23 September 2015
The United States-based organization “Black Methodist United” has released three documents to help churches and communities confront racism by taking deliberate action.
After a press conference and worship service in Washington, D.C., leaders of historically African-American Methodist churches, that are member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC), suggested that churches worldwide keep the momentum of a “Liberty and Justice for All” movement by investing in young black men, as well as planning steps that will change policies that propagate racism.
The three texts are: Male Investment Plan: a strategic prayer and outreach movement on behalf of the African-American male; Action Items: a list of policy changes and other items that churches will use to call upon the Obama Administration, the Congress, governors and state legislatures to act and Social Action Guide: a text to assist churches as they seek to do God’s will while worshipping, witnessing and promoting justice.
“The initial step is making a conscious decision that you are going to fully engage and participate in this process,” said Dr Staccato Powell, pastor of Grace AME Zion Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a member of the WCC Central Committee.
“We church types,” he said with a smile, “we are big on professing and short on practice.”
It is time for churches to engage and speak in a real way, not just verbally but through actions, he added.
This initiative is not meant to detract from the real needs of women in the African American community. Powell was asked, “What about the African American female? Is the male investment plan highlighted to the exclusion of girls and young women who are also targets of racist as well as sexist assaults?”
He replied, “I would be the first to admit that the question about women is a valid point and needs to be addressed. However, when it comes to this specific range of issues, we cannot afford to dilute or divert our focus from males. With the continued rise in attrition of males from institutions of learning in the lower levels, the diminution of those in institutions of higher learning, the increase of the incarceration rate, unemployment and so on, we have to maintain a clear focus. As much as we may argue for gender equity, the circumstances of these two groups are not the same.”
Church is key to change
In many ways, churches are the key to change, said Powell. “People of faith are always the catalytic force that brings about transformation in society. I think history bears that out,” he said. “Not until people of faith decide ‘enough’ will things begin to change, and we can begin to demonstrate that in the way we conduct ourselves.”
The Male Investment Plan is based on the belief that the African-American male has become an endangered human being in the U.S. culture. “The greatest challenge we are facing in the African-American community today is the plight of the African American male,” states the plan. “What we realize is that the African-American male is not considered valuable in mainstream American culture; and that there is a cosmic conspiracy to destroy him. This cosmic onslaught is not about flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness in high places.”
The text is theologically underscored by Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (New International Version)
Powell said he hopes these documents bring about not only awareness but a change of lifetime patterns. “Sustainability can only be gained when people are converted to a new way of operating, a new way of thought, a new way of engaging in what’s going on around them.”
Churches call for United States to confront racism (WCC news release of 8 September 2015)
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 345 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 550 million Christians in over 120 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.