posted on October 30, 2019
Gospel Power vs. Institutional Sin
This year NCC MFSA scheduled the Jack Crum Conference on Prophetic Ministry in response to the specially called General Conference in St Louis. They decided to try something different and have a training event focused on how people can become advocates for justice-centered on specific issues. They were fortunate to have in their midst someone who does this sort of work in their professional life, Brian Heymans, the chair of the conference Board of Church and Society.
Held on September 14 at Epworth United Methodist Church in Durham, Brian presented a case study about housing and redlining. Redlining has been used to deny groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities, loans and services that they were otherwise eligible for to prevent them from getting into certain neighborhoods. Brian presented a case study of how this was done and of how groups can work together to address this situation in a just manner.
It was a fabulous day, learning about individual power, relational power of collaboration, and institutional power (that can only be broken down when we organize relationally, sharing or many points of view and bits of varied information).
Brian gave some staggering studies of how institutions have done our sinning for us over the centuries, allowing good Christians to feel okay about what we didn’t know or feel responsible for. “It’s just the way things are, after all. Right?” And “so long as it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t really matter.”
He led them through a simulation game where each table had bits of information about a community problem. But no one seemed to be able to effect change or get to the root of the problem until one brave whistleblower shared some inside info. Then the pieces seemed to fit in a new light.
The group finally realized that our neighbor’s issues are all tied up with our own problems!
Each group would have gone on fighting an impossible uphill battle with City Hall if we hadn’t gotten together to share our separate concerns.
What a novel approach! America, take note. UMC, look at this! We are the Body of Christ. Needing all our parts to work together.
We have more relational power than we know!
Better together. To God be the glory!
Originally written for the North Carolina Conference MGSA Newsletter by NC MFSA President Henry Jarrett, Reverend Laurie Hays Coffman, and Thomas Crichlow, layperson at Duke Memorial UMC.