What can we do about racism?

A resource from Wesleyans for Wesleyans

Below are stories, resources and ways to engage that Wesleyans testify are helping them in doing something about racism. This is not a list of suggestions or good ideas; this is a list of things already being done by your brothers and sisters from diverse backgrounds. The items do not constitute a “to-do checklist.” We cannot check them all off and be “done.”

Like everything that involves relationships, discipleship and sin, conquering racism is a lifelong journey. Part of the process is clarifying where you’re at in the journey. For sure, you would like to be farther along than you are, but you have to be honest about where you are and start moving from there.

So, this is a collective testimony of what Wesleyans are doing where we are now to grow in our discipleship, including the journey to conquer racism. Because the list represents people sharing their stories and experiences, it is written in the first person plural.

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HUMBLY CONNECT

We are building
authentic and supportive
local relationships

INTENTIONALLY LEARN

We are expanding our knowledge
of historical and cultural
realities in systemic racism

CONSISTENTLY ACT

We are persistently
engaging to counter racism
and change our culture

HUMBLY CONNECT

We are building authentic and supportive local relationships


We had to get ready for push back and be ready to make mistakes. We’ve had some of the ways we talk questioned, and the terms we use examined. Just because we thought our hearts were in the right place doesn’t mean our actions matched our intent. We had to make sure we weren’t so fragile we couldn’t take it [push back], and allow ourselves to be asked hard and challenging questions.

We needed to find some safe spaces to ask our questions and to learn. It wasn’t best to do these conversations in public or on social media. We needed to build friendships, true and honest friendships, where someone we trusted and who trusted us could help us. That meant we needed to be transparent and real with someone unlike us.

We joined a multiethnic church plant team.

We were used to the role of leading/preaching and needed to learn how to be more of a learner/partner, where we engaged with humility and let our actions show we are standing with our black friends.

We began attending and became a member at a church whose pastor is African-American with a predominantly African-American congregation. Too often, we expect African-Americans to do the opposite and make the adjustments. We decided we should adjust too.

We have participated in one of the Multiethnic Conversations discussions with the help of the Wesleyan Publishing House resource by that name. To date, 80 people have completed the Multiethnic Conversations discussions.

We actively pursued a multiethnic lifestyle. We looked around at our friends, who we spend time with, whose books we read. Are there people of color in those places? We had to become intentional to genuinely pursue relationships that will expand our circle of friends. We’ve been amazed at how God opens doors because this is close to his heart.

We have joined racially diverse groups of pastors and community leaders so the relationship is always there, year-round.

We helped form a multiethnic ministry focused on three areas: education, relationships and celebration. This work is focused on: a) celebrating, sharing and building on the multiethnic realities that exist within our denominational family, b) coordinating commitment on-ramps for leaders and pastors to make decisions that reflect their belief in multiethnic ministry theology and ecclesiology, and creating an ongoing network, partnership and communication strategy to keep the movement on mission and sustainable. More info found here.

We started a community center in our city in part to listen to the community in how white people could help. We built amazing partnerships, then started churches and community programs.

 We have joined an English or Spanish Multiethnic Multipliers Huddle (Reunión de Multiplicadores Hispanos). More info found here.

We joined the church plant team of an African-American pastor.

We have learned that people are hurt, traumatized, tired and desperate, so we don’t take it personally when people show those emotions about racism.

We had to find a space to be in the minority, to relinquish power and just listen. We learned a lot when we weren’t the loudest voice in the room. As white persons, we needed to realize that the culture is predominantly “ours.” We need to just listen and discover in those spaces things we could act on and those actions then become a lifestyle rather than a reaction.

 We are African-Americans and our friends sent us texts and apologized to us for the police actions that killed a man recently. They offered prayers and support. That is a proper response.

 We have interjected questions in casual conversations among close friends and family, when the conversation turned to generalizations of people groups or racist “humor.” It’s been uncomfortable and at times intimidating, but we won’t remain silent.

 We have worked to celebrate and value the cultures within our school community through an international student program and a bilingual program.

 Our church has made space for someone from an overt white supremacist background to repent and join a reconciling multiethnic community.

INTENTIONALLY LEARN

We are expanding our knowledge of historical and cultural realities in systemic racism


We felt tremendous grief and guilt when we first confronted these things, and we wanted to jump into action. But we believe that listening and education must come first. So we start by accessing important recommended books and podcasts, as well as following people of color on social media and other places to gain their perspective.

We studied Bible passages that related to racism such as the Samaritan woman: John 4:1-42, dignifying second-class citizens: Galatians 3:28, the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37, risking one’s reputation: Deuteronomy 10:11-12, command to not call any other kinds of persons unclean: Acts 10:28, the Image of God creation of humans: Genesis 1:27, equality of all persons: Romans 10:12; Galatians 3:28, breaking down walls of hostility: Ephesians 2:14, all ethnicities as part of the mission: Matthew 28:19; Revelation 7:9, the sin of partiality: James 2:9 and the drunkards and prostitutes passage: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 21:28-32

We took groups and students to the Call and Response Conference.

We participated in the White Awake book study with Multiethnic Director Santes Beatty.

We asked and paid some persons of color to consult and meet with us, because they have needed expertise and because we can’t expect every person of color to be an unpaid consultant and to work through our questions without compensation for their time and the emotional labor it takes.

We joined a Wesleyan multiethnic conversation. (See an invite from Dr Jo Anne Lyon.)

We went on Sankofa, a trip to civil rights sites with Christians. Sankofa is a West African word meaning “looking backward to move forward.” This interactive experience explores historic sites of importance in the Civil Rights movement, places of oppression and inequality for people of color, while seeking to move participants toward healing the wounds and racial divide caused by hundreds of years of racial injustice in the United States of America.

We have learned about the history of advocacy and justice work Wesleyans engaged in throughout our history including abolition and suffrage here, here and here.

We have learned about the ways Wesleyans have fallen short and not engaged throughout our history (see this and this).

We have read the Letter from Birmingham Jail written over 55 years ago by Martin Luther King, thought through how the church failed to respond to it then and worked through how we can respond to it now.

We have diversified our bookshelf by reading black theologians and scholars like Willie James Jennings. Books have a way of hiding their perspective since we don’t see the author and often don’t even include the author’s picture. We learned about black and brown authors and diversifying our bookshelf here and here.

We have begun to become more familiar with the ways black and brown theologians have influenced the church in profound ways. We learned more starting here.

We read the book White Fragility to explore why these conversations are so much harder for us than other complicated conversations.

We read Letters Across the Divide to learn from two friends writing letters to each other across a racial divide.

We read The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race in order to better understand the intersections of race and theology in church history.

We read Divided by Faith to learn more about the evangelical church and race problems in America.

We read I’m Still Here in order to find out the ways white, middle-class, Evangelicalism participated in an era of rising racial hostility and how to counteract it.

We read Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church in order to consider what practices help a multiethnic church thrive.

We read Bridging the Diversity Gap to learn ways to live more authentic multiethnic lives that reflect heaven.

We held book studies on The Color of Compromise and The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

We read The Bible is Black History to challenge the ways we so often view the characters of the Bible.

We read Stamped from the Beginning to look into the history of racist ideas and how they subtly adapted as time marched on in our society.

We read Reconciliation Blues in order to gain insight into the perspective of a black evangelical from within white Christianity.

We read One Body, One Spirit to learn the principles that drive a multiracial church.

We watched 13th on Netflix, helping us better understand the role of mass incarceration and its impact on African Americans. We read Slavery by Another Name for similar reasons but by looking at the history between the Civil War and World War II.

We read Gracism to learn radical inclusion of the marginalized as Christians.

We found ways to financially support people of color and churches/non-profits/organizations who have been doing this work.

We worked to elevate marginalized voices and found ways to support their work.

CONSISTENTLY ACT

We are persistently engaging to counter racism and change our culture

We publicly confessed our sin and repented.

We engaged in strategic intercession with one another to identify strongholds of the enemy’s attacks.

We asked for empowerment of the Holy Spirit in our relationships to have the spiritual power to counter racism.

We went to those who we perceived to have power and used kingdom influence on them to turn them to Christ and the way of the Cross.

Our church makes advocacy and community engagement part of the life blood of its ongoing rhythms.

We hosted programs of reconciliation regarding race, policing, education and economic inequities in our community, providing a place of peace and hope for our community, and a place for people outside to listen and learn.

We contacted our US representatives or members of parliament to advocate for those experiencing injustice or to specifically support legislation.

We held a prayer vigil for our community in partnership with other churches unlike our own.

We mentor young persons from a community of color who need our compassion and support (without thinking we have all the answers, nor that we are a “savior” to these people desiring mentors, and ensuring we are partnering with the wisdom of the adults in the community in this effort).

We hosted a livestream talk right after a violent incident to coach people in how to process and think about it, and what next steps could be taken.

We partnered with local officials and worked on policies and laws to increase accountability in the criminal justice system.

We learned that whether we consider ourselves to be activists or not, we needed to be willing to be white faces in a protesting crowd because it’s often obvious what’s just and worthy to stand up for but it’s not always easy to stand there with those who are hurting.

We heard people challenging us during protests to “fight between the murders.” They helped us learn that these events are the punctuation marks, the doorways for people to be reminded. But the real work is between these critical nationally televised events.

We learned that if we don’t have a relationship before the crises and after, then we’re not making a difference. We have to be in it for the long haul. Otherwise, it just causes more cynicism of tokenism from the Black Church. We might feel excited in the moment, but they are thinking, “OK, how long is this gonna last?”

We found ways to help Minneapolis churches through the One Fund, which exists to support the work of local churches and ministries who, because of historic inequities, are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

We coordinated a sign-on statement of more than 100 other pastors in our state.

We joined peaceful protests and marches in the community where our churches are located.

We joined peaceful protests and marches in our national capital.

We met with staff members of elected representatives to talk through the issues and legislative options.

We met directly in scheduled meetings with elected officials in our state, province and capitals.

We signed on to national statements and calls for action.

We publicly endorsed legislation aimed at injustice.

We preached about these matters and on injustice in general repeatedly to keep it in front of our congregations (not reactive).

We met with advocacy organizations to find out how we could support their efforts.

We gave money to advocacy organizations that have few resources to help continue their work.

We partnered with another church to sponsor and help resettle refugees.

We offered housing to those in need that were unlike us.

We volunteered as organizers at protests and attended them helping to ensure things remain focused on being a voice on the issues and helping to keep the peace.

We invite non-white guests into the pulpit regularly and tell them they can speak on whatever they want since they’re not here to “give the diversity sermon.” We told them we will have their back if they want to speak on issues of race but that they don’t have to bear the burden, as we address it other times.

We have used our position to elevate the voices of persons of color.

We have used our influence to ensure nomination slates are diverse.

We have worked to ensure the final interview pool for positions is diverse for boards and employee hires.

We have declined to speak at events where no people of color are already booked and offered names of persons of color to call and book instead of us.

We have become foster parents in our community, offering a place of love, acceptance and guidance to minors who need a home.

We have adopted children in need of adoptive parents.

We have researched to see if people are already organizing in our community, so we could join their efforts rather than starting something on our own.

We have scheduled meetings with law enforcement to ask for clarification and communication on their policies to show them we are paying attention and also to ask them if they need help advocating for change.

We have renounced political tribalism, as they influence us to begin demonizing the other.

We have researched whether our local police department outfits all on-duty police officers with a body-worn camera and requires that the body-worn camera be turned on immediately when officers respond to a police call.

We have authored opinion pieces for the local paper and co-authored the same kind of pieces with persons of color for blogs and articles online.

We have integrated issues of racial justice in our regular disciple-making process, onboarding all new board members and team leaders by sending them to an anti-racism training.

Our board voted to start an anti-racism committee to address structural racism in the church.

We have prayed during a nonviolent protest that included a silent march.

We have worked as part of a safety team standing between the protesters and police.

We have stopped purchasing from companies that use prison labor for their goods and let those companies know it.

We have explained to those that believe Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a violent/terrorist group that there are fringe groups being misrepresented as part of BLM, and over eighty different groups use the name to identify themselves. If conservative Christians don’t want to be lumped in with the KKK, they can’t lump violent protesters in with all those who make the claim that black lives matter.

We have worked to educate new church members on our culture of inclusion and reconciliation.

What are you doing about racism?