The Network Releases Statement on Race, Inclusion and Ministry

Note:  Over the last two months, the Network Board of Directors has engaged in deep listening and conversation around issues of race, justice and inclusivity.  While these conversations have been a part of the board’s agenda for years, the events surrounding the killing of George Floyd, and the subsequent events and conversations, increased our focus on race.  The conversations were honest, they were emotional and they were uncomfortable. The board approved this public statement on August 6, 2020.  It represents a step in the ongoing evolution of the Network into becoming an anti-racist organization.

Dear friends,

God has a vision for the church, and for all of creation:

“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”  – Revelation 7:9

The ELCA Youth Ministry Network believes in this vision, and in making it a reality within Christ’s church, and within the world.  We believe that racism is evil, and breaks our relationship with God, and with each other.  We renounce racism in all its forms.

The Network has been on a journey to becoming an anti-racist organization.  We know that we are not yet there.  But we are committed to the journey.

In the last ten years:

  • The Network’s board has had many conversations about what it means to be an anti-racist organization.  This has been a topic of conversation at every board meeting
  • The Network’s board has experienced both diversity and anti-racism training.  We will be experiencing training agin in September of 2020
  • The Network has created the multicultural initiative to invite and welcome people of color to engage in the work of the Network.  We have invested over $175,000 in this project over seven years
  • Over time, the percentage of people of color who are a part of the Network has grown to 12.9%.  (The percentage within the ELCA is 2.9%)
  • We have grown in representation of people of color on the Network board, and in Extravaganza leadership (planning team and speakers, musicians and teachers)

We lift these steps up not to highlight what the Network has done, but rather to acknowledge that we have been on a journey, and like all journeys, there are milestones.

At the same time, we know that we have a long way to go, and we confess that not everything we have done has been helpful.

  • We have moved too slowly in including people of color at all levels of leadership.  We continue to struggle with this
  • We have been guilty of micro-aggressions which have caused harm to our siblings of color
  • We have failed in lifting up and highlighting the gifts of good leaders and teachers
  • The systems we have set up have at times discouraged engagement rather than encouraging it

We confess these things that we have done, and the things that we have not done.  We repent, and we ask for forgiveness from our siblings of color.

As a Network, we recommit ourselves to the journey.  We intend to be a prophetic voice that speaks against racism, especially as it relates to our primary ministry of faith formation within Christ’s church, and we will continue to pour our resources into growing our ministry in ways that reflect the vision that we find in Revelation, chapter 7.

The Network is on a journey.  It is the role of the Network Board to tend to that journey.  And we commit ourselves to continuing to move forward in this journey, and to God’s vision for the church, every day.

Thanks be to God!

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