Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism report shared at AC2018
The Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism shared their report at the Annual Conference during the Thursday May 31 afternoon plenary. Blenda Smith began the report by showing a video that illuminates some of the challenges of institutional racism.
For example, studies show that drivers of color are twice as likely to get pulled over. Black people are four times more likely to get arrested than white people. Legislators are less likely to respond to phone calls or emails form black-sounding names.
The Rev. David Wickins, pastor at Akron First UMC shared his reasoning for being part of the Upper New York’s Imagine No Racism initiative, which is set forth to help eliminate racism both in the Church and Upper New York communities. He said, “I am a white pastor, in an almost completely white church, in an almost completely white community… when I got the email from (the Conference) looking for volunteers for the Imagine No Racism team, God convicted my heart. For a few days, I tried to say this is for someone else… I am too busy already and I almost heard Jesus say, ‘Was I too busy? Am I too busy now? I left my spirit behind for all of you to continue the work? Minutes later I checked my email, another email arrived… conviction complete. I am called to be a part of this.”
Rev. Wickins went on to say how can he not allow God to work through him to help alleviate systemic racism. He said, “Evil exits when we do nothing to stop it. Doing nothing isn’t enough. I hope you will hear the call to not do nothing, but to do something to allow God to work on you, in you, and through you to alleviate the oppression of God’s children who are crying out and be part of confronting the systemic racism that is in our society today.
Imagine no Racism Advocate Ruth Warner elaborated on the importance of the Imagine no Racism initiative; she said “We, your Bishop, your Cabinet and your Conference Committee on Religion and Race commit ourselves to engaging in this work and leading you, our sisters and brothers in Christ to do the same. It is a vital aspect of our call to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
After Ruth spoke, she pointed to a video recorded by the UNY Conference’s Communications team whereby Christine Doran shared the story of Bishop Violet Fisher’s (former Bishop of the North Central Conference) installation service. Bishop Fisher was African-American. She had over 40 family members arrive for the installation service at a hotel that Christine had booked and prepaid for all of them (going to the extent of placing fresh flowers in the room). And when the 48 black people entered the hotel, the person behind the front desk said there were no reservations and no rooms available. Even after showing the person at the front desk her paid receipt, Christine was told those reservations were not made. Christine had to get the mayor of Rochester involved, Bill Johnson, an African-American male who called the hotel owner and the rooms were secured. Bishop Fisher felt uncomfortable complaining about it at the start of her episcopacy in North Central New York.
Rev. Teressa Silvers, the convener of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism, described the amazing number of people coming together so far across Upper New York to work on the Imagine No Racism initiative. She said, “Imagine No Racism is launched! In the midst of the intentionally organized chaos of our April 21st Launch Day, you succeeded in creating about 101 small groups. These groups will work with a curriculum designed to equip members to form discussion groups and influence conversation in local churches. We have also hired four Regional Coordinators who will serve as resource and support people as well as data gatherers for Imagine No Racism ongoing evaluation. Training sessions for facilitators and four Regional Coordinators has occurred. The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) is providing excellent resources. We are moving on in our powerful work to Imagine No Racism!”
Rev. Silvers then asked all who were able to stand and together recite a vow to stand for the elimination of racism. The vow read:
“Before God and with my family in Christ, I vow, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to oppose and work to eliminate the influence of racism from systems, institutions, relationships, and my own life.”
The attendees were asked to print out and sign a copy of the vow that was available both in the Conference event app and as a hardcopy. Rev. Silvers also explained that lay persons who are eager to get involved can simply contact their District Advocates. Rev. Silvers said, “We are hoping with the help of the Holy Spirit, we develop a serious response.”
The illuminating report by the Bishop’s Taskforce on Eliminating Racism culminated with Elder in the struggle Shirley Redean praying for all to become involved in this initiative. She prayed, “Great giver of wisdom provide strength, patience, and an understanding that this is not seasonal work; this is not part-time work; this is 24/7 work.”
Editor’s Note: Keep watching the Conference Communications channels for updates on the work achieved through the Imagine No Racism initiative as small-group meetings take place throughout Upper New York each month.