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16.10.2020

"Talking about racism in church..."

The conference in Haus Villigst took place in compliance with the hygiene rules.

Conference participants (from left): Quinton Ceasar, Christina Biere, Eleanor McCormick, Sarah Vecera. (Photos: Sarah Vecera/UEM)

On 15 October 2020, a study day took place in Haus Villigst in Schwerte on the topic "How can we talk about racism and white privileges in the church? The organizers were the Office for Mission, Ecumenism and World Responsibility (MÖWe) of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia (EKvW) and the United Evangelical Mission (UEM).

The study day referred to the discussion that was connected with the synod paper of the Westphalian church "I have been a stranger. Church and Migration" and the Black Lives Matter movement, in which people in Germany are increasingly concerned with the significance of white privileges for structural racism in Germany.

As a result of the conference, concrete measures such as local study groups and awareness-raising training on white privileges, a round table on educational work in offices and factories, a next conference on further networking and the founding of a church network for pastoral care, identity formation and church-political lobbying for "Persons of Color" (PoC) were agreed upon. The agreement reached for a church critical of racism mentions a number of white privileges within the church and advise, among other things, the implementation of the perspective critical of racism in church training courses and personnel development.

"I grew up with fried potatoes, creamed spinach, Black Peter and Pippilotta Viktualia in a worker's family in the Ruhrpott - where should the migration background attributed to me be", asked Sarah Vecera, German "Person of Colour" and deputy head of department of UEM in her lecture.

Quinton Ceasar, a pastor from South Africa who leads a congregation in Wuppertal-Cronenberg, demanded, with reference to the confession of Belhar of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA): "As a white church we must set out to find a clear language of liberation from the oppressed and a clear condemnation of oppression systems. And it all begins with the white churches having to come to terms with their own whiteness, the white privilege."

At the beginning of the conference, Christina Biere, regional pastor of the MÖWe, presented excerpts from her white biography. "When you grow up as a white person in Germany and become a pastor, whiteness is always the norm - at school, at university, at the vicarage, in the community. To ask myself what my daily experience is about being white is a difficult, but very rewarding exercise. If we learn in the church to look at ourselves more with this perspective, we will grow spiritually in our identity.

Angelika Veddeler, Executive Secretary of UEM's Germany department, underlined the need to involve all levels of the churches in such a change. Steps towards this would be initiated especially in several UEM member churches in Germany.

"For the EKvW, the conference was a logical step to further develop its process of intercultural opening in a qualified manner and with the involvement of many participants. That the discussion about racism and white privileges in the church plays an important role in this process is also something we are considering together with our partner church UCC in the US. We owe many impulses to her, which we must continue to work on in our own context," summarized Pastor Beate Hessler, the specialist in the Office for MÖWe entrusted with the questions of intercultural opening.

Contacts for further information: christina.biere[at]moewe-westfalen.de and vecera-s[at]vemission.org

#blacklivesmatter #dearwhitechurch

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