In an exceptional show of solidarity, theologians and spiritual leaders of the United Church of Christ’s seven seminaries and their colleagues are uniting as signatories on this call to action, denouncing “the profound moral evil of white supremacy” and urging all Christians to make concrete change to end the benefit of white privilege.
As theological educators related to the United Church of Christ, we are united in the declaration that we reject white supremacy as a profound moral evil. White supremacy is an offense to God who created all human beings in God’s image.
As teachers of current and future clergy, we recognize the sacred responsibility we have to create space for holy listening, engagement, and instruction while also holding firmly to the fundamental dignity and equality of every human person. We call on our alumni/ae, faculty, staff and friends to stand with us in affirming, through our teaching, preaching, and public witness, a testimony to the beauty and intrinsic value of every person. We strongly reject the sinful advocacy for and ideology of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. These do violence to God’s will for the whole human family, deny the ministry and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and threaten the common good.
The urgency of our times has us reflecting on the challenging words of Rev. Traci Blackmon, “Our nation is in a moral and political crisis.” As people of faith we humbly, and yet with conviction, offer the following statement:
As a denomination that embodies an ecumenical witness and interreligious engagement, the United Church of Christ joins the human freedom movement that has prophetically led the public witness in our nation’s history against all forms of white supremacist domination. This movement has worked on many intersecting fronts through our nation’s history – abolition, indigenous rights, women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQI rights, and now takes shape in the vision of Black Lives Matter. In our hearing, the call of Black Lives Matter is at once a confession of our nation’s sin of racism — still entrenched in vicious disparities in all our systems of economy, healthcare, education, and criminal justice — and an affirmation of faith in what we see as the yet unrealized potential of this nation, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “to live out the true meaning of its creed.” In the contemporary call of Black Lives Matter we hear lament and hope, and these truths summon and ground us anew to be about the work of freedom, represented by our liberating God.
Currently we name and decry efforts to demonize and criminalize Black Lives Matter as a part of the historic strategies of white supremacy, and we commit to listen to and engage with Black Lives Matter leaders who are prodding our nation’s conscience to face the deadly forces of racism and white supremacy at work in our society, communities, churches, and lives. We commit to doing what we can to marshal the resources of our faith, religious institutions, and tradition to further their cause of racial justice through loving engagement.
We commit to this work in solidarity with and on behalf of people of color, Jewish people, Muslim people, immigrant people, LGBTQI people and all who are made vulnerable by the rhetoric and actions within the current political climate. As people who follow Jesus, we join our bodies, voices, and spirits with those who demand justice for the oppressed and transformation for our society. As people who follow Jesus, we do this — as many have before — knowing the cost and trusting in God.
The United Church of Christ has been a Just Peace Church for more than 30 years. We recognize that the practice of confession, repentance and change, one of its peace and justice practices, is especially relevant to this urgent call for the whole nation to confront and reject white supremacy.
As representatives of the institutions of theological education, we must acknowledge that we have corporately benefited from the economic, social, political and yes, religious advantages conferred by America’s “Anglo-Saxon” myth of white superiority, as Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School at Union has pointed out.  We recognize that this is unearned privilege, bought through the exploitation of others, and work to do the necessary work of change to divest of these privileges in our institutional life and teaching.
We call on all institutions that have also benefited from white privilege, and they are the majority in this nation, but especially those who claim the name of Christian, to confess their own complicity in the national history of racism, repent of this, and make concrete change.
It is our conviction that this nation is worth saving and is imperiled by the vile actions of those who will deny others their right to be free citizens. Sound confessional examination of our nation’s history is not only prophetic, it is patriotic. The public square in which we all find our identity and express our humanity is sacred and must be protected and must remain free of spectacles of violence, especially the violence of racism, xenophobia and bigotry.
What we saw on display in Charlottesville, Va. on August 11 and 12, 2017 was a hatred unworthy of our nation and an assault on the sanctity of our common life. The challenge for theological educators who form citizens for the public and religious life is to persistently question how the idea of nation—which belongs to us all, can be used as a weapon to divide and fragment the people of God and our fellow citizens of goodwill. While our nation is by no means perfect, it is our conviction that it can be a great power for good in the world. That also means that it can be a powerful force for inflicting harm and suffering. We choose to fight for the former.
As theological educators we know well the history of religion being brought to the service of evil. We are also well acquainted with the calls to leave the public life to the forces of politics and culture. It is this knowledge and these memories which, as with our ancestors, bring us into the public square to bear witness to the power of religion to make this a better nation in which all God’s children might flourish. As did the abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, and the LGBTQ Movement or indeed any movement on behalf of those fragmented and displaced in the nation, before us we bring our religion to the public square not as power of coercion and death, but rather as a power of hope. Knowing the power of education to create new imaginations in which good is more powerful than evil and in which our society is broader and not smaller, we dedicate ourselves to the work of saving this nation in these dark hours. This is not a work we do alone but with all people of goodwill who believe this nation can have a place for us all.