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Racial Justice and Equity in the Missouri Mid-South Conference

A Call to Leadership

 

As spiritual leaders and people of faith, we are reminded by recent events that there is urgent work to be done to advance the UCC vision of racial justice and equity. To accomplish this work, we are called, individually and collectively, to increase our understanding and develop our skills in four critical domains of thought and action, defined briefly as follows:

 

1. The Call to Contemplation: Deepening Our Self-Awareness

 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3     

 

Engaging in continuous self-reflection to surface unconscious biases and misinformation about our individual and group identities in relation to those we perceive to be racially different:

  • Being open-minded when confronted with information that contradicts what we have been socialized to believe about race

  • Continuously seeking and integrating new knowledge about people, self, and society into an expanded scope of perception

  • Engaging in introspective work (prayer, contemplation, journaling, and ongoing exploration of personal, family, and cultural histories) to identify and evaluate the mental models and central assumptions that inform one’s world view

 

2. The Call to Connection: Interacting Authentically Across Difference    

 

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 3:2-4

 

Forming relationships in a manner that affirms one’s own culture and ethnicity without disrespecting, devaluing, or being subsumed by the culture and ethnicity of others. Being aware of how one’s racial identity affects one’s encounters with ethnically diverse individuals and groups in a social system of structured inequity.

  • Developing a culturally balanced understanding of the dynamics of unequal societal power that are embedded in current and historical events

  • Seeking allies and forming friendships that cut across the color line

  • Participating in honest and courageous dialogue to address difficult issues and challenge socially constructed barriers.

  • Risking mistakes in the interest of gaining greater clarity and understanding with one another

 

3. The Call to Consciousness: Developing Critical Insight and Acuity

           

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness…through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

 

Having the capacity to discern and thoughtfully analyze the structures and mechanisms of institutional power and how they are used to normalize differential treatment between racial groups

  • Understanding how racism intersects with classism, sexism, heterosexism and other forms of social injustice and normalized oppression

  • Paying attention to micro-aggressions and the inequities they tend to reinforce

  • Being more attuned to how our own attitudes and behaviors contribute to the perpetuation of racial discrimination

 

4. The Call to Confrontation: Exercising Spiritual Leadership and Change Agency

 

Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Psalm 94:16

 

Having the courage and commitment to take action to dismantle systems of racial injustice and promote social equity. Cultivating healthy, positive, and mutually empowering relationships across barriers of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, class, appearance, ability and other social categories.

  • Actively challenging policies and practices that reinforce institutional patterns of discrimination, bias, and exclusion

  • Working to interrupt individual and group behaviors that reinforce power imbalances

  • Cultivating progressive, sustainable alliances with people of other racial, ethnic, and social identities

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UCC Missouri Mid-South Conference

St. Louis Association

Criteria for RJE Program Pre-Assessment

available here

RJE Upcoming Training Opportunities ​​

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  • MMSC RJE Training - Saturday, April 30, 2022 from 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. - online via Zoom - facilitated by Hunter Zyriek-Rhodes (he, him, his).  Registration is open.  Cost is $40.00 per person for all attendees.  

Our facilitator, Hunter S. Zyriek-Rhodes is a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School where he received his Master of Divinity with a concentration in Black Religion and Culture Studies and the Kelly Miller Smith Institute Certificate in Black Church Studies. Although born in Jackson, Tennessee, Hunter has been in Memphis essentially his whole life, minus his time in Nashville between
2017-2020, and he is happy to now be back in the city that raised him. Prior to Vanderbilt, Hunter received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and English Literature from University of Memphis.


Hunter has been helping lead anti-racism training sessions since 2019 when he became a part of the Pro-Reconciliation / Anti-Racism Commission in the Tennessee Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As an educator, historian, and native Southerner, Hunter brings a multi-faceted perspective to anti-racism training that is both welcoming to newcomers and challenging to veterans.


When Hunter isn’t teaching or leading training sessions, you can find him in his woodshop building furniture or spending time with his wife, Emma, and their two beagles, Murphy and Poynor. He eagerly awaits the arrival of his first daughter in May, which will likely prove to be both a bundle of joy and a source of a few sleepless nights! Overall, wherever you may encounter him, Hunter hopes that he, in all areas, can live out the call of Micah 6:8 to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

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Racial Equity Task Force

Missouri Mid-South Conference Council recently created a Racial Equity Task Force to:

 

  • Assess current policies and practices that enable or prevent racial equity in the MMSC

  • Present a report at the 2022 Conference Annual Gathering (CAG) on their assessment of our racial equity reality

  • Recommend a Racial Equity Strategic Plan to include short-term and long-term goals

 

Eastern Association Task Force Members:

Jamie Mercer (lay), St. John's-Bem UCC, Owensville, MO

Laura Mignerone (clergy), St. John UCC, St. Clair, MO

Eric Moeller (clergy), St. Peter’s UCC, Washington, MO


 

St. Louis Association Task Force Members:

Cecelia Johnson Powell (lay), First Congregational UCC, Memphis

David Greenhaw (clergy), First Congregational UCC, St. Louis, MO

Bella Winters (clergy), Epiphany UCC, St. Louis, MO

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Western Association Task Force Members:

Randy Hundley (lay), Ivanhoe UCC, Raytown, MO

Tammy Linningham (lay), Southwood UCC, Kansas City, MO

Rushan Sinaduray (clergy), The Oasis UCC, Jefferson City, MO