Antiracism and Social Equity
PC(USA) Antiracism Policy Statement
 
Racism is the opposite of what God intends for humanity.  Racism is a lie about our fellow human beings, for it says that some are less than others.  It is also a lie about God, for it falsely claims that God favors parts of creation over the entirety of creation.  Antiracist effort is not optional for Christians.  It is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship, without which we fail to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
 


Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church Mission Statement
 
Ark and Dove is a community of disciples that embodies the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, so that lives are transformed, and God’s dream is carried into the world.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church of Odenton, MD
Statement Regarding Violence at US Capitol
 
January 8, 2021 – ODENTON - Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church, an open and affirming congregation in Odenton, MD, announces that the Session of Ark and Dove denounces the white supremacist attack on the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021, as well as the actions of President Trump and other elected officials. These individuals incited and upheld the illegal and destructive conduct of those who stormed the house of our Republic and attacked our democracy.
 
We mourn the loss of life, as all lives are sacred.  We also grieve with our siblings of color who suffer under the prevailing system which upholds an unequal distribution of justice. We have again seen that law enforcement and our government do not treat all Americans the same. While many white Americans are shocked and unsettled by the events in DC, the racism that fueled these events is evident and a daily lived experience for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
 
Epiphany proclaims God’s hope and light in the midst of despair and darkness. We, the Ark and Dove community, believe that all people are children of God and recommit to discernment, dialogue, and using our bodies and voices to dismantle racism in our community and country. We resolve to work to create God’s “Beloved Community” of justice, love and inclusion. 
 
The church has held worship services entirely online since the beginning of the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home order, but staffs the office during the week. Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church is located at 8424 Piney Orchard Parkway in Odenton.
 
 
About Ark and Dove
Established in 1992, Ark and Dove strives to be an open-minded and open-hearted church: progressive in theology and practice, inclusive in worship and leadership, engaged in mission and advocacy. The church’s 283 members serve the greater community in a variety of faith and justice acts, including Anne Arundel Acting Together (ACT), immigrant and refugee resettlement and staffing and supporting local organizations serving domestic abuse survivors, the homeless and local food pantries. The church is one of six founding churches supporting Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad, a Presbyterian Latino worshipping community in Anne Arundel County. The church is a part of the national Presbyterian Church USA and welcome all God's children as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Ark and Dove is a PC/USA Matthew 25 church and a PC/USA More Light church.

 
 
STATEMENT ON RACISM
From the Session of Ark and Dove
Summer 2020

 
The brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and far too many others are tragedies of systemic racial injustices that stand in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We mourn with the families of those killed or injured and grieve for all who experience ongoing racial injustices.
 
Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church unequivocally affirms that the lives of African Americans and all people of color matter. We express our support and solidarity in confronting the tragic legacy of slavery and racism in our country. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must let the cry of the prophet Amos ring through our hearts and our land, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
 
Justice and love are perfectly united in God’s nature and character. We at Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church stand for justice with all those who are oppressed. We express our love and compassion to all people of color by reaffirming our commitment to combat systemic racism, brutal abuse of authority, and white supremacy. We cannot abide by the silence and denials by those in power that spawn widespread inaction and indifference. We unite in peaceful protest and lend our voices in condemning these horrific acts of violence. We renew our pledge to help heal the wounds of racial inequality through listening, learning, advocating, organizing, and seeking policy change.
 
Together, with the peace and love of Christ as our guide, we can be a community that lives out justice and love for all people so that lives are transformed and God’s dream is carried into the world.

 

Restorative Justice: A Possible Response to the Recent Vandalism of Our Banners

 

 

Restorative justice marks a shift in paradigm from traditional punitive justice. Restorative justice seeks to address the harm to the victims and community caused by the wrongdoing or crime.  It emphasizes accountability and is potentially transformative. 
 

Our congregation, and the surrounding community, were harmed by the actions of the person who vandalized our "Dismantle Racism" and "Black Lives Matter" banners last week. In Pastor Tim’s sermon, he shared a community member’s reactions to both the crime and our response to it. The destruction of our property impacted the sense of safety of many in our community. What would you like to see as a restorative justice response, if we learn who the perpetrator is? How might church members and community members be involved? 
 

A few examples of the principles of restorative justice may be helpful. Most parents practice restorative parenting when they seek to have siblings restore their relationship after one has wronged the other. Many schools are moving away from punitive disciplinary responses to restorative circles that help build and mend relationships and encourage pro-social behaviors. 
 

Jan and I used a restorative justice process several years ago when a middle schooler threw a lock out of the school bus window and damaged the back window of our car. A white boy across the street told us who did it and explained that he had dared his black friend to throw the lock at the car. We contacted that boy’s mother and met with her and him. He guiltily admitted to having done it. We could have called the police, which would have been necessary for us to submit an insurance claim. We did not. We did not want to see this 13 year old charged with a crime for his impulsive act. How might that change how others treated him and how he might see himself? And yet we wanted to hold him accountable. We worked out an arrangement for him to get off the bus at the stop by our house after school for about a week. For a couple of hours each time, he helped me dig up an old garden and plant spring bulbs. We worked side by side very agreeably and talked together. This was a good kid. As the bus passed by our house in early spring, I always imagined that he noticed the beautiful flowers that he had helped plant. 
 

When police and the courts are involved is restorative justice still an option? We have an example of that from our county. One of the young men who hung a noose at Crofton Middle School in 2017 agreed to a plea deal of 120 hours of community service in the form of restorative justice supervised by the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP. He publicly atoned for his actions at a meeting of the Caucus of African American Leaders five months later (see here). Then at the end of his service he recounted what he had learned at a NAACP meeting (see here). I met him at a Coming to the Table meeting and could tell that his words about his deepening understanding of the impact of his actions were heartfelt.
 

If the police find and charge the person accused of vandalizing our banners would we want to seek a form of restorative justice? Please share your ideas with the Ark and Dove Antiracism and Social Equity Team by emailing Linnie Girdner, girdnerlinda(at)gmail.com. Thank you.  
 


 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free... --Luke 4:18
 
 A Theological Statement From the Black Church on Juneteenth
On the occasion of this 155th observance of Juneteenth, a collective of Black pastors and theologians lift our voices to emphatically repudiate white supremacy and anti-Black violence.

For the full statement please see the Theological statement on Juneteenth by nearly 700 Black pastors and theologians. It closes with: "ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER. With the help of God, who is our lynched brother, the Black Christ, we the Black Church, pledge our mind, body, treasure, and spirit to securing the welfare of the diversity of Black life, Black freedom and Black joy “by any means necessary.”

Metro IAF Statement on Police Killing of George Floyd
 

June 5, 2020

The last minutes of George Floyd’s life evoke the 22nd Psalm:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
And are so far from my cry
And from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime but you do not answer;
By night as well, but I find no rest.


So, too, do our thoughts go to our own memories of Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray--sons of our cities: New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore--black men murdered by police brutally, callously. Our anger and rage rise again.

The white officers’ knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while he pleads for his mother evokes 400 years of kidnappings, lynchings, rapes, family separations, slavery and forced labor, share cropping, equity stripping, unjust imprisonment, medical experiments, job discrimination that denies the humanity and full citizenship of black Americans.

As we watch protesters in Minneapolis and other cities across the country, we know their lamentations must be shouted, must be heard, must not be silenced. For it is only in giving voice to the pain and suffering of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the thousands of other black people killed in our cities and millions scarred by racism that we might ever begin to imagine a new future.

The shouts must be louder, broader and much longer before this can come to pass though. And we must listen; we must take account. We must relate to the many people who are suffering. In so doing, we must ask: How is God speaking in the streets? What new message, what good news do we hear?

We hear the anger at a criminal justice system that is racist, unfair and out of control especially in relationship to the African American community. It's Floyd today but who tomorrow? It was Christian Cooper one week, who will it be next week? We hear young people fed up with what they see as the inaction of the generations just ahead of them. We hear young people gripped by despair, filled with anger and not seeing any way to take that pain public except by going to the streets.

What we hear is political leaders, law enforcement leaders, religious leaders, and corporate leaders have failed on so many levels to stop police officers from killing black people. Police killings of black people, police intimidation of black people while driving, when shopping, while living must end, now. The next generation in the streets is demanding systemic change in police accountability and policing.

As our cities are in turmoil, we pray for peace. We want to channel ours’ and others’ rage and anger to make these and other changes, to create new realities. In a moment that appears hopeless and despairing to many, we renew our call to organize for justice---as we did in Cleveland to win a US Department of Justice consent decree to reform the Cleveland police in the aftermath of the Tamir Rice murder, and as we are doing in Baltimore to win living wage jobs for 850 returning citizens at John Hopkins Health System and other anchor institution employers, and as we have done to win statewide criminal justice reform in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Virginia. The job is not done. We are dedicated to building more power to purge injustice from the system from the ground-up no matter how long it takes.

In this dark hour, we are propelled to this call to which we invite all to join us.

 
 
 
Prayer and Peace Walk
 

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 trebleclef48@gmail.com 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:
www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/choose-welcome-action-guide

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 LIRS.org/act/resettlement/, 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
 



GRACISM: GOD'S SOLUTION

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, trebleclef48@gmail.com
Co-Facilitator, Anti-racism and Social Equity.
 
7 SAYINGS OF A GRACIST  
 
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 Bmoreantiracist.org.  The trainings fill up fast, but you can always get on a waiting list.

In hope for social equity,

Linnie Girdner, Lkgirdner@comcast.net                  
Paula Sparks, trebleclef48@gmail.com
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.