Missioner for Racial Reconciliation Diocese of Oregon
I have accepted the role as the Missioner for Racial Reconciliation for the Diocese of Oregon. Why? Well, I feel this work desperately needs to be done and I want to help begin the ongoing process. It is a process not an event and we need to recommit to getting this meaningful work done. I believe that reconciliation is the work of the People of God, and we are God’s people.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
So, our work of reconciliation is tied to our Baptismal Covenant, which can be found on page 402 of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The five questions that we are asked each time a person is baptized, confirmed or received into our community as we recommit to our promise with the response, “I will with God’s help” are:
1. Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
2. Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
3. Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
4. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
5. Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
We do not believe that the journey to reconciliation is an intellectual one—it is a journey of the heart that needs to be done by each person in each congregation. It must be by and with the people on a regular basis not simply when it’s convenient for us. Do I expect this to be easy? Absolutely not! I expect resistance, I expect anger and resentment, I expect indifference, but I also expect welcome and embrace for many who have waited a long time to begin this work in earnest.
My approach will be two-fold; one for clergy and the other for lay persons. Together, we make up the Body of Christ. I expect the conflict of resistance and welcome from both parts of the body. I want to invite and challenge each one of us to prayerfully consider our role in this process. I ask and challenge lay persons to let their clergy preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ without repercussions: the fear of losing members or their financial support. I ask and challenge my colleagues to preach and teach real reconciliation with truth and honesty. We-the church need to stop conflating issues of justice with politics. Who benefits when the church is silent in the face of injustice against God’s people that include the unhoused, the hungry, the sick, and those unjustly imprisoned in our society? Reconciliation must happen between us and God, as well as with one another regardless of differences in ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or political preferences. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, that is our true identity and comes before all other identities we may claim.
Please invite me to come to your congregations, email, call, snail mail however you feel comfortable in reaching out. I want to visit and connect with each of you and invite you to begin or continue reconciliation together. I also encourage congregation members who want to lead this work to form small groups and to begin by participating in Sacred Ground, a very good introduction. I have asked deacons who have been trained as facilitators to lead Sacred Ground throughout the Diocese with members from several congregations participating together. The body of Christ needs healing and renewal. It is work that I feel is long overdue—not just with words but with practice and behavior. We are the ones to be the example, to make change possible, to reconcile the world to God.
Peace and blessings,
Rev. Ernestein C. Flemister, Missioner for Racial Reconciliation