35Jesus said to them, “The light is in you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” – John 12:35-36 NRSVUE

As we travel with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, we remember that with Him we walk in the light, and are not lost in the darkness. Part of that darkness, for some of us, is ignorance. The purpose of the Dismantling Racism and White Privilege Education Team is to provide opportunities for learning, so that we can walk in the light of knowledge as we work toward ending the injustice of racism and white privilege. The image above comes from one of the participants in the bus trip to Montgomery, and marks a starting point for the DRAWP journey. To paraphrase the contributor “it is the display from the Legacy Museum that brought about the discussion in the hotel lobby about the Church’s role in slavery, and when it was discussed that evening how important it would be if we could make a Church wide repentance happen, we decided to work on that issue. We thank God for helping to make that a reality so quickly.”

As was noted in the first installment of this Lenten series, what was to become DRAWP first became part of Giddings-Lovejoy began in the 1990’s. From the document “History Of Dismantling Racism And Privilege Team, Presbytery Of Giddings Lovejoy”

“In 1990 the 211th General Assembly adopted a paper called “Facing Racism: In search of the Beloved Community.” That assembly called upon all presbyteries to make a commitment to develop an anti-racist identity. In 2000, the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy adopted a Five-Year Strategic Plan, including four strategic directions, one of which included the goal of dismantling racism. In 2002, the presbytery adopted the following policy:

That all clergy and presbytery staff shall participate in a training event on dismantling racism and privilege within two years and new clergy and presbytery staff within one year.”

Clergy trainings were offered at least once a year, led by team members, and in the beginning, used a video entitled “Free Indeed” produced by the Mennonites. Later trainings use portions of “Race, the Power of an Illusion,” originally a PBS series.”

The Mennonite Church USA is still an excellent source for Anti-Racism resources https://www.mennoniteusa.org/resource-portal/resource/anti-racism-resources-for-mennonite-churches/ as is PBS https://www.pbs.org/articles/racism-in-america/.

Although the idea of developing educational programs for use within the Presbytery was part of the initial Apology, it became a central part of the Overture presented at, and overwhelmingly approved by, the General Assembly at GA-225.  An excerpt-

[RGJ-08]   On Offering an Apology to African Americans for the Sin of Slavery and Its Legacy

  1. Therefore, we recommend that the PC(USA) act on the following concerns:
  2. Direct the PC(USA) and the Office of Public Witness to refute arguments and new laws that prohibit the teaching of a fully inclusive history of the United States. God commanded the people to remember the difficult times in their history, the mistakes they would rather forget: “Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation” (Joel 1:3).
  3. Direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the Stated Clerk to develop curriculum about slavery and its legacy—for children, youth, and adults to foster repentance that leads to metanoia (“a transformative change of heart”)—with the assistance of a qualified consultant, and to designate appropriate budget resources. The purpose of this curriculum is spiritual change that leads to apology, reconciliation, and acts of restorative justice, including reparations. In this way, the PC(USA) might further the growth of “beloved community” in our midst.
  4. Encourage congregations, presbyteries, and synods to prepare a history of their community to facilitate and deepen their study and understanding of these issues and to share the resources they find helpful in that preparation with the larger church.
  5. Commit the PC(USA) to restorative justice/reparations and direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the Stated Clerk to provide tools and budget resources for congregations, presbyteries, and synods to enact restorative justice measures in their communities that will close gaps in economics, health, education, environmental well-being, and the criminal justice system created out of the legacy of slavery and white supremacy. These gaps have existed since our development as a country and still exist today.
  6. Direct the Office of the General Assembly to share this apology with the National Council of Churches.
  7. Direct the General Assembly to commend this apology to the entire PC(USA) in all its expressions for their use in the work of reconciliation among all peoples.

The Overture in its entirety can be read here https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000895, and other PC(USA) resources can be found here https://facing-racism.pcusa.org/ and here https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/matthew-25/racism/.

Over the past few months, the DRAWP Education Team has been hard at work, as directed by sub-section 4b above, developing a curriculum for use in the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy.  We anticipate that it will be ready to share by the Fall of 2023, and believe that there is no better place to develop this program than in our Presbytery. We are a broad spectrum of congregations and individuals, dispersed geographically, but joined in God’s love for us, and our love and respect for each other. This love, and faith, is what gives us the ability to face difficult issues of the past and present, and the faith to take action that brings us closer to the “Beloved Community.”

As has been pointed out by African American members of DRAWP, a detailed knowledge of our sad history regarding race is not required to understand its legacy in the injustices of one’s daily life, but that understanding is essential for those of us who do not have that experience and live in the privilege of our ignorance. To understand how we got to this point, we need to find our way out of the darkness, and walk in the light. And even more so if we are to be the light.

 Again from the Gospel-

35Jesus said to them, “The light is in you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” – John 12:35-36 NRSVUE

John Northrip

1 Comment

  • Posted March 28, 2023 8:01 pm
    James Willock

    Wow, John. What a powerful and timely essay! Thank you.

    I look forward to the DRAWP curriculum for study, Within the St Louis area there is so much history that we all need to understand and much of it for which we need to repent if we are to do our part in shaping the kin-dom that God intends and for which Jesus died to give birth.


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