243rd assembly seeks healing following revelations of Virginia politicians wearing blackface
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – As it meets for the 243rd time March 11-12 in Richmond, Va., Synod of the Mid-Atlantic acknowledges it’s meting “at a precarious time,” according to Warren J. Lesane, Jr., the synod’s Executive and Stated Clerk.
Commissioners, presbyters and guests will be invited to take a “deep dive” during next week’s synod assembly at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church to address enslavement, privilege, power and racism. The assembly occurs after both Virginia’s governor ad attorney general have admitted to dressing in blackface in their past. In addition, allegations of sexual abuse have been brought against the state’s lieutenant governor.
“The overall focus,” Lesane said, “is moving commissioners and visitors from talk to actions around the issues of white supremacy, power, privilege and even gender.”
The first plenary features the co-founders of Coming to the Table Richmond, Danita Green and Martha Rollins, a descendant of General Robert E. Lee. According to its website, Coming to the Tale provides leadership, resources and support for people who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism rooted in the nation’s history of slavery.
Plenary II includes a conversation on how The Doctrine of Discovery and decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have undergirded the institutions of privilege, power and white supremacy. The Rev. Jihyun Oh, manager of Call Process Support for the Office of the General Assembly, will help guide the session.
The final plenary “will ask all comers and takers to consider trading comfort for more discomfort,” Lesane said. He noted that synod leaders and moderators from around the country gathered in Montgomery, Alabama in January to experience both The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration as well as The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, commonly known as the “lynching memorial.” Afterward, museum staff spoke to synod leaders, and the Rev. Denise Anderson, coordinator of Racial and Intercultural Justice at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, led synod leaders in what Lesane called “a time of reflection and work” the following day.
“It is in this space of discomfort that hearts and heads must meet God,” Lesane wrote in a letter describing next week’s assembly. “We believe that synod assemblies are safe spaces” which allow attendees “to address the most difficult challenges facing the people of God and the Christian church at any time.”
“Might individuals, might congregations, might presbyteries,” he wrote, “be challenged to begin transforming from institutional beings into missional action?”
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