Overture to the Presbytery of the James
Concerning the rise of White Supremacy and Racism
WHEREAS recent events within our Commonwealth and nation have highlighted the rise o f hate speech, the elevation of racism as a goal and the increase in advocacy for white supremacy; and
WHEREAS we as members of the church of Jesus Christ refuse to remain silent in the face of such bigotry and hatred; declaring God’s love for all humankind and seeking to live up to the two great commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselv es, and
WHEREAS we in the Presbyterian Church in Virginia have our own history of racism which we confess and seek to repent of; and no longer are willing to acquiesce to the status quo of division and discrimination, and
WHEREAS our Book of Confessions includes both the Barmen Declaration against the heresy of Nazism and the Belhar Confession which confronts racism, we, too, want to confess our opposition to the rise of racial idolatries in our time,
THEREFORE WE CALL FOR THE PRESBYTERY OF THE JAMES TO:
1. Endorse and disseminate to POJ congregations, the media, and the wider community this overture, including the letter of August 14th from the PCUSA Stated Clerk, the Mission Executive and the Co - Moderators (see below)
2. Instruct our presbytery moderator to gather a few people to discuss further steps that we may take to witness to the love of God for all people and our opposition to acts of hate and discrimination (which may include special attention to Race Relations Sunday in January).
The Stated Clerk’s and Co - Moderators’ letter follows
Letter of August 14, 2017
PCUSA Stated Clerk, the Mission Agency Executive, and the Co Moderators
In the aftermath of the events of August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reaffirms its condemnation of white supremacy and racism, names them as sin, and renews its commitment to disrupting them and working for justice and equity.
We give thanks for the presence and faithful witness of church members who stand against white supremacy and racism. Individually and collectively the church, including Presbyterians, stood against hate in Charlottesville. Individually and collectively the church, including Presbyterians, works to disrupt racism and to build racial equity in places across the country. We grieve for Heather Heyer, who was killed while standing witness; we grieve for state police officers H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring events in Charlottesville; we pray for the recovery of all who were injured.
We acknowledge that Scripture has been misused to justify white supremacy and racism. However, we proclaim that the Bible’s message presents a far more consistent and insistent witness to God’s love for diversity and justice. This may be observed in God’s delight in the varied creation; heard in the words of prophets who reject oppression and commend justice as true worship; seen in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, who values all persons regardless of any aspect of their identity; and experienced through the work of the Holy Spirit, who consistently blows through all the divisions we create, to reveal God’s love for all humanity.
White supremacy and racism stand in stark, irreconcilable contradiction to God’s intention for humanity. They reject part of the human family and are utterly contrary to God’s Word made incarnate in Jesus. They are idolatries that elevate human-created hierarchies over God’s freely given grace and love. They are lies about the human family, for they seek to say that some people are less than other people. They are lies about God because they falsely claim that God favors some people over the entirety of creation.
But as we give thanks, we acknowledge the church’s complicity in the creation of white supremacy and racism. We confess the church’s failure in challenging and disrupting white supremacy and racism. Too often we have accepted the status quo. Too often we have stood silent in the face of injustice and oppression.
By God’s grace may we remember the events in Charlottesville; repent of our acquiescence and failures; and renew our commitment to proclaim and live the good news of Jesus Christ. May that commitment lead us to stand against, speak against and work against racism and white supremacy, this day and every day.
May it be so. Amen.