June 5, 2020

A Pastoral Letter to the Presbytery of Western North Carolina

From: Lauren Vanacore, Chair of General Council
Jill Isola, Chair of Peace and Justice Committee
Cam Murchsion, Stated Clerk and Acting General Presbyter
Billy Robinson, Associate Presbyter

Our nation is in the midst of deep unrest due to festering racism. We recognize that the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Abury, Breonna Taylor and similar instances of racially motivated violence are having a deep impact on all Americans. Our hearts go out to all who struggle with the events that are unfolding day by day, including those righteously protesting systemic disadvantage and those in law enforcement who are working diligently to protect and serve the needs of our communities. We lament and condemn the senseless destruction of property and personal harm that has threatened to undermine profoundly moral protests. Yet we believe our focus as the church of Jesus Christ needs to be on the anguish, fear, disadvantage and persistent hostility that we have again learned are the daily experience of Black and Brown people in our communities.

Our hearts especially go out today to the African American members and congregations of the Presbytery of Western North Carolina. To you especially we commit to living into this conviction: that anti-racist effort is NOT optional for Christians, but rather is an essential part of discipleship and of the proclamation of the Good News in Jesus Christ. We ask all white members of presbytery to covenant with us to listen to you, attend humbly to your voices, as we seek in our communities together to take concrete steps toward overcoming the scourge of racism freshly made known in these dramatic and sorrowful days.

To that end, we encourage congregations to consider the elements of the Matthew 25 Initiative (which our Presbytery will address and vote on at our Stated Meeting on July 28), contemplating how your worshipping community may be able to live into the area of racial reconciliation in its particular context. To learn more about the Matthew 25 Initiative, visit this link . You may also click here for a list of anti-racism resources compiled by the Peace and Justice Committee.

If the community in which you live is holding peaceful protests, here are some ways you can minister to both protesters and police:
·          Set up hydration stations in and around protest sites 
·          Set up handwashing stations in and around protest sites
·          Hand out free masks
·          If your church is in a high-traffic area, allow police and protesters the use of your bathroom facilities (provided proper sanitation measures are being followed due to Covid-19) and/or offer your fellowship hall as a cooling station as the temperatures rise
·          Gather with other churches for prayer vigils and services of peace and reconciliation that point to concrete actions

We encourage Pastors and Sessions to exert their moral leadership, reminding congregations that all people are created in God’s image. Though there are still those that would seek to divide us based on race, our position is clear: there is no room for such divisiveness in the household of God. Such sentiment is antithetical to everything that Christ teaches us, and all that the church does to support the communities we serve. So, let us live faithfully into the call to be disciples of Jesus Christ who stands for the oppressed, to witness against injustice, and to make space for those whose voices have been silenced and disregarded.

Grace and peace, 

Lauren, Jill, Cam and Billy
Presbytery of Western North Carolina | Website