Dianne Glave: Ministry & Church

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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

marilyn_thorntonThe 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.

 

Fijian United Methodist Women

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

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Lowell Lecture

Dianne Glave, The Black Church Never Left the Outdoors: Eco-Justice and Environmentalism

imageLast 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 a49always@gmail.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 WheatleyFrances 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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