• Pastors Need to Preach and Teach About Systemic Racism and Implicit Bias
    Dear Clergy Colleagues, Especially during times of injustice and conflict, we celebrate every sign of God’s grace among us. The killing of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr. at the hands of police has rocked Hoover and the surrounding area, so we were glad that an interracial group of clergy met on December 5 to worship and affirm their common faith. But we are also aware how often well-meaning Christians have turned to acts of charity to avoid acts of justice, or even used charity as a screen for supporting the status quo. Charity soothes the conscience, while prophetic proclamation pricks it. Collecting money to care for employees affected by the protest is an action that draws attention to the effects of protest, but not the effects of systemic racism that gave rise to protest; perhaps you could also collect money to pay for bail for protesters? We need to speak plainly, because lives are on the line: We know that many people who are making derogatory, inflammatory statements about the protests, who talk about running over protesters with their cars or turning fire hoses on them, are members of Christian congregations. We know that the kind of counterprotest violence that took Heather Heyer’s life in Charlottesville, Virginia is possible here. We have a series of questions that beg for a pastoral and prophetic response. First, how are you helping your congregations understand the perspective of the protesters? How are you de-escalating violent and racist rhetoric? Are you reminding your congregations that nonviolent protest stands at the heart of our faith traditions? That even Jesus turned over tables in a sacred space? Are you helping them empathize with those who constantly feel the effects of systemic racism? Second, how are you helping them to understand the history of the place in which they live? What public decisions and policies that shaped Hoover were driven by racism? You are probably familiar with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written as a response to clergy who blamed protesters for being “divisive.” In the years since his letter, Jefferson County has divided into over thirty different municipalities, a fracturing driven by redlining, white flight, and other forms of systemic racism. The first attempt to incorporate Hoover happened in 1964, the same year the Civil Rights Act was passed, in order to fight the integration of schools. While many lament “divisiveness” and “polarization” (which are often code words for protest), are you preaching about the divisiveness and polarization of systemic racism? And third, how are you helping them understand the times? Alabama Appleseed recently released a report showing that although white and black people use and sell drugs at about the same rate, black people are four times more likely to be arrested for it in Alabama. Nearly every family in your congregation has been affected by drugs. Are you preaching about the huge racial disparities in the ways our black siblings are affected by policing and the criminal justice system? Have you said the names of victims and preached against the rise of white nationalist violence against people of color? You may already be doing these things. If so, we thank you. We ask these questions because the people we pastor are directly affected by them. Some of us clergy have our own necks on the line, too. If you are not already bringing people together in your congregation in worship or small groups to address the sin of systemic racism and white people’s role in eliminating it, those of us in Faith in Action Alabama stand ready to help you do it. Faithfully Yours, Rev. Dr. David L. Barnhart, Jr. Pastor, Saint Junia United Methodist Church Co-chair of Birmingham Hub, Faith in Action Alabama Rev. Dr. Sondra Coleman Presiding Elder, Birmingham District, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Rev. Cat Goodrich Pastor, First Presbyterian Church Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton Presiding Bishop, Fifth District, Central Methodist Episcopal Church Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson Pastor, Mount Moriah Baptist Church Rev. Adam Mixon Pastor, Zion Spring Baptist Church Rev. Dr. A.B. Sutton Pastor, Living Stones Temple Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons Associate Pastor, First United Methodist Church
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    Created by Dave Barnhart
  • An Open Letter to Doug Jones
    Please know that just as we campaigned for you, we want to work with you to ensure that the voices of all Alabamians, particularly those who have historically been marginalized, are represented during your tenure in the Senate. Again, congratulations on a very hopeful victory. Let’s continue working together to take the next step to uplift all Alabamians. Sincerely,
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    Created by R.G. Wilson-Lyons
  • Tell the UN: Act to stop racist voter suppression in the US
    Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to take part in their country’s government, that civic structures should reflect the will of the people they govern. The United States, at present, stands in clear violation of the Declaration’s mandate for universal and equal suffrage. President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission sought last week to obtain the personal information of all U.S. voters. This request was widely decried as not only unnecessary — given voter fraud’s virtual non-existence — but also as a likely pretense to further suppress voting blocs that are unlikely to support Republican candidates. Such attempts at disenfranchisement would not be unprecedented. 33 states have passed voter suppression laws that disproportionately affect poor, African American, and Latino voters. Moreover, in the 2016 election there were almost 900 fewer voting sites when compared to 2012. An Associated Press analysis suggested such policies, on top of race-driven gerrymandering in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin, could have given Republicans as many as 22 unearned seats in the House of Representatives Moreover, black and brown Americans are disproportionately affected by voter suppression efforts, a shameful reincarnation of tactics employed during our nation’s era of racial segregation and Jim Crow. Unfortunately, while our Justice Department has long fought efforts to deny voting rights, it has dramatically changed course under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In February, for example, the Justice Dept. dropped its objection to a racist Texas voter suppression law — one a federal judge later ruled unconstitutional. More recently, In June the Justice Department sent states a letter intended to push state voting commissions to remove more voters from their rolls. Since we can no longer expect our Justice Department to act on behalf of the disenfranchised, we turn instead to the international community, that you might condemn these crimes. Do not let American democracy continue in its drift towards oligarchy without censure. We implore you to send the strong message that equal and universal suffrage is not an optional commitment, but a fundamental right for all people.
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    Created by Auburn Seminary
  • Reject transphobic rhetoric; stand with Rabbi Silverstein
    As LGBTQI clergy, lay leaders, and allies in a diverse array of faith traditions, we are deeply troubled that Mr. Prager targeted this rabbi, and are alarmed by the attitude of condescension, dismissal, and transphobia that saturates his rhetoric. Beyond that, we find his self-assuredness that compassion is somehow antithetical to the study and interpretation of sacred texts to be unacceptable, and furthermore, dangerous. In this time when unholy acts are being committed around the globe in the name of religion, with the misappropriation of holy texts as justification, we need for than ever for faith leaders to understand and interpret scripture through a lens of compassion and mercy. We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Rabbi Silverstein, his work, and the work of countless other LGBTQI clergy across faith traditions who continue to thoughtfully engage their communities and sacred texts even in the face of those that seek to discredit and silence them.
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    Created by Graham Bridgeman Picture
  • Investigate Bishop Dewane
    Since 2006, Catholics in Southwest Florida have been suffering under Bishop Dewane and asking for an investigation into his misconduct. He has intimidated and banished workers and his violent outbursts and unpredictable anger have become a pattern which, in the name of justice, demands an investigation. After years of letter writing and local action, Catholics in the diocese are writing again to Pope Francis, and asking for the support of others around the country. (For more information on the pastors and parishioners leading the campaign, visit www.cta-usa.org/SWFL)
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    Created by Jim FitzGerald, Call To Action