"We need a shifting of the moral narrative," Rev. William Barber declared in his afternoon workshop at the United Church of Christ General Synod. His topic was taking preaching into the public square, though his actual agenda was recruiting us for a new Poor People's Campaign for the spring of 2018.
“The attempt to capture Jesus for an agenda that cuts health care, that’s heresy. Voter suppression is blasphemy because you are suggesting some people are less than human, less than the image of God.”
I appreciated his rising about political terminology to use the language of our faith tradition to proclaim the truth.
“You do not honor prophets by merely having memorial services at their tombs.” “Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t some human relations specialist.”
“Every right you have is because somebody did civil disobedience.” Now it is our turn, he urged us.
The morning began with our delegation in caucus with the delegations from the Iowa and South Dakota Conferences discussing the work of the committees on Friday and hearing from the governance committee about changes to the constitution and bylaws (about which I continue to have reservations) and from the proponents of the resolution on protecting Palestinian children.
The plenary session began with Rev. Starsky Wilson, who co-chaired the Ferguson Commission, nominating his friend the Rev. Traci Blackmon to be the Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries (she has been the acting minister in that role for 18 months). Rev. Wilson delivered a powerful, inspiring speech that left me craving the chance to hear him preach.
Rev. Blackmon, who did preach on Friday night, spoke about her call and her vision for the church. “We are called to make room and not just space,” she said. At another point in her speech she talked about how she had gotten angry about some injustice and then she said, “Don’t worry about it; Jesus is used to my anger and handles it well.”
Justice and Witness later presented the first Movement Maker Award to the International Indigenous Youth Council, the youth who had helped to create the Standing Rock movement. Ten attended and their spokesperson said they were grateful that after the church's role in colonization we were now joining in protecting land and water.
Glennon Doyle, blogger, author, and UCC member, spoke about her faith journey, her ministry, and her new political activism. Her talk was wide ranging. She believes we must quit protecting our children from pain and teach them how to live through the pain because pain is what produces moral character. We need friendships where we don’t try to fix each other for “Friendship is two people not being God together.” The not being God a reference to an acknowledgement that we cannot fix things.
She said she was puzzled when she first tried going back to church as a new mother. She thought church would be the place where everyone let their guard down and was their authentic self. Instead so many people were trying to act perfect. “Acting perfect at church is like getting really dressed up for an X-ray.”
She did advise that the UCC should use as slogans “The only church who will have you” and “Free coffee and daycare.”
Her political turn came about after Charleston. She was showing her kids photos of the Civil Rights Movement and one child asked, “Mom, would we have marched back then?” And before she could answer, “Of course we would have,” her other child said, “No, because we aren’t marching now.”
She said she made stupid mistakes when she first tried to become more engaged, but that we need to learn that it is okay to look stupid. Fortunately other people overlooked her stupidity and her privilege and took the time out of their busy lives to teach her.
She said, “We just have to look to and learn from women of color.”