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African American Consultation focuses on Black Lives Matters

Group explores impact on African American Presbyterians 

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – As a part of the first Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries African American Consultation, African American leaders gathered for a session to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement. The September 20 discussion was led by Robina Winbush, director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Associate Stated Clerk in the Office of the General Assembly.

The Black Lives Matter movement came into being in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of unarmed African American teenager, Trayvon Martin. Following the incident, three African descendant queer women—Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrice Cullors—used their community organizing skills and modern technology to launch a movement and publicly counter the emerging narrative that Black Lives don’t matter and can be extinguished without accountability.

The movement is based on thirteen principles that include diversity, globalism, black women, black villages, loving engagement, restorative justice collective value, empathy, queer affirming, unapologetically black, transgender affirming, black families and intergenerational.

Winbush later asked the group, “How does Black Lives Matter challenge the current state of African American Presbyterian churches?” Discussion participant Sheneea Leonard, pastor of the JUDAH Fellowship Christian Church, one of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities, answered by saying, “This movement causes us to re-evaluate our presence and purpose in the community. There has been an emphasis placed on the intersectionalities of oppression—meaning that Black people are disproportionately affected by, racism, poverty, LGBT injustices and educational disparities. This causes us to look at how we have become instruments of division rather than workers of unity. The church cannot be silent, because we have a moral obligation and a Christian duty to make sure all black lives matter.”

When asked, what does Black Lives Matter have to offer African American Presbyterian churches, Winbush replied with three key points. She said, “Black Lives Matter offers:

[1] Restoration of relevance and re-engagement with folks who wonder about the relevance of church and organized Christian communities.
[2] Opportunity to move beyond our own silos of struggling to survive—understand and meaningfully engage intersectionality and collective self-understanding.
[3] Reclaim and recommit ourselves to the values of the early Jesus Movement. The principles of the Black Lives Matter movement are consistent with the gospel Jesus.”

Unfortunately while participants where discussing the topic of Black Lives Matter, news reached the group of another fatal shooting of an unarmed African American man by the police in Charlotte, North Carolina. During the closing prayer of this session Warren Lasane, Jr., Stated Clerk of the Synod of Mid-Atlantic and a member of the board of directors of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, read a letter to the group from the leadership Presbytery of Charlotte. Read the full letter here.

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