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June 2020 Statement

A Position Statement of the CRC says: “God's mission for the world, though temporarily broken by sin, is for the reconciliation and uniting of all things. … To be in Christ is to be reconciled as a community of racially and ethnically diverse people.” The denomination also provides training and resources for the purpose of dismantling racism. At Neland Ave CRC, we say boldly that “Black lives matter,” and we are committed to standing against racism and working for reconciliation and justice. Let us continue to read and listen and learn and walk together in this journey.

Anti-Racism Team

Our team’s working mandate:

In order to better reflect the love of Christ for all people and to affirm the beauty of the entire Kingdom of God, the Neland Council in 2017 unanimously supported the formation of the Neland Racial Justice Team (now the Neland Anti-Racism Team). As we are all learning how our identities in Christ have been distorted, we commit to moving ourselves and the congregation toward becoming an institution that actively works to recognize and work against the racism within our midst.

By the power of the Spirit, the Anti-Racism Team will guide the congregation and continue to challenge themselves in the ongoing journey of

  • learning about and understanding racism (Internalized Racial Superiority (IRS) and Internalized Racial Oppression (IRO) in a historical and modern context),
  • building bridges that will help create unity, and
  • identifying ways that we can take action to effect systemic change in our community and in our city.

Current members: Alex Comben, Bob Dekker (Council liaison), Victoria Gibbs (CORR Coach), Dan Hawkins, Dawn Hendriksen, Rhonda Lubberts, Mary Jane Pories, Jodi Van Wingerden, Lindsay Westerhof

We meet every third Tuesday of the month at 7 PM. New members and visitors are always welcome!

More about our work ...

“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). As our team has worked for racial justice, we have also come to some clearer understandings about what that means. We are learning more about the ways that our relationships and lives are part of societal systems and institutions that perpetuate the sin of racism. “Racism may manifest itself interpersonally as well as institutionally” (God’s Diverse and Unified Family, Acts of Synod 1996). It’s often hard to see and acknowledge that we personally, both people of color and white people, are part of the broken systems – whether we want to be or not. As active and passive participants in these broken systems, we long for God’s justice and shalom in our society, our community, and in our church. How can we help each other move forward?

We can certainly all affirm the words of 2 Corinthians 5: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view... If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” Yet racism undermines the very definition of who God wants us to be—not only as individuals, but as a community too. “Obedience to Christ means that we will work with each other, in community, to dismantle racism” (Victoria Gibbs, Laura Pritchard, Janice McWhertor, trainers for CORR – Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation).

In community, we fight racism alongside each other, as many have in the past and still do today. Many of our evangelical forebears were actively anti-slavery. The word "abolition" was their shorthand, and that is the work we still are doing – aiming to abolish the brokenness that was introduced into our society all those years ago, standing against slavery’s persistent long-term effects (such as wealth disparity, housing discrimination, criminal justice abuses, educational disparity, and more). In order to fight against racism today, we need to understand and name racism when we find it – in ourselves, in our church, in other institutions – and then work to change the systems that promote it.

Those of us who are white need to find our blind spots and unconscious investments in white superiority—things that are subtly (or not so subtly) reinforced every day in mainstream society (laws, education, media, housing, etc.). While we may not have personally constructed the system, we need to recognize that we unfairly benefit from it. And white people [especially Christians] are responsible for interrupting it (from White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo).

Those of us who are people of color need to know that our community is ready to work with us to break these cycles. We need to hear that our community recognizes that we are affected by far-ranging effects of systems that have supported and promoted racism for several centuries. “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5).

In John 17, Jesus prays for us, for the unity of his beloved followers: “that they may be completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” We hope and pray that you’ll continue to join us in this work of sharing Christ’s love, seeking justice, and helping Neland Church become an anti-racist institution.

Congregational Involvement

Read

We encourage the entire congregation to read and join in a discussion of Debby Irving’s Waking up White. Thirty copies are available for checkout in the library. 

Watch

"Race: The Power of an Illusion" is a documentary that was shown in Adult Education. Copies are available in the library.

Attend

CORR Training addresses the following goals in a 2.5 day workshop:

  • To see and learn about racism in a new and redemptive way.
  • To gain insights into systemic racism through the eyes of faith and Scripture.
  • To see more of the connections between history and contemporary race relations.
  • To identify organizing opportunities to "eliminate racism, both causes and effects, within the body of believers and throughout the world."

Upcoming CORR training dates are available at corrnow.org/.

Recommended Resources:

Organizations & Websites

Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation (CORR):

www.corrnow.org

Grand Rapids organization that offers workshops and other resources.


CRCNA Office of Race Relations

https://www.crcna.org/race

A resource for churches in our denomination.


Reformed African American Network (RAAN)

www.raanetwork.org

Resources and contemporary theological thought from a Reformed perspective and a diverse network.


Sisters Who Lead

http://sisterswholead.com

Two West Michigan women who produced the research report titled "Invisible Walls, Ceilings, and Floors: Championing the Voices and Inclusion of Female Leaders of Color in West Michigan."


Podcasts

"Five Feet Four inches in the Fight for Freedom: Faith, Justice, and the Civil Rights Movement through the Life of Fannie Lou Hamer" (Jemar Tisby, founder of RAAN, at the 2017 Legacy Conference in Chicago)

http://www.podasterynetwork.com/2017/07/21/bonus/


Pass the Mic: Live

https://www.raanetwork.org/pass-mic-live/

"'Dynamic voices for a diverse church'... Pass the Mic is the premier podcast of the Reformed African American Network."


Truth's Table (Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson, and Ekemini Uwan)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/truths-table/id1212429230?mt=2

"We are Black Christian women who love truth and seek it out wherever it leads us. We will share our perspectives on race, politics, gender, current events, and pop culture that are filtered through our Christian faith."


Articles

The Atlantic, "A Conservative Christian Battle Over Gender" (article featuring the women of the Truth's Table podcast; describes the unique experience of black women in the church)

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/truths-table-gender-race/532407/


Biologos, “One Human Family,” by Deborah Haarsma (Feb. 7, 2018: “The Bible proclaims the equal standing of “every tribe and language and people and nation” before God's throne (Rev 7:9). Yet divisions of tribe, culture, and race are fissures, even chasms, in our world today. Sadly, science has been misused to deepen those chasms.”)

https://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/one-human-family


Christianity Today, The Calling, Episode 13, "It's Never Too Soon to Talk about Race in Your Church" (interview with Jemar Tisby, founder of Reformed African American Network)

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/july-web-only/its-never-too-soon-to-talk-about-race-in-your-church.html


Rapid Growth Media, "Facing racism: The lasting effects of discrimination in GR's southeast community"

http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/020217-On-The-Ground14.aspx?utm_source=Emma&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=Facing+racism:+The+lasting+effects+of+discrimination+in+GR's+southeast+community&utm_content=Newsletter&utm_campaign=Facing+racism:+The+lasting+effects+of+discrimination+in+Grand+Rapids'+southeast+community;+plus,+Etsy+co-founder+talks+business+with+a+heart,+the+coolest+trails+you've+never+heard+of+in+West+Michigan+


Rapid Growth Media, "No more 'West Michigan nice': It's time to talk about race, gender & leadership in the workplace" (article about the work of the two Women of "Sisters Who Lead")

http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/022317-female-leaders-of-color-in-West-Michigan.aspx


Rapid Growth Media, "Racial profiling in Grand Rapids: How the city is tackling major changes in law enforcement"

http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/042017-Grand-Rapids-police-racial-profiling-study.aspx


Books

Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism (Beacon Press, 2018)

Debby Irving, Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race (Elephant Room Press, 2014)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or community (1967, 2010)

Todd E. Robinson, A City within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan (Temple University Press, 2012)

Jim Wallis, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Brazos Press, reprint edition 2017)

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, reissue edition, 2015)


Films

Tell Them We Are Risinghttps://www.pbs.org/video/tell-them-we-are-rising-the-story-of-black-colleges-and-uni-cheqjr/


Other Resources

Self-guided walking tour of black history in Downtown Grand Rapids:

http://downtowngr.org/announcements/2017/06/black-history-tour-launch


Interactive map showing the effects of redlining in Grand Rapids:

http://www.bridgemi.com/public-sector/grand-rapids-then-and-now


Ten Ways to Fight Hate" (from the Southern Poverty Law Center)

https://www.splcenter.org/20170814/ten-ways-fight-hate-community-response-guide