Do White Christians Care Enough About Racial Justice to Make it an American Reality?
Source: On Faith
By Elizabeth Evans
“The extinction of race consciousness is one of the most outstanding moral achievements of Islam.” -Arnold Toynbee
Successful movements for women’s ordination and gay ministers have swept through Protestant churches, but the movement toward racial reconciliation is mixed, at best.
This past July, Episcopalians from all over the country gathered in Philadelphia to commemorate a groundbreaking event: the 1974 ordination of 11 women who defied church tradition and canon law to become priests. Forty years later, it’s hard to imagine the denomination without women priests. There were celebratory speeches, of course, but what I took away from the day were thewords of the African-American panelist, elder stateswoman, and prominent local Episcopalian Nokomis Wood: “The Episcopal Church was just beginning to talk about racial equity and racial justice. The conversation about women’s ordination just allowed [the church] to put it back further.”
I caught up with Wood at lunch, and asked her to amplify what she meant. She told me that the issue of women’s ordination had “derailed” the denomination’s nascent conversation about race. While there continued to be “parallel” dialogues, the challenge of racial injustice took a back seat to other social issues. And so it remains. What happened to the passion of the 1960s? What happened to the multiracial coalitions that fueled, often in the face of tremendous violence, the quest for racial justice for the descendants of slaves? Where are the prophetic faith community leaders advocating for biblically-based justice and structural social change? Who today is standing against persistent racism among many in Caucasian enclaves? Why is Sunday morning still, almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act became law, the “most segregated hour in Christian America”?