The Open and Affirming Coalition Condemns Racism

The Open and Affirming Coalition Condemns Racism

June 3, 2020

Dear Open and Affirming family:

The Leadership Team and staff of the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ have been saddened, angered, but unfortunately not shocked to witness, along with the rest of the country, the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, James Scurlock, and David McAtee. They are the latest in a long, long line of black folk—queer and straight, cis- and transgender—our parents, siblings, children, neighbors, and friends, God’s children murdered by the white supremacy that lies so close to the heart of our nation like a cancer. This comes in the midst of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, which has had disproportionate and deadly consequences for black, brown, and indigenous communities.

We live in a network of intersecting identities and overlapping oppressions. Dr. King said we are “tied in a seamless garment of destiny.” In this Pride month, we remember that the first public acts of rebellion for queer liberation, at Stonewall, the Black Cat, and the Compton Cafe, among others, were uprisings led by transgender and queer people of color against police violence. In this common spirit of rebellion, we recommit ourselves to rooting out systemic racism in our nation, our movement, our church, and our Coalition. We recommit, as well, to strengthening our relationships with allied organizations both within and alongside the United Church of Christ.

Hearing God’s call in Isaiah 58, we lift our voices—and encourage you to lift yours in your local contexts—to announce to our nation once more and more forcefully this, our original sin of racism in all its insidious, ever-changing forms. We support those marching in the streets across our country demanding justice and accountability. God bless your holy work! And we encourage you to use whatever privilege you are afforded in your multiple spaces to amplify the voices, reinforce the leadership, and fund the work of people of color in your local area who are at the forefront of creating justice for their communities; justice that will benefit everyone.

If you are looking for ways to engage in this struggle, we encourage you to seek out groups in your area who are organized around these and similar issues: reducing incarceration, eliminating cash bail, and restoring rights to those who have served their time for felony convictions; forming independent citizen review boards for local police departments, especially around the use of force; fighting for economic justice, living wages, and access to affordable health care for historically marginalized communities.

As a starting point for our own response as the Coalition, we invite you to:
• worship with us online this Sunday, June 7 at 6:30pm. We will share Rev. Otis Moss III’s timely sermon, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery,” echoed by Lisbeth Melendez Rivera’s reflection on our Pentecost call to end racism. Register using the link above or by visiting our Facebook event page.
• participate in Weekly Spiritual Check-ins we’re hosting to allow people space to share their concerns and burdens in community. Each Wednesday morning at 10 am EDT, please join us for an hour of coffee and conversation time with colleagues via Zoom. Use the link above to register and get additional information.
• look for new Coalition trainings designed specifically to help our Open and Affirming churches become actively anti-racist. (Details and dates coming soon.)

In chapter 58, the prophet Isaiah goes on to ask this pointed question; “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?” And in Isaiah 6:8, God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Our neighbors in the streets and the blood of our siblings are crying out, wondering the same thing.

Our answer is a resounding: We will. We will go with you. O God, send us.

In faith,
The Leadership Team and Staff of The Open and Affirming Coalition of The United Church of Christ
Dr. Greg Carey
Rev. Christina Fidanza
Rev. John Gage
Rev. Lesley Jones
Rev. Mak Kneebone
Rev. Aaron Lauer
Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, M.A.L.
Rev. Phil Porter
Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer
Rev. Derek Terry
Rev. Kevin Tindell
Andrew Lang, Executive Director
Kimi Floyd Reisch, MDiv
Ann Randall
Tim Collingwood