In October of 1967, members of the Christian Church gathered in St. Louis, Missouri at the annual International Convention of Christian Churches where a group of those members brought up the distress urban areas across the country were experiencing regarding w issues of racism and poverty. Participants at the Convention felt strongly that the church should make intentional effort to address these issues happening throughout the church and nation. So, they got to work.
Almost immediately the United Christian Missionary Society through the Urban Emergency Action committee received funds to begin providing grants to social services organizations who were already serving communities in the work the church was looking to support. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA received grant money to aid in their efforts dismantling societal oppression.
After a year of success and increasing interest from across the Church, General Minister and President, A. Dale Fiers, convened a steering committee to discuss and strategize how to further address the racial and social oppression that was occurring in American cities. The committee had a goal of raising $1 million over two years for programs in urban centers and rural communities..
What the church thought would be a temporary fund that would eventually lose interest became a movement. Reconciliation: The Urban Emergency Program consistently met its fundraising goals, with congregations within the denomination generously donating money, overwhelmingly supportive of a mission working within the the vain of social justice during the tumultuous civil rights era.
In 1971, the Church now officially organized into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) formalized its commitment and call to the work of Reconciliation as a permanent ministry within the denomination. The call to Reconciliation: The Urban Emergency Program – the Reconciliation Ministry continues its witness these 47 years later.
Today, the ministry works to break down systems of oppression that effectively marginalizes people through practices of social and economic exclusion. Reconciliation Ministry offers anti-racism and anti-oppression trainings throughout the Church to foster a denomination-wide understanding of the importance of dismantling systemic racism and poverty in their community where they serve and do mission.
“It’s helpful for the church to act as a moral agent of the community to raise the consciousness and to inspire those who are willing to commit to be advocates for those who are as victims of racial and social oppression,” says April Johnson, Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministry. “It’s important for the Church to know that it is a major influencer in society. We are much more than what we do inside the doors of the Church. The value of the church is how we witness when we are outside the doors of the church. We embody the ministry of reconciliation everywhere we go as ambassadors for Christ.”
Reconciliation Ministry still participates in funding community organizing networks and church-wide ministries through it granting program and robust anti-racism educational efforts. During the last week of September and the first week of October, the Reconciliation Ministry Special Offering is received in congregations; individuals and congregations can donate in their congregations, through online giving, or by mailing a check payable to Reconciliation Ministry (P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206).