Sabbatical Challenge

As I have been preparing for sabbatical, plenty of folks have asked me what my “theme” is, or what is my focus? What was initially to be a time of traveling the Trail of Tears, because of COVID 19, has had to change. Among other things, I’ll be doing some research, reading and inner work to confront racist ideas and ideologies, in my past and in my present. For those in the Synod of the Sun, I challenge you to do the same.

The Synod Coordinating Team has just approved funding for a new Network for Dismantling Racism (NDR). Here’s their Mission Statement:

“In light of God’s ongoing call to love and justice and the centennial commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, we seek to open our ears, eyes, minds, and hearts to the atrocities of systemic racial injustice and its consequences; to equip and engage for transformation throughout society.”

One of the goals of the NDR is to assist presbyteries with their own dismantling efforts through training and education. We cannot ask our constituent presbyteries and congregations to consider what it means to dismantle systems and processes built or perpetuated on implicit or explicit biases (racism, elitism, and “isms” of all kinds) if we do not first do the work ourselves. It’s not the job of the network to correct the systems of the synod, but to instead assist those in leadership positions to confront our biases and take action to reconstruct in informed and equitable ways.

That’s why, while I’m doing my thing on sabbatical, I have asked the Synod Coordinating Team . . .wait, no, I’m challenging the Synod Coordinating Team to engage in a big way.

I challenge the Synod of the Sun Coordinating Team over the next 4 months and beyond to:

Take the 21 day challenge together:

Meet and work with members of the Network for Dismantling Racism to review the work of the synod through its budget and balance sheet.

Develop a budget for the year 2021 that is reflective of the Kin-dom of God in the world that should be, instead of what has always been.

Develop an agenda for the Fall Synod Assembly that, not only joins the denomination in the Matthew 25 initiative, but addresses the issues of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our time.

Consider ways that the synod can begin to address the issues of Native American churches brought to light during the 224th General Assembly.

Commit to making these and similar questions a part of the continual “Impact Assessment” of the synod:

Who and what kind of programs, networks and institutions does the synod support financially or otherwise?

Who and what kind of programs, networks and institutions does the synod NOT support financially or otherwise?

Where have we (the synod) been complicit in a culture of supremacy by perpetuating systemic racism and failing our siblings in Christ?

In short, I’m asking the Coordinating Team to think deeply, pray fervently, and act with justice in mind. I hope you will join me in praying for the members of the Network for Dismantling Racism and the Synod Coordinating Team

I am grateful for the ability to take the next few months of sabbatical to refresh and renew. I wish it were better timing, but I know that there is no more time to waste or to wait in addressing our own complicities. There will be plenty to do when I return.

I will be away from the office beginning July 17, 2020. In my absence, these are the individuals that can be reached for assistance:

Thomas Riggs, Communications & Administration Coordinator

Ernest Higginbotham, Assistant Stated Clerk

Rev. Mitch Miller, Synod Moderator

Shelley Hernandez, Coordinating Team Chair,

Kristy Rodgers, Chair of Network for Dismantling Racism,

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