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June 11, 2020

Christ's transforming love: a statement on racism

Written by  EMM Leadership Team

Christ’s transforming love compels us. These are the first five words of our mission statement. We recognize that Christ’s love is not static — it is transformative. This means that we expect Christ’s love to change us to be more like Him. This kind of transformation happens when we approach God with a posture of humility, repentance, and openness to what Jesus might have to show us. 

On May 25, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. In the time that has passed since that gruesome day, many Americans, and others around the world, have responded to George’s death in different ways. Some have chosen to speak up loudly, while others have sought to listen intently. Likely, there are many who have chosen to tune out the news. Perhaps the pain is too great to bear or the political upheaval feels too divisive. 

We believe in the power of Christ’s transformative love that can change hearts, communities, and nations. That transformation must start with us. It means that we must do the challenging inner work of listening, learning, lamenting, and examining our own understandings, motivations, and blindspots. 

As an organization, our earliest mission partners were members of the African American community living in the Welsh Mountain area of East Earl, Pa., more than 100 years ago. Through the decades that followed until now, we have engaged with people of color, locally and globally in many different contexts. These varied relationships enrich us.

We confess that we have not always acted in a Christ-like manner in the ways we have engaged with people of color. We confess we have not adequately reflected on ways that our organizational structures are biased against people of color. Furthermore, we recognize that we continue to hurt our brothers and sisters by passively participating in racist systems, benefitting from discriminatory policies, and being convinced by prejudiced ideas. We confess these things and say, “We are sorry.”  

EMM stands with our brothers and sisters of color to affirm that black lives matter. We know this term has become divisive for many people, but we proclaim this boldly because we believe it to be true. 

Yes, God loves all people, but in America, we see black lives continue to be taken, and for that reason, we must declare that the lives of our brothers and sisters of color do matter. Transformation does not stop with us. It is not enough for us to just believe this for ourselves, we must share this prophetic word and invite others to be transformed by it.

This transformation goes beyond words — it challenges actions. In the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, we hold the conviction: 

“Led by the Spirit, and beginning in the church, we witness to all people that violence is not the will of God. We witness against all forms of violence, including war among nations, hostility among races and classes, abuse of children and women, violence between men and women, abortion, and capital punishment.”

We are a people of Christ’s peace, and that means we not only live peacefully but that we also witness against all forms of violence. As people who have often been the “quiet in the land” we’ve wrestled with the tension of what it means to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Sometimes, that has meant that we don’t speak or act because it might conflict with our desire to be separate from the kingdoms of this world. 

While we understand this theological commitment, we ourselves must realize that we cannot speak out against racism if we are unwilling to take a stand against the violence that takes so many lives. There are many ways to do this, but one we might suggest is to engage the peacemaking advocacy work of Mennonite Central Committee.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. In Jesus’ inaugural sermon, he read from the scroll of Isaiah, clearly setting the path for his ministry on earth in the years to come. These words are the core of EMM’s vision for God to cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations (Isaiah 61:11). In closing, we leave you with the words of Jesus echoing Isaiah’s prophetic call. May these words be a call to pray, speak, and act more like Jesus. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
      to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
      to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
— Luke 4:18–19, NRSV

Humbly in Christ,
EMM Leadership Team
Gerry Keener, president
Lorri Bentch, Mission Team director
Becky Hess, Human Resources director
Joe Hollinger, Advancement director
Steve Martin, Finance director

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