Hayley Young and Rich Blake-Lobb introduce the Anti-Racism Reflective Action group, formed to help Baptists set aside time to reflect with God and others about racial bias and how that is reflected in our ministry and mission
In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in June, many of us reflected on how we could really be part of a change of culture to really embody Black Lives Matter.
Justice Enabler Wale Hudson-Roberts wrote: ‘As Baptists Together our tradition should fly in the face of superficial platitudes about racial justice, often from the comfort of our homes, churches and Baptist Associations. Rather, it should commit white Baptists to participate in sacrificial protest with your black and brown sisters and brothers around the world. God is no neutral observer in matters of justice, racial or otherwise. God sides against injustice, with countless numbers of people of colour in this country and, everywhere, where people cry out in pain: “I can’t breathe ...” ‘
These are powerful words and laid down a call and change to white ministers, pastors and members of Baptist churches that we move beyond the hashtag, or temporarily turning profile pictures black, and be committed to sacrificial protests.
Many of us (white ministers) felt ill-equipped as to our shame we hadn’t done the work of becoming anti-racist. Many of us leading churches, felt that we weren’t negative or racist, but we had not set aside time to reflect with God and others about our own racial bias and how that is reflected in our ministry and mission.
So, a group of ministers, regional ministers and college staff came together via Zoom to create the ‘anti-racist reflective action group’; we started by reading together Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad.
This book was incredibly challenging as daily we were confronted with our unconscious biases and caused to think about our background, culture and how that impacts our thought-process.
The book challenged and convicted us, as white people. At times we felt uncomfortable, but acknowledged our discomfort is as nothing compared to the daily racism experienced by our black brothers and sisters. It was a process that we needed to start, and should not end with the reading of a book, but in our own changed behaviours, ongoing listening and actions.
We continue to meet weekly over Zoom to reflect, lament, and give space for us to be challenged.
The book spoke to us about our thinking and I think all of us who took part can say that we have been changed but the challenge the book presented to us.
We acknowledge that this is an ongoing process of us becoming anti-racist and now out of that reflection we are continuing to journey together as a group of Baptists on Zoom, to work through ‘We Need to Talk about Race’ by Ben Lindsay. As we move our reflection to how we can lead and be in churches and communities and model being anti-racist.
We acknowledge as a group of white ministers and college staff that our work has only just begun. We recognise that despite previous appeals, reports and recommendations for change (such as the Journey Report (2011), BUGB: Faith and Society) we have failed to heed these calls or action the proposals and therefore failed in our commission to love our neighbours. As we continue to challenge, change and motivate our places of influence we acknowledge that saying sorry is not enough, we must move beyond the platitudes and into positive action.
Hayley is the Regional Minister (Mission Enabler) for the South Wales Baptist Association and Rich is Minister at Yiewsley Baptist Church, London.
The Anti-Racism Reflective Action Group can be accessed on Facebook here
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