Experiences of Racism Break into the Open
The predictable processes of the 43rd General Council veered into uncharted territory as Indigenous and racialized commissioners and guests took to the microphones and for two hours shared their deeply personal experiences of racism and marginalization in the church. This turning point in the proceedings, near the end of the last day of business, Friday, July 27, was a powerful call to the church for true transformation.
Responding to a reflection by Intercultural Observer Paul Douglas Walfall, who called on the church to recognize its own racism and the marginalization of racialized members, youth delegate Daniel MacDonald and commissioner Penny Nelson presented a proposal that the General Council ask their racialized siblings for forgiveness, and that business processes and procedures be "transformed" from this point forward.
Moderator Jordan Cantwell then called on White commissioners to give racialized members of council an opportunity at the microphone and the lines of people formed up. As the outpouring of painful story after painful story unfolded, commissioners sat silently and respectfully. But the deep effect of these stories was written across many faces.
These stories can be seen in the last two hours of the Final Decision Session livestream on the 43rd General Council website.
The Moderator, the Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell, thanked all those who offered their stories, saying, “[You] have honoured us, challenged us, extending in doing that a hand of friendship … to us. I want to say thank for you for your vulnerability, for your challenge, for showing us how to be the church in a different way. You have given us a gift; we as a church need to understand how to open up that gift fully. We're not going to get there tonight or tomorrow."
Before returning to business, the Moderator suggested that commissioners take the time to let this rare gift soak in rather than rushing to finish up with the closing proposals, and moving on to closing worship and the installation of the new Moderator. This small step on the road to transformation may have been a true kairos moment for the church.