Three days into GA, and I cannot help but think about the importance of what we have been doing, and how tired you can get from daylong meetings!
I like to think of GA as a roller coaster ride-the Saturday and Sunday sessions are like climbing to the highest peak of the coaster. There really was nothing exciting, or really even notable, other than the worship service (which was awesome), but we were filled with anticipation.
On Monday we took the plunge, and that was true to form. Yesterday we dealt with issues that our congregation has been working on for the past year. The list covers resolutions on urban congregations (which has a lot of very helpful things for us); racial and ethnic issues, including all of the work we have done with the Beloved Community, and something which we may get involved with concerning elections; and deeper support for HIV/AIDS.
Almost everything we acted on was passed unanimously, and the feeling about the call to justice as a church was powerful. At the same time, we need to recognize that dealing with justice work, especially as a predominantly white denomination, will be uncomfortable because we have to recognize that our way is not the way. Moreover, we cannot do justice without listening, and must recognize that at times our intentions to empower others can often take away power. This is one of the lessons learned in our work with the Beloved Community and our efforts to understand implicit bias.
This was most evident in the way in which we discussed one of the overtures. One interesting issue was difficulty surrounding the use of the language “people of color” to refer to what our denomination used to consider “racial/ethnic.” The term “people of color” was created by the taskforce in which “people of color” were a supermajority. It is a term which they find both empowering and recognized beyond the church. But as a predominately white group, issues of discomfort were raised. Despite our uneasiness, we recognized that this was the language the people themselves asked for, and though it may make us uncomfortable, it is not our place to label someone else to alleviate our discomfort.
People with power always feel that they have the right to label others. Even when we try to be inclusive, we often assert our power privilege to use language that is recognizable and comfortable for us, but not necessarily desired by the groups which we are trying to include. This is important, and one reason I worked to get the language recognizing implicit bias into many of the overtures that came before the committee.
I am very glad to be here. I also continue to be excited and proud to be on the Social Justice committee. I will be talking in depth about all of the things we discussed when I get back, and will probably be blogging more as we move to the plenary session tomorrow!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen