Just published . . . An essay titled “Eco-Theology in the African Diaspora” The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Religion and Ecology. My essay focuses on creation care from African and African American perspectives.
Many thought that when Barack Obama was elected president, we were in a bright, shiny, and new post-racial period. Some thought racism had been dismantled, and there was no need to even talk about racism.
The year is 2017 and racism is more virulent than ever. In reality, the strides made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s have been reversed with an escalation of hate crimes against people of color.
As a way of contributing to the hard conversations about dismantling racism with escalating rhetoric and violence, I authored United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Religion and Race’s Vital Conversations on Race, Culture, and Justice, Series 1. Much work needs to be done to create communities and conversations where God’s vision of justice and equality prevails. Organize a small group at your church or in your organization around this study that includes videos, questions, and prayer.
Hard copies are available for order here.
A group from the Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) of the United Methodist Church met together from September 15-16 in 2016. Though the topic of diversity development and inclusion is a difficult one, we had a lively and joyful time and discussion. We began with meditation, focusing in part on the call as Christians to dismantle racism echoing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We cannot be satisfied so long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
The meeting was facilitated by Dianne Glave–Coordinator of Diversity Development and William B. Meekins, Jr.–Assistant to the Bishop, both pastors in the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. The guest facilitator was David Esterline, president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Much was shared including:
- Developing a covenant or norms as a group
- Role playing from different perspectives about racism
- Recommending resources like the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race facilitating conversations for a group as large as 600 people
- Launching a diversity officer position in the UMC in a jurisdiction
Learn more about dismantling racism and developing cultural competencies in diversity development and inclusion for your churches through the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church’s Office of Diversity Development and Inclusion.
In the way I’m feeling it now. Yes, I experienced death working as an intern and resident chaplain at Emory Healthcare. Yes, I’ve walked others through death by officiating numerous funerals. And yes, many uncles, an aunt, and my grandmother have died over the years. I’ve felt those deaths but differently.
You see my mother died (no limp euphemism of passing away that makes death sound like an ocean cruise!) last week.
It’s only now though in the quiet time, the remains of the day that I drift into mourning: no high speed texts are being exchanged about her decline and death . . . no funeral arrangements left to be made . . . no lasagne to be prepared and baked for the many visitors . . . no shopping for paper plates . . . no memorial to attend . . . no dinner gathering filled with the laughter of loved ones after the memorial. Many left after the service, returning to their lives as it should be. Life has a way like a stream of irrevocably moving forward.
Many good family and friends stay in touch by phone and email with a few trickling in to visit. Yet if I were surrounded by thousands at a stadium, I would still feel the sting, the the grief for my mother’s death who was on the long terrible march of Alzheimer’s for eleven years. No, no, she’s not coming back.
And I am forced to sit still in my grief, my mourning. I have to do what I’ve told countless people as they sat by the bedside of dying loved one or in pain at a funeral: live into your grief and don’t avoid it as it will seep out anyway in inappropriate ways. Am I able to take my advice? Time will tell.
For now, I remember my mother’s last moments as I sat by her side. I didn’t even realize she pushed out her last breath at 11:50a on Monday, August 22, 2016. The hospice nurse alerted me when she jumped up saying, “I think she is gone.” Yes, mom is gone.
I am reminded of how I’ve supported others in their grieving avoiding platitudes like there is another angel in heaven. This is not a salve for the living in the midst of the rawness of death. Yet my prayer is that even though I did my best to support others before my mother’s death that I can now relate in another way more deeply with those grieving.
For now, I will rest in my truth that my mom was my super hero.
What comes next? I’m still with my dad for the moment in our shared grief. I will listen.
Reverend Ed Schoeneck understands the urgency of whites growing their cultural competencies in response to racism including white privilege and implicit bias. He is the pastor at Monroeville United Methodist Church in Western Pennsylvania.
On Sunday, July 17, 2016, he urged the predominantly white congregation to begin or continue their journey in dismantling racism in the United Methodist Church and their own neighborhoods in two ways: welcoming the new African American bishop, and taking some personal steps in learning more about racism.
Pastor Schoeneck had much to share with the congregation. He announced that recently, Rev. Cynthia Moore KoiKoi was appointed as the first African American woman to be bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. He encouraged the congregation to pray for and welcome her.
Pastor Schoeneck gave Monroeville United Methodist Church concrete and simple ways to begin developing cultural competencies in response to racism:
Monroeville United Methodist Church 7/17/16 Bulletin
To learn about more ways to continue developing cultural competencies for your church, contact Dianne Glave, Coordinator of the Office of Diversity Development and Inclusion in the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church at email@example.com.
With recent and mounting racial tensions with Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers killed by African American snipers and two African American men killed by white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota the hard work in cultural competencies remain timely, as we continue the work locally including our churches.
In a few weeks, I will be ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church, and there is a connection to Aldersgate Day which falls on May 24 this year. We will remember the day in worship on Sunday, May 22, 2016.
Part of my long spiritual journey through time was a trip through place to the UK, which included a stop at Aldersgate in London in April 2016. Many visiting London may not see Aldersgate as a critical destination but United Methodists visit the location as part of a Methodist pilgrimage.
It was at Aldersgate in 1738, that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodism, experienced the Holy Spirit. Wesley described his transformation:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
During my brief time at Aldersgate, I reflected on how the Holy Spirit is central to my theology and experience.
Photos Dianne Glave
Video by Jeffrey A. Vanderhoff
Edited by William Jacka
Grace . . . Coventry Cathedral . . . A Stranger . . . Pizza . . . Love
In the City of Coventry, I hadn’t planned to be on the lookout for grace, for love. Yet I witnessed and experienced many manifestations of love: God’s love and the love humanity has for one another.
Coventry Cathedral is a place of forgiveness. I think one of the most profound ways to express love is through forgiveness expressed at the cathedral. In World War II, the Germans bombed the city destroying much of the cathedral. The remnant of the old cathedral remains with a second newer building added. The new building is a reminder that love and forgiveness is possible even when we are destructive symbolized by the remains of the old bombed cathedral.
I also experienced grace seated during the litany in the new cathedral. A man asked if he could sit next to me. The old Dianne would have looked around and said, “There are 40 other empty seats back there. Use one of them.” Instead, I said yes as I sat uncomfortably next to a strange man. Almost immediately, I began to think differently: he might be the sort who doesn’t like to sit alone in church. At the end of a brief litany, I was about to speak to him and he was gone. Rather than thinking I was so kind, I realize the man showed me grace sitting with me during a brief service sharing sacred time.
Later, some of us went to lunch in the Coventry City Center. We had more than enough, sharing our food. Towards the end of the meal I bought a pizza, which I offered to my traveling companions. As we were leaving, a man with a long scar down his face came to our table assuring us he was not a drug addict but needed help. A member of the group was about to grab the last slice but instead offered it to the stranger. He gladly took it. Grace . . . Love.
“The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation” that we read responsively draws from scripture bringing together the various strands of the day: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgive you.” That’s grace. That’s love.
Photos by Dianne Glave
Over the last week or so, social media has been ablaze over Wendy Bell’s comments on Facebook. WTAE-TV fired Ms. Bell because the television station concluded she described African Americans in stereotypical ways on Facebook. Some deemed those comments racist. Others agreed with her description of African Americans.
Should WTAE have fired Wendy Bell? The answer is no and yes.
As the conversation continues to rage, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with a blog entitled “Firing Someone Doesn’t Change Much” by Rev. Erik Hoeke’s, pastor of Avery United Methodist Church in Washington, PA. He concluded that Ms. Bell should not have been fired because WTAE-TV’s actions eliminated an opportunity to educate Ms. Bell and others about racism. Again, I agree.
I also believe in grace, a doctrine of the United Methodist Church. Grace is love and forgiveness. Christ forgives us of our sins and in turn we are called to love and forgive those around us. Didn’t Ms. Bell deserve grace, an opportunity to learn from her mistake, having made racist comments some of which stereotyped African Americans as promiscuous?
Conversely, there may have been grounds for Wendy Bell to be fired. Matthew 18:15-19 tells us to confront a church member who has done wrong. When confronted many times and unwilling to change, scripture tells us that a person must leave for the greater good.
Let’s creatively and loosely apply the scripture, a biblical template, to Wendy Bell and WTAE-TV. I’m guessing the television station applied some fundamental human resources protocol in firing Ms. Bell. They may have asked: Was Ms. Bell in a sustained pattern of bias while employed by WTAE-TV? Did she refuse to change her behavior and words when confronted? Was Ms. Bell offered diversity training, which she rejected? We may never know the answers to these questions. Yet if she was fired based on due process typical of human resources protocol, and did not change then she deserved to be let go.
Rev. Hoeke tells us we must continue conversations through anti-racism, inclusion, and implicit bias education:
Wendy Bell, like me, benefits from white privilege. Wendy Bell, like me, isn’t always conscious of the implicit biases and racist attitudes she has. Wendy Bell, like me, continually needs anti-racism or sensitivity training. My hope is that Bell takes advantage of this situation to grow and mature as an individual. (http://erikhoeke.blogspot.com/2016/03/firing-someone-doesnt-change-much.html)
If there is a willingness to be transformed, there is hope. As part of our own transformation, consider attending meetings or workshops in your area focusing on anti-racism, implicit bias, and inclusion. Here in Western Pennsylvania the Anti-Racism Team of the United Methodist Church is offering an Implicit Bias Workshop on May, 11, 2016. Join us.
The ethnic clergy in the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered together for a spiritual retreat. This second retreat from March 4-5, 2016 was a important opportunity for most of the United Methodist clergy of color to meet.
The retreat was led by Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton who is an elder in the United Methodist Church. She serves as the Campus Minister/Director of the Wesley Foundation at Fisk University and a Lead Editor of African American Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House.
At the retreat, Rev. Thornton led the group in moving worship. She also facilitated the retreat. Rev. Thornton began with the lament as many of the ethnic clergy face racism. We then moved to hope in Christ who calls the clergy to pastor others even in difficult circumstances.
The Fijian community at Point Marian United Methodist Church is a vital part of ministry in Western Pennsylvania. On Saturday, February 20, 2016, I met with the Fijian United Methodist Women (UMW) and their pastor Rev. Bev Roscoe for a morning of worship in which the Holy Spirit moved among us. A guitar was strumming and voices were raised to God. The day ended with lunch and conversation about outreach, diversity, and inclusion. The Fijian community including the women share their vibrancy and energy as they continue to connect with people inside and outside their church.
Remember those in Fiji impacted by Cyclone Winston in February 2016!
Photos courtesy of Dianne Glave