July 24, 2020
Members of First Presbyterian Church:
At last month’s Session meeting, your Elders engaged a substantial conversation on how our church might respond faithfully and meaningfully to issues of racism that have been a perennial problem for our country, and a topic of national conversation over the past two months.
The Session believes that responding to the presence of racism is the work of faith because we understand that the promise of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ the dividing wall and hostility between peoples has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). As we are the body of Christ, we have a responsibility to continue the work that Jesus started.
Believing that a faithful response is found in an outward affirmation and an inward commitment to examination and change, the Session took five actions that I would like to share with you:
- We have put up a banner on the fence around the front lawn of
the church that is a replica of the Black Lives Matter mural on Tryon
Street, which has become a place of community gathering and
conversation.* This action is meant to signal to our neighbors and
community that our church recognizes the disproportionate loss of life
in the African-American community and the need to say, unequivocally,
that until Black lives matter to us as a society we cannot assert that
all lives do.
- Believing that it is important to create a space for worship
that welcomes all and does not send subtle messages that might be
stumbling blocks to people of color, the Session voted to remove two
plaques on our pews that honor Gov. Zebulon Vance and Mrs. Stonewall
Jackson. These plaques will be re-located in the Historic Lobby with an
explanation to acknowledge honestly our history and describe why we
- We have instructed the committee planning next year’s
Bicentennial celebration to render an honest account of our history—that
is both faithful and flawed, as all histories are—through the history
book that is being written on the occasion of our 200th year, and in
programs and publications.
- We are forming a Racial Justice Task Force to examine and audit
our institutional life through an anti-racist lens: looking at our
facility, our investments, and our Personnel policies. This group will
make recommendations back to the Session in November of this year.
- We are committing to continuing to provide anti-racist education and training for members and staff.
Additionally, the members of the Advocacy Committee are exploring ways that individual members of First Presbyterian can take action to respond as followers of Christ to the injustices of racism both to express our support for racial justice and to work for change. Soon, you will have an invitation to participate in a personal way.
Christ has given each of us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). It is a holy, demanding, and transformative work.
As a church that proclaims Christ in the center of our city, I am grateful for the ways that you and I can commit to heal, change, and mend the places where the legacy of racism has wounded our community.
In faith, hope, and love –
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