on Race Relations
RELIGION/SPIRITUALITY CLUSTER MISSION:
Rev. Earl Abel
RECOMMENDATION. We recommend the creation of a metropolitan Council of Congregations to End Racism.
REASON. Racism here cannot be ended by working simply within the confines of Kansas City, MO. Racism cannot be ended simply by statements by judicatories but must become a project owned by each congregation. Ending racism requires spiritual communities to assist one another in envisioning and working for a society that values each person as a child of the universe within the moral vision for which religions institutions are especially responsible. At present, there is no area organization of religious bodies to facilitate such communication and joint efforts. Racism will not be ended overnight; a long-term organizational strategy is needed.
PROCEDURE FOR ORGANIZING THE COUNCIL. We recommend that Mayor Cleaver request an area foundation to provide sufficient resources for one year (office, secretarial support, printing, postage, and a project director), after which the Council would be responsible for its own funding. The foundation should select a person, perhaps a retired executive with a nonsectarian vision or a teacher with experience working on racial and ethnic issues in the religious community, to direct the creation of the Council in the following steps: (1) consult judicatories and major congregations to acquaint them with the project and obtain their endorsement and cooperation, (2) using personal contact, build an advisory committee to guide the process and consider initial governance questions, (3) again, maximizing personal contact, assemble at least one representative from every congregation in the metro area to begin work on the mission of Council.
THE MISSION OF THE COUNCIL.
1. The primary mission of the Council is to articulate an interfaith theology which makes clear that our ultimate commitment includes ending all forms of oppression, and create and continually update a spiritual vision of love and justice for all people in the metro area. Building on the Harmony Religion Task Force Covenant and existing denominational statements, the Council’s vision should challenge the lack of urgency our society has given to ending prejudice and oppression, be frank about the nature of sin, separation, and illusion, indicate how interwoven racism and ethnic discrimination are with economic and other oppressions, eschew premature reconciliation, and guide the community toward the commitment and joy of spiritual kinship.
THE WORK OF THE COUNCIL.
In fulfilling this mission, the Council would work ways such as the following:
2. Be a model of people networking across state, racial, ethnic, and religious lines, communicating and working together to make the vision a reality. Council would help congregations know about what other congregations are doing—their problems, resources, and outcomes—through a newsletter, cable-programming (perhaps with Ecumedia), and other means.
3. Uplift the vision and recognize those working to make it a reality in small ways and in a major yearly celebration, such as making the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday significant for all people at Kauffman Stadium, or creating a spiritually explicit K.C. SpiritFest recognizing the possibilities for matured reconciliation and healing.
4. Cooperate with efforts like the annual Harmony concert and encourage other such efforts.
5. Facilitate congregational pairing, pulpit exchanges, joint work projects, area ministerial groups, and other efforts to achieve the vision.
6. Facilitate the formation of interfaith and interracial congregational partnerships for the purpose of improving the lives of our city’s children and bringing racial harmony. Initially the many such partnerships can be formed between pairs of faith communities for the simple reason that pairs of congregations can join forces more coherently and effectively than a large number of congregations working together for the same objectives. We recommend that, to the extent possible, faith groups of different ethnic communities should be paired; for example, an urban black church and a suburban white church can form one such partnership. The purpose of these partnerships is not only dialogue but also bringing together resources for common community services, such as adopting elementary schools, establishing relationships with inner-city youth groups and neighborhoods, helping community centers to provide specific services, assisting youth agencies, economic development and such.
7. Work with other organizations to provide trainers and educational resources to encourage recognition of diversity and skills for inclusion.
8. Encourage congregations to undertake institutional racism audits including an examination of inclusiveness in the language of worship and other ways the expression of our faiths can be enlarged and enriched.
9. Organize a youth mentoring program to break down barriers, promote understanding, and build relationships.
10. Explore the multiplicity of images of the Sacred. Religions with specific seasonal observances could develop a contest for cards that celebrate a diversity of expressions. Art exhibits (perhaps at the Nelson and the Kemper) could display sacred images of various cultures and traditions.
11. Establish opportunities for cross-cultural experiences to address issues of racism (identification of the pain, confession of responsibility, preparation for diversity activism).
12. Support minority businesses by encouraging individuals and institutions to trade with them. The Council can assist religious organizations throughout the metro area to gain wide community support. This will help by building confidence communities, creating jobs, and reducing street crime.
13. Encourage the various spiritual communities to organize interfaith discourses because we in the various spiritual communities can understand racial issues better by understanding each other’s traditions better. The Council can cooperate with groups like the National Conference (NCCJ), the Kansas City Inter-Faith Council (which is now updating its Speakers Bureau), the Christian Jewish Muslim Dialogue Group, and the World Faiths Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES).
14. Provide interfaith and intercultural leadership development immersions, held at the University of Diversity Retreat Center at the 40 Acres and a Mule Campus. The highly structured multi-day events, requiring residence at the Center, will bring a diverse group of 40 youths and adults into critical dialogue and learning experience with one another. Local and national resource persons (such as the Rev Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church) will facilitate these immersions, along with the staff developed by the Council of Congregations.
“Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” - Amos 5:23 - 24
“Anyone who starts out with the conviction that the road to racial justice is only one lane wide will inevitably create a traffic jam and make the journey infinitely longer.” - Martin Luther King Jr:
“Like a virus it's hard to beat racism, because by the time you come up with a cure, it's mutated to a ‘new cure-resistant‘ form. One shot just won't get it . Racism must be attacked from many angles.” - J. Yamato
Special thanks to Botello and Associates for many hours of data analysis, Peggy Waldon at KCPD for support staff and Maria ‘Stacey’ Stapleton at Temple B'nai Jehudah for typing the final draft.