Antiracism and Social Equity

PCUSA and Reparations: Who Knew?

On April 7, 2019, Pastor Tim Stern talked about the PCUSA Self-Development of People (SDOP) ministry. I had just learned two days before that the SDOP ministry evolved from a reparations project of PCUSA!  

Debbie Arey and I had attended PCUSA Compassion, Peace, and Justice Training Day in DC. We both were drawn to a workshop called Shalom & Shelem: Finding wholeness amidst racial distress. Shalom is about wholeness, peace, and right relationship, whereas Shelem can mean recompense or peace offering. They are intertwined concepts expressed in a number of Bible verses that provide the Biblical foundations for reparations, such as Deuteronomy 15: 12-15.  

Denise Anderson and Carlton Johnson, our workshop leaders, explained that the process of reparations requires the following steps:

  • Recognition that injustices have happened
  • Repentance
  • Restoration
  • Reconciliation

In the 1960’s and 70’s efforts were going forward to do this. But white Christians only went so far. They rejected the need to repair and repent and went straight to attempting reconciliation.

In 2004, the General Assembly adopted the Report of PCUSA Task Force to Study Reparations, “affirming that Jesus Christ calls us to repair wrongs done to one another and to work for personal and social reconciliation and renewal.” In 2016, the Confession of Belhar became one of the key tenets of our faith in the Book of Confessions. It was hoped that living within the morality of the Belhar Confession congregations would discuss reparations and move forward with action.  

Today with the brazen rise of racist ideology and violence and the long-standing structures of white supremacy that have created generational disparities, isn’t it time for White Christians to do the work required to reach Shalom and Shelem?

For more information, take a look at:


For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, 
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
- Psalm 86:5

ABOUNDING IN STEADFAST LOVE After Charlottesville, we all are aware of the threat to God's dream for the world posed by white supremacists. PC(USA)'s official statement concludes with: "By God's grace may we remember the events in Charlottesville; repent of our acquiescence and failures; and renew our commitment to proclaim and live the good news of Jesus Christ. May that commitment lead us to stand against, speak against and work against racism and white supremacy, this day and every day." Be supported and encouraged in taking on this commitment by joining other Ark and Dovers. Questions? Please contact Paula Sparks at 443-623-1169 or to be a part of the Anti-Racism and Social Equity team and Social Justice Facebook group. If not now, when? Linnie Girdner, co-leader of the Anti-Racism and Social Equity Team
Just in time for last Sunday's forum on refugees, PCUSA rolled out the We Choose Welcome Action Guide that provides tips and resources for welcoming refugees. You can find it at:

Twenty-eight people watched the documentary
Salam Neighbor and engaged one another on the challenges and strengths of the people we vicariously met on the film. Afterward Debbie Arey, Ark and Dove's Refugee Welcome Team Leader, led the group to a hopeful place by laying out what we are preparing to do at Ark and Dove. If you missed this event, it is not too late to catch up. Salam Neighbor is available on Netflix, the brief video by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service can be found at, and you can contact Debbie at debarey(at)hotmail, if you want to inquire about the Refugee Welcome Team. Thank you to all who attended, brought delicious desserts, and helped make the forum a success. Linnie Girdner, Co-Team Leader, Anti-Racism and Social Equity Team

ANTIRACISM AND SOCIAL EQUITY:  Where are we fifty years later? Fifty years ago on April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" at the Riverside Church in New York. He was highly criticized for speaking out about the war and making connections among racism, materialism, and militarism. Exactly a year later he was murdered. His speech can be heard HERE. Or the text is available HERE.
This past Sunday, April 2, at the same Riverside Church, the Reverend William Barber II preached a sermon entitled "When Silence is Not an Option," building on the lectionary of the "dry bones." He spoke of how the themes that MLK raised have continued, and that what we see happening now is not an exception, but a continuation of patterns of oppression against the poor, and especially poor people of color. His inspiring sermon is available HERE.  We cannot be silent, but must speak out to "loose the bonds of injustice, let the oppressed go free" (Isaiah 58:6).
Linnie Girdner  
Co-Leader, Antiracism and Social Equity Team
FAITHFUL RESISTANCE Remember when we read The Last Week by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan as a Lenten study? The authors described how every act of Jesus’ last week was protesting Empire and speaking truth to power. In a society that had many who were oppressed and marginalized, Jesus modeled for us that acts of resistance ARE worship.

In Rick Ufford-Chase 2016 book, Faithful Resistance, we are reminded again that resistance is intrinsic to the teachings of the Gospel.  A former Moderator of the General Assembly of PCUSA and long-time peace advocate, he asks: “Is it possible for a church that has been at the heart of Empire for as long as we have to make a course correction and move intentionally from the center of Empire to the margins?”  He and other contributors address issues such as immigrants, race, LGBTQ, the environment, Christian education and mission. This is not about partisan politics, but rather about living the Gospel in our actions every day, reaching beyond our comfortable bubbles to those who are currently marginalized and oppressed.  As we move into the week where Resist is the word of intentionality in our current Lenten study, consider resistance as worship.

Linnie Girdner
Co-leader, Antiracism and Social Equity Team 


Stated Clerk signs amicus brief opposing President Trump's travel ban


February 16, 2017

Office of the General Assembly
Toya Richards
Director of Communications and Assistant Stated Clerk

The Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), joined other faith leaders Thursday in signing an amicus curiae brief filed with the United States District Court opposing the president’s executive order creating a travel ban.

The interfaith coalition of religious congregations, associations, and organizations united “to speak with one voice against the Executive Order issued on January 27, 2017, suspending the United States Refugee Admissions Program and halting entry into the United States by citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations,” the brief states. It was filed with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York.

 “My participation in this brief reflects the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s historic commitment to welcoming refugees and demanding an immigration system free from discrimination,” Nelson says. “We continue to stand with the widow, orphan, and foreigner.”

The amicus brief supports a case brought by Hameed Khalid Darweesh, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi and others “similarly situated” after they were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York immediately following President Donald Trump’s executive order issued to allegedly “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”

The executive order and subsequent detainment of refugees and others legally vetted to enter the United States prompted protests at airports and cities around the country. The class action suit brought by Darweesh and Alshawi is accompanied by other similar cases moving through the judicial system at different levels.

The interfaith amicus brief urges the court to find the executive order unlawful, “recognizing the profound harm it wreaks on the mission, values, and religious freedom that we, as representatives of a broad range of faith traditions, hold dear.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), through its General Assembly, has passed more than 20 pieces of policy in support of refugees and refugee resettlement since 1947. Among those policies is a 2016 action to respond to the Biblical directive to provide for the stranger and the sojourner by advocating for and seeking to improve matters related to U.S. government resettlement policies.

More information on the PC(USA)’s engagement on immigration and refugee issues can be found online


This past Sunday Linnie Girdner, David Sparks and I attended an enlightening discussion led by Dr. David Anderson, Senior Pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, MD and author of Gracism: The Art of Inclusion.

Simply put, Racism is negative speech, thought, words and actions against people for no other reason than their color, class, or culture.  Grace is unmerited favor granted to all of us by God.  By combining racism and grace, Dr. Anderson defines Gracism as an extension of positive favor to other people regardless of, and sometimes because of, color, class, or culture. He sees Gracism as God’s solution to racism because it “focuses on race for the purpose of positive ministry and service” instead of negative purposes such as discrimination.  As we move forward together in our work toward dismantling racism and creating social equity, perhaps we can learn to be Gracists, moving beyond racism to extend God’s grace. 
Paula Sparks,
Co-Facilitator, Anti-racism and Social Equity.
I WILL LIFT YOU UP Lifting up the humble by assisting and elevating them toward success.

I WILL COVER YOU Protecting the most vulnerable among us from embarrassment and harm.

I WILL SHARE WITH YOU Opening up networks and resources to others who are systematically downtrodden, and refusing special treatment that may hurt them.

I WILL HONOR YOU Recognizing those who are the most humble heroes among us regardless of color, class and culture.

I WILL STAND WITH YOU Committing to stand with the weak... the majority committing to stand up for, and with, the minority.

I WILL CONSIDER YOU Having equal concern for our neighbors regardless of color, class or culture by considering their perspectives and needs.

I WILL CELEBRATE WITH YOU Rejoicing when the humble and less fortunate among us are helped.


ANTI-RACISM AND SOCIAL EQUITY Why did we change the name of our joint ministry team from Race and Reconciliation to Antiracism and Social Equity? First, this aligns us with the 2016 document Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community Churchwide Anti Racism Policy of the General Assembly of PC(USA). Second, we added Social Equity to state not only what we aim to dismantle, but also to define our end goal in positive terms. Third, we learned from Jim Wallis, the author of America’s Original Sin, and our own pastors, that reconciliation can only come after repentance and conversion.  

Is social justice a passion of yours? Are you interested in transformation rather than Band-Aids?  Then consider joining our team. No time to join our team, but still want to be involved?  Paula and David Sparks plan to facilitate a small group on Wallis’ book America’s Original Sin in the fall. Please consider signing up!

To equip ourselves as team co-facilitators, Paula Sparks and Linnie Girdner have been participating in a training course at Baltimore Racial Justice Action. It has been a challenging and rewarding experience. If you are interested in their trainings, check out their website at  The trainings fill up fast, but you can always get on a waiting list.

In hope for social equity,

Linnie Girdner,                  
Paula Sparks,
Co-Facilitators of the Joint Ministry Team on Anti-racism and Social Equity

FAITH AND ANTI-RACISM:  FORUM AND SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS On Sunday, October 2nd, Ark and Dove had it's fourth Anti-Racism Social Equity forum.  Our focus was to develop a common vocabulary so we could continue our discussions about racism, reconciliation and equity.  After going over some definitions of discrimination, racism, prejudice, implicit bias and other terms, we broke into small groups and talked about the role of faith communities in helping our nation to move forward with justice on this issue. 

Most of the definitions we used came from a resource that Baltimore Racial Justice Action provided to Linnie Girdner and Paula Sparks in a 28 hour course they took.  This two-page resource is entitled Defining the Terms (please see below).

I think we came away from the forum with a better understanding of the complexities of racism, and we came away with a sense that we should continue our work as a congregation on this issue of peacemaking, justice and equity.  Thank you to Linnie Girdner, Paula Sparks, Shelley Franklin, Kim Champagne, Christine Caulfield Noll, Alex Effiom,  Rebecca Bell Echols and Jon Nelson for their leadership.