The Role of Churches in Current Racial Justice Movements


McIntyre 103

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LESLIE SCHMIDT, Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church, Advocates for Social Justice

AISHA HAUSHER, Director of Lifelong Learning, East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church

TERRI STEWART, Director of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, United Methodist Church

PAUL MITCHELL, Pastor, Vashon Island United Methodist Church

“The Role of Churches in Current Racial Justice Movements"

What is the role of the church in transforming culture and society? What is the role of the church in the current movements for racial justice? How is that role affected and shaped by race? What specifically is the role of the white church in this transformation? As churches reflect the broader culture in which they exist, can they be a force of influence in promoting social change to create a beloved multi-cultural world that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion?
Historically, churches played a significant role in the civil rights movement. Church involvement in political activism against social ills was controversial. Many ministers and religious leaders-–both black and white–thought the church's role was to focus on the spiritual needs of the congregation and perform charitable works, not engage in controversial social action. Some denominations were more focused on activism than others. Moreover, some churches then and now hold up social justice as a spiritual practice or showed dedicated focus on the ministries of social action.
This session will be a panel discussion among ministers, religious education professionals, and laypersons from various faith traditions. The panel will explore how American churches are working on the challenges of anti-racism and anti-oppression in endeavoring towards creating multi-cultural community. We will discuss the challenges and obstacles of this work as well as the role of the church in transforming culture and society, particularly in relation to racial justice.