History of the Reconciliation Ministry
Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was born out of the civil unrest that ensued following the martyrdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. His murder brought to fore in the life of our church the dis-ease of our living in two separate societies – one which benefits one group of people and one which systemically marginalizes the poor and powerless. Beginning with Resolution 29 of the International Convention of the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) in 1968, our Church has persistently pursued ways to address the sin of racism through resolutions and direct action in our congregations, Regions, General Ministries and Recognized Ministry partnerships.
The initial focus of Reconciliation was to ensure our programs be motivated by “ a conscientious Christian concern for these our brethren who before God are equal with us; and be directed . . .to the radical removal of basic underlying causes.” In 1969, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that called for the church to work for legislative change to change the plight of the poor, “many of whom are minority persons”. As a result of these and other resolutions and initiatives of the whole church, some positive results have occurred including but not limited to:
- Reconciliation was established in 1967 and reaffirmed in 1969, 1971 as a permanent office and fund for working to support racial reconciliation and anti-racist projects (grants).
- The General Nominating Committee began using the 20% racial-ethnic minority provision for all boards and committees it established following the 1969 General Assembly.
- The Short-Term Employment Experiences in Ministry Program to prepare African-American and Hispanic persons for Ministry was created; the David Kagiwada scholarship was initiated to set up assistance for American Asia seminarians.
- The Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries and the North American Pacific and Asian Disciples offices were established.
In 1996, the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approved the formation of a church-wide process to discern the nature of racism in North America and to develop ways of helping congregations address racism. In its first meeting, the Steering Committee (assigned to guide this process) agreed on the following three realities: Racism is a spiritual and theological dilemma as well as a social evil, 2) Racist practice exists throughout the life of the church and needs to be addressed (even as local and national issues of racism are addressed), and 3) Racism is a systemic problem with root causes that have developed over hundreds of years. It is a combination of racial prejudice and institutional or economic power.
The Vision of the Church
In 2001 the General Assembly adopted the 2020 Vision which named four inter-connected mission priorities. Becoming a Pro-Reconciliation/Anti-Racist Church alongside developing new leadership, establishing 1000 new churches and transforming 1000 churches were identified as critical initiatives for our 21st Century church. Reconciliation Ministry was restructured in 2002 in accordance with the mission priority to strengthen the Church’s effort to achieve this mission priority. The ministry which formally functioned out of Church Finance Council began to report directly to the Office of General Minister and President to plan and implement strategies to dismantle and eradicate racism within each expression of our Church.
The Pro-Reconciliation/Anti-Racism Initiative was founded upon the need to make visible God’s beloved community. It invites the church to listen to the once silenced voices of its racial/ethnic communities, learn from their wisdom and gain insight from their leadership. It calls the church to discernment and prayer, study of the scriptures and reflection, dialogue and table fellowship. The true goal is to transform, strengthen and deepen the church’s spirituality, resulting in a community that understands its mission to be about bringing justice and salvation to the world.
Breaking Down the Dividing Walls
The Pro-Reconciliation/Anti-Racism initiative has made steady progress. In 2007, Regions were urged to assume primary leadership in enabling congregational involvement in the work of racial reconciliation. In 2008, eight Regions of the Southeast Regional Fellowship called a minister to serve as minister of Reconciliation and Anti-Racism Ministries. In addition, the Regions of the Northeastern Regional Fellowship are working together to provide a week-long Bridge Building Camp for Youth representatives from the seven regions.