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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
Last week’s Implicit Bias Workshop on October 9, 2015 in Meadville, Pennsylvania was a success with a full house. The workshop was sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania United Methodist Conference’s Anti-Racism Team (ART). Many at the workshop learned about subconscious racial bias, and ways of being more aware of racist attitudes and behaviors in encounters and relationships with people of color. The hope is is that personal revelations translate into more awareness about institutional racism.
Both presenters–Dr. David Harris, a professor in the School of Law and Dr. Edward Orehek, a professor in the Department of Psychology both at the University of Pittsburgh–suggested taking Harvard’s Implicit Attitude Test. The racial bias tests are Race (Black-White), Asian American, Skin-tone (Light Skin-Dark Skin), and Native American (Native-White American). A test takes about 15 minutes, and is one step towards becoming more self-aware of one’s racial bias.
Another opportunity to attend the next Implicit Bias Workshop is coming soon. Email Bob Wilson, a member of the Anti-Racism Team at email@example.com to be added on the email list and to learn more.
“Straight Outta of Compton,” is a quintessential story of the American dream. It’s an ironic dream because that is isn’t always the narrative of young African American men in America. The film traces the real-life story of a rap group who succeeded in the music industry and life.
My hope and prayer is that many see the film “Straight Outta of Compton,” keeping in mind the harsh language in the film is part of the reality of the young African American men including Easy E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Their language reflects their circumstances living in an impoverished violent place, and is part a response to a long history of racism here in the US. Rapping is a form of protest literature in the African American community going back to the 18th and 19th centuries including Phyllis Wheatley; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper; and Frederick Douglass.
The film tells us much about the on-going violence towards African American men, the historical context, and the contemporary parallels. The story begins in 1988.
The film reflects our reality whether 1788, 1988, 1998, 2008, or 2015. When I was living in Los Angeles during the early 21st century, much hadn’t changed for African Americans living in segregated and impoverished neighborhoods like Watts, Compton, and Inglewood. I arrived in Los Angeles, post-Rodney King and post-Los Angles Riots. Tensions still existed between the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and local African Americans and Latinos, particularly the boys and young men. I’d witnessed numerous incidences in which police targeted, stopped and harassed young men of color. Though I no longer live in Los Angeles, I would guess little has changed for young Latinos and African American men being racially profiled. I can still visualize hands laced behind heads . . . a line of boys forcibly seated on the curb.
The filmmakers highlighted some historical context. White police officers were videotaped beating Rodney King; the officers were acquitted. African Americans responded with violence, what is known as the Los Angeles Riots, a direct response to the acquittal and a long history of problematic relationships between the LAPD and black communities.
I would argue much has not changed in the last 15 years as we live-out the terrible racial divide manifested in the violence and protest in Ferguson, Baltimore, other cities in the last few years.
As an African American woman who has experienced racism, and worse heard stories from African American men in my life who have experienced racism at work and the streets, “Straight Outta of Compton” spoke to me personally. I hope if you see the film, it will speak to you. I hope open dialogue will be a small way towards healing the racial divide in our churches, workplace, and the nation.
Rev. Sung Shik Chung is a Pastor at Otterbein United Methodist Church in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. On August, 11, 2015, I spent time with Rev. Chung including touring the beautiful church building. I also had the opportunity to interview Rev. Chung in his office.
How did God call you to ministry?
My dad is a retired pastor so he’s had some influence on me. I am the youngest of three boys and the other two are also pastors.
The first time I accepted Christ, I was 13 years old. In high school, I was thinking about the future and gave a consideration to becoming a pastor. During that time, I saw so much hardship for pastors in Korea so I didn’t want to do it.
In college, when I turned 20, I lost my best friend. Before he died, he said if he got better he wanted to be a pastor. I promised if he did not make it, I would do it. And that’s how I got the call to ministry. Though being a pastor was not on my list, my friend’s death brought me to ministry.
How did you end up in the United States?
I came here as a student. I went to St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri.
It wasn’t hard for me. It was different. I was a little nervous but excited though.
What was the transition like from Korea to the US?
At first it was chaotic. I had to learn a new language—English. The culture was different. Studying theology and learning a new language at the same time wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. I was single and living in the seminary. There were a few Koreans but many African-Americans. So I had a little experience of diversity in Kansas City.
When did you come to the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church (WPAUMC)? How did you get here?
I came to the conference in 2001. I was going through the ordination process in Kansas East Conference. They said no because my English was not enough. Later, I came to the WPAUMC through Bishop Hae Jong Kim.
So you are in the conference and it is your 15th year. Looking back, share a story that has really stuck with you.
It’s a simple story. In my first appointment fourteen years ago, I was an associate pastor in a rural town. When I called some church members they just hung up. It was because I had a different accent. One member thought it was a sales call.
So currently you are Otterbein United Methodist Church. How has your family transitioned into the church? How are they involved in the life of the church?
The transition went well and has been a blessing to us. The congregation has some experience with diversity compared to rural areas. So it has been easier for all of us. They are very active in church ministries. All of them use their gifts in music ministry.
As an ethnic pastor in a conference and churches that are not very diverse, what advice would you have for other ethnic clergy?
Learn and be adaptive to the culture of the appointment or church. Be authentic and not afraid to share one’s culture. There’s good stuff in Korean culture, and I want to share it with them.
The Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church has rolled out two new positions, including my own, which focuses on diversity. Read more . . .
I will “work with the Rev. William B. Meekins, Jr., the Bishop’s assistant, on issue related to racial diversity, multicultural and ethnic local church concerns. The work will include identifying and cultivating congregations with a potential for cross-racial appointments, developing support groups and working with churches and clergy in cross-racial or ethnic appointments.”
My positon will be part of a broader initiative of goal setting and implementation that includes diversity.