Theological Declaration on Christian Faith and White Supremacy

Inspired by the Barmen Declaration, the Theological Declaration on Christian Faith and White Supremacy represents an unprecedented gathering of Christian faith leaders from across the United States calling for a return to the liberating work of the Gospel and a rejection of racism and colonization.

CALL TO ACTION

In response to these truths and in rejection of these false doctrines, we implore people of Christian faith to match confession with repentance. Let us find new ways to be together in the world. We offer four actions we might take toward the healing of our nation:

 

1). Listen. We call the church to experience a season of listening to the voices of those who have been oppressed by a Christianity exhibiting white supremacy. Attentive listening is active and vulnerable. Listening to the voices of people with a different experience of Christianity than you may involve the risk of embarrassment and feelings of guilt or shame. If there must be questions, they should only be clarifying questions, never a response nor a defense, nor a preemptive apology. Such actions exhibit non-acceptance and perhaps even unfair judgment. Listening involves hearing others' stories and accepting them as their own experience and story, without qualification. Some suggestions for listening include: inviting such speakers to your church and other meetings; becoming exposed to related movies, documentaries, books, blogs, etc.; starting Talking Circles and orchestrating local, regional, and national listening conferences.

 

2). Lament. We call the church to action through deep lament. Our scriptures regularly speak  of the danger of insincerity and social spectacle in lament. What we are talking about here is coming alongside oppressed and marginalized communities and understanding that lament is already deeply embedded within these traditions, often as a direct result of the colonizing impulse. In the koinonia of God, we often talk about redistribution of physical and financial resources without recognizing the need for a radical redistribution of pain. One can neither grieve nor lament from distance — proximity is required, the kind of radical proximity practiced by Jesus. Our salvation is bound up in one another. Singing songs of joy while others hang up their harps is malpractice of our shared faith.

The Lord’s Prayer closes with “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is heaven." We agree that our aspiration seeks a community where all of our humanity is realized. In our determination to confront and reject white supremacy, we are also seeking a kingdom that relieves our lament and provides the shalom, paz, and hope that will allow all to flourish. Our lament is attached to the consistent atrocities that we experience and the frustration that is attached — a longing for something we have yet to experience — the Kin-dom of God!

 

3). Repent. We call the church to respond to the truth of this theological declaration, the insights gained through authentic lament, and the mutual commitment gained through listening by taking common action toward a just church and a just world:

  • We call on people of Christian faith to repent of the ways that authorities other than Jesus have shaped where we live, where we send our children to school, with whom we worship, and who we value when we vote.

  • We call on the white church to repent of the biased normalization of European-based worldviews, cultural norms, social networks, and philosophical authorities as manifest in our theology, social structures, politics, and economic hierarchies.

  • We call on people of Christian faith to repent of any and all compliance with the logics of dominance and colonization through the active centering of voices, worldviews, strategies, and leadership of people groups previously pushed to the margins by the logics of colonization. We also call on the church to actively train parishioners to identify and champion governing policies that affirm, protect, and cultivate the image of God in all.

  • We call on people of Christian faith to repent of our apathy, complicity, and (at times) cooperation with the exploitation, subjugation, disenfranchisement, or purging of other human beings in our society. Likewise, we repent of the exploitation of the rest of God’s creation and call people of faith to work, purchase, and vote toward the flourishing of all God’s creation.

 

4). Re-imagine. We call the church to a journey of reimagination. A journey of discovering a new paradigm for itself outside of human hierarchy, division, and status quo. Through listening, deep lament, and authentic repentance, we will discover the depths at which the toxic spirit of colonization has polluted our deeply embedded understandings of history, the church, and the ways in which we understand, interpret, and follow Jesus.

Scripture often speaks of God using visions and dreams to show humans how to relate to God and to one another. To find new ways forward to live into the paz, shalom, Beloved Community of God will require new thoughts and new dreams — where the visions of the faithful traditions of those long marginalized are brought forth, recasting the Eurocentric models that have long prevailed in the history of the church.

We must find new ways of relating to one another that are in no way predicated on dominance and subjugation but are rooted in equity and mutuality. The construct of whiteness condemns oppressed and oppressor alike. To radically envision true freedom in Christ — as for one, for all — will require courage, creativity, and faith that another world is possible. We commit ourselves anew to the God of all possibilities who empowers us to live boldly, love inclusively, and serve creatively — together.

Reimagining means we will embrace God’s passion for diversity in every aspect of life. As demographic changes continue to occur in our work, schools, jobs, neighborhoods, and churches, we will not bow to fear. Instead we will relish the opportunity to both learn from people with backgrounds different from our own and to cultivate cultures of welcome in our workplaces, houses of worship, homes, and lives. As we learn to embrace the differences, we also affirm the image of God in the other as equal to ourselves and equally called to protect, serve, and cultivate the world.

Rejecting extreme individualism within the church, we also will reimagine ourselves and others as vital members in the Beloved Community and all of its expressions. We observe in God’s creation two related truths: 1) There is unity in diversity 2) There is nothing singular in the whole universe/multiverse. Human beings, like all God’s diverse creation, are designed to live and love together. Community means more than individuals experiencing a regular meeting at the same place. Reimagining church means finding ways to enrich the relationships between people — especially people who are different from one another. These relationships may be encouraged both through programmed activities and by making room in our times and budgets for impromptu discovery of each other. We can no longer afford to understand the body of Christ as disjointed members in the same proximity. Meaningful relationships are the ligaments that bind the body together to become one.

Finally, we call the church to reimagine itself not as isolated islands or bunkered fortresses in the world, but rather as integral contributors to the vitality of our communities and society. We recognize that the church will necessarily express its mission in many non-traditional forms as it chooses to no longer live in a “Christian bubble.” We will acknowledge that God lives and moves and is at work inside and outside of the church doors. Rather than bringing God to our neighborhoods, we will reimagine ourselves stepping into the public square to join the work God is already doing there in and through people we have never met, many of whom do not necessarily share our beliefs. Not allowing beliefs to supersede actionable love, we will show love to those with whom we practically can without the pressure  of conversion — attempting to find common values and valuing our common humanity above the replication of the self.
 

To all these things we commit our imaginations, our time, and our resources.