Conference Expands Racial Justice Efforts

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, and witness yet another officer-involved shooting with the death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, we are ever mindful that the hard work of seeking racial justice and embodying that commitment in our own life as a Conference is far from complete.

The work of racial justice requires intentional, daily focus. It insists on partnerships and collaborations. And it means each of us and each of our congregations play a role.

Over the last year, the Conference has sought to deepen our commitment to racial justice ministry. While the forms of that ministry continue to unfold, and lessons are constantly being learned, here are some of the ways the Conference is engaging in anti-racism work.

Reparations
At our 2019 Annual Meeting, delegates approved a resolution calling for the Conference to do reparative work to address the historic harms done to persons of color inside. This included the establishment of a reparations fund and a commitment to making financial reparations year to year. Thus far the Conference has distributed $10,000 in reparations gifts to four different organizations in the state of Minnesota serving and/or led by persons and communities of color.

Amos Task Force
Two weeks after George Floyd was murdered at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, the Board of Directors approved the establishment of the Amos Task Force to help develop a short-term and long-term strategy for the Conference to address and repair historic and present-day racial injustice in Minnesota. The Task Force has initiated several of the programs and resources that follow.

Resources for Congregations
The task force compiled anti-racism resources for our congregations. View the resources.

Support for Minnesota Council of Church’s (MCC) Truth Telling and Reparations Initiative
In February, the Minnesota Conference Board approved a $25,000 gift to support MCC’s ambitious, 10-year initiative, the first of its kind in the nation. It is focused on addressing the historic harm done to African American and Native American communities in Minnesota. We see this gift as an act of reparations on our part and a demonstration of the commitment we made when the Conference passed its 2019 Resolution.

The Racial Healing Handbook Discussions
Clergy and lay people alike took part in a four-part discussion of The Racial Healing Handbook by Annelise Singh, facilitated by members of the Amos Task Force. We hope to have additional book readings in the coming year.

Anti-Racism Training for Authorized Ministers
The Committee on Ministry introduced a new requirement, effective immediately, for all authorized ministers in the Conference focused on diversity and anti-racism training. Authorized ministers must complete some form of anti-racism training every two years in order to maintain standing. This provides a way of ensuring that new awareness and practice will permeate the Conference across the system by more intentionally engaging our pastoral leaders in this learning and discussion. The Damascus Project will offer such resources, among other eligible trainings.

Collaboration with United Theological Seminary
The Amos Task Force of the MN Conference co-hosted, in partnership with United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and the Minnesota Council of Churches, a conversation on the topic of “Seeking Justice, Caring for Community: Preparing for the Days Ahead.” Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ, joined Rev. Steven Belton, President and CEO of the Urban League (Twin Cities), and Rev. Dr. Gary Green II, assistant professor of pastoral theology and social transformation at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Listen to the conversation.

Justice Talk to Justice Walk Webinars
Five discussions with national leaders built our awareness and strengthened our resolve for anti-racism work in the first weeks and months after George Floyd’s death. Videos of all five conversations are available here.

40-Day Lenten Anti-Racism Practice
More than 200 people from churches across the Conference participated in The Damascus Project’s anti-racism Lenten practice. The successful pilot will inform future possibilities.

Vigil Service of Remembrance for George Floyd: Sunday, May 23, 7 pm
The Minnesota Conference will host an online vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. We will take time to pray for racial justice, more just policing, and for hope for a more just future. Hosted by the Amos Task Force, the vigil will feature local and diverse speakers and artists. More details and a registration link will be provided in future COMMAntary issues.

Financial Investment
The Board of Directors determined that 10% of the allocation available to us from the Pilgrim Point Legacy Fund in the 2022 fiscal year will be designated for the Conference’s racial justice work. In addition to staff time devoted to supporting all the work listed above, the Conference is investing significant resources in this important and faithful work.

Showing Up, Speaking Up
Conference staff, pastoral leaders, and lay members from across the Conference have consistently shown up to advocate for change and participate in a growing movement calling for greater racial equity, justice, and truth-telling in Minnesota. We are striving to be good allies for communities of color and organizations serving them, knowing that relationship-building is essential to this work. When asked to speak, we speak; at other times we offer silent solidarity and presence to others who are leading and sharing their stories.

Looking to the Future
Anti-racism work is woven throughout the Conference’s new strategic plan, reflecting our deep commitment—long-term—to this ministry of justice, truth-telling, repair, and healing to which God calls us.

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2021