work on removing really do need to just go- If I’m going to give up something for Lent, why not my ignorance, my apathy, my self-righteousness. I know it will not only take me closer to God, but to all of us imperfect people here on Earth as well. Jesus said that only God is Good, but God is Good, all the time. All the time, God is Good!
Co-chair, DRAWP Relate Team