All congregations in my denomination (the Presbyterian Church USA) require pastors and other leaders to take Healthy Boundaries Training. It might be called by another name, but this training involves clarifying roles and setting up norms for keeping clear lines of behavior. There are obvious boundaries (e.g. Don’t date parishioners) and there are not so obvious boundaries (e.g. Don’t continue serving a pastoral role in your former congregation except in limited circumstances.)
Last weekend, my Presbytery/geographic area of congregations approved a new requirement: Anti-Racism Training would be required for all pastors and other leaders starting this spring. It was almost a unanimous vote.
There are obvious anti-racism norms (e.g. Don’t use the N-word) and there are not so obvious anti-racism norms (e.g. Stop saying you don’t see color.) Those of us who are White have a lifetime of learning to do and a required course won’t heal centuries of pain. But it’s a start.
Comments I have heard both from our own local people and others around the country:
- This is too political.
- There are no Brown or Black people in our churches or even in our county so why do we have to do this?
- I’m tired of being called a racist.
All of these comments only reiterate how much we need to educate ourselves about race. People who are not White have spent their lives navigating a world in which their skin color was not the dominant skin color. People who are White have not had to code switch throughout the day and might not even know what code switching is.
There are sacred assumptions all of us make about each other based on the color of our skin. We need to unlearn this for the sake of the Gospel, not because it’s politically correct and not because it’s trendy and not because of any other reason except for the fact that God created each of us with our own eye colors and hair colors and skin colors. And Jesus was born to save each of us all.
And I have every expectation that the Holy Spirit will be with us as we grapple with each other about the racism that divides us. It doesn’t scare me because God is in it. It inspires me because God is in it.
What’s going on in your congregations to address the sin of racism?
Image is the workbook we are using for our training: What Lies Between Us by Dr. Lucretia Carter Berry. Check it out as part of your Lenten practice this spring.