Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice Enters Pilot Phase

14 churches have committed to participate; 7 churches have officially begun the work

A little over a year ago, at Covenant Day in January 2020, Bishop Michael McKee announced the beginning of a new initiative called the Journey Toward Racial Justice. In his remarks on that day, Bishop McKee said clearly that racism is sinful and acknowledged, “For people of color across many generations, racism has caused incalculable harm – physical, financial, psychological, emotional and spiritual.”

He also confessed that racism remains a painful reality within The United Methodist Church and then called the North Texas Conference to embark on a journey that would extend for many years and be intentional, bold and unyielding in its refusal “to give racial prejudice power any longer” within our churches and communities.

Much has transpired since then. The pandemic has revealed long-standing racial inequities in our society and a kind of national reckoning on race has occurred in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. All the while, the Journey Toward Racial Justice has been developing and building momentum in the North Texas Conference.

Highlights of the journey thus far will be shared throughout the spring in the CMO newsletter. In this issue, the focus is on the Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice.

The Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice is a process and curated set of resources offered to guide and support the racial justice work of predominantly White congregations. A diverse and gifted team of leaders from throughout the North Texas Conference has worked on and spoken into this transformational process. It’s a flexible process; the intention is for each congregation to adapt it based on its unique context and place in its racial justice journey. The vision is for congregations to experience a transformation of heart and mind and then to put their new or deepened antiracist convictions into action.

“The Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice is designed to help local churches take a closer look at themselves in relation to their neighbors, near and far,” said Rev. Joshua Manning, senior pastor at Warren UMC in Dallas and a member of the JTRJ coordinating team. “In choosing to embrace cultural differences and ethnic identity, instead of rejecting them, we more fully represent the body of Christ.

“At this critical point in time, when society is growing more polarized by the moment, it is imperative that faithful Christians find ways to grow closer to one another. There is much to learn, and this is one of many steps toward the realization of God's Kingdom here on earth.”

This month, we can celebrate that the pilot phase for the Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice is underway! Fourteen churches, representing each of our four districts, have committed to partner with the conference in their racial justice work and participate in the pilot phase. The following seven churches have officially begun the work:

  • First UMC Denton
  • Flower Mound UMC
  • Grace UMC (Sherman)
  • Grace Avenue UMC (Frisco)
  • Oak Lawn UMC (Dallas)
  • Stonebridge UMC (McKinney)
  • Vista Ridge UMC (Lewisville)

"I’m so happy that my local church and many other churches in the NTC are participating in the Journey Toward Racial Justice," said Cynthia Rives, a member at First UMC Denton. "This is an opportunity to gain knowledge, grow in courage and act in hope as we become the beloved community. The JTRJ structure gives support we need and reassures us we are not alone in this work. We’re moving forward together!”

Said Rev. Clay Horton, senior pastor of Vista Ridge UMC: “Our work focused on racial healing and justice has been sanctifying and holy work. With open hearts and minds, we've had tough conversations, learned from one another and from outside resources, and increased empathy and understanding. At this early stage in our journey, we're learning that we have a great deal more to learn and that this process will not be short nor easy, but we believe that the church can and will lead the way in modeling racial healing and justice.”  

With the help of these pilot churches, the conference team behind the Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice will continue to tweak it, refine it and prepare to launch it fully at Annual Conference. After Annual Conference, any church in the NTC interested in going on this important journey in partnership with the conference will be welcome.

To explore how your congregation might partner with the conference and participate in the Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice, email Rev. Andy Lewis.    

Journey Toward Racial Justice Initiative

Published: Monday, February 15, 2021