S.C. religious leaders tapped to combat racism

COLUMBIA—It should be the duty of the Christian faith community to take the lead in combatting racism in our society.

That was the call to action brought forth by theologian and author, Drew G.I. Hart, Ph.D., at the fall dialogue of The Fellowship of South Carolina Bishops’ on Oct. 15 at Shandon United Methodist Church.

Formerly known as LARCUM, the coalition of Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist bishops was recently expanded to include the African Methodist Episcopal Church and other Protestant denominations and is now known as the Fellowship of South Carolina Bishops.

“If we’re going to be serious about confronting racism in any sphere, we have to be committed first as Christians to getting to the root of it and not just being well intentioned,” said Hart, author of “Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism.”

“Until the racial hierarchy is flattened, there will continue to be these really terrible moments in which people cannot come as shared human beings; followers who should be leaders to step up and be the ones to lead the conversation,” he continued.

The subtitle of Hart’s book, “Changing the Way the Church Views Racism,” was adopted as the theme of the dialogue.

Speaking before nearly 100 clergy and lay people representing several denominations, Hart, 35, an assistant professor in theology at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., delivered a powerful three part presentation. He recalled his experiences being the only African-American male on his dormitory floor in college, and spoke on everything from inequality in education funding and opportunities to the history of slavery, white privilege, and police brutality.

“It will take some renewed minds to be able to once again recognize what God desires for his creation,” Hart said.

“I think there’s a great opportunity here for us to both present our bodies in sacrifices and also to have renewed minds in the midst of the racialized patterns that exist in our society,” he continued.

After each presentation, attendees gathered in small groups for 15-minute sessions to discuss questions listed at the end of each section.

“This was a very substantive presentation,” said Father Sandy McDonald, pastor at St. John Neumann Church in Columbia.

“(Hart) provided a very helpful framework to understand the dynamics and difficulties and challenges of racism and how it applies to education, and how it applies to the call of the Church to respond. We need to hear the story of racism anew today and seek to understand it. It’s very complex, it’s very fraught, it’s painful and it’s necessary,” Father McDonald said.

By Chip Lupo / Special to The Miscellany

File photo: Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone greets participants at an ecumenical prayer service in January 2017.