June, 2022 General Assembly (RGJ-008) by Presbytery of Baltimore
On June 24, 2022, the General Assembly Committee on Race & Gender Justice (RGJ) heard the case for recommending the Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery (GLJ) overture, “An Apology to African Americans for the Sin of Slavery and its Legacy” to the General Assembly for approval. In April, the Presbytery of Baltimore (PoB) overwhelmingly approved the concurrence and our Presbytery’s Dismantling Racism Team designated Annette Snyder to represent the views of the PoB during the proceedings of the RGJ Committee. The RGJ Committee unanimously approved the GLJ Overture, and moved it forward for a vote by the entire General Assembly. Recordings of the three days of the RGJ committee’s meetings can be found here: https://ga-pcusa.org/video/committee-collection/#rgj. This is a link to the full text of the GLJ Overture, concurrences from other presbyteries, and the Committee’s recommendations.https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000895
I thank the Committee on Racial and Gender Justice for the opportunity to speak today. I am here to represent the Presbytery of Baltimore. We are 65 churches spanning most of Maryland–from the western-most panhandle to Baltimore, to the shores of the Chesapeake, and north to our border with Pennsylvania.
With towns settled along the waterways of the Chesapeake watershed, we are urban, rural, and
suburban; disparate in our geographic and cultural traditions, yet fully united in our concurrence with The Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery’s overture to the 225th General Assembly of the PCUSA, “An Apology to Our African Americans for the sin of slavery and its legacy”. I speak today as one of those African Americans whom, I hope, you feel deserve this apology.
I thought that I knew history as an Black American descendent of enslaved people, well enough, but I learned that I did not; much had been withheld, re-interpreted, misinterpreted, hidden and even lied about.
For the last few years, a group of Presbyterian churches in Baltimore took on the task of providing a series of racial justice workshops, starting with exploration and discussion of the 1619 project. We also initiated research of the origin stories related to race of some of the churches. The work has been eye-opening and painful; it invokes fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Through these activities, I learned just how very insidious, deliberate, and intentional enslavement was and how persistent its legacy. I better understood the historic and present harms, sometimes hidden in plain sight, that impact my children’s and grandchildren’s lives, now—educational, employment and housing opportunities. Harm that, without correction, my children’s grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to endure.
History has conspired to place us on an a common journey—some on a privileged path resulting from falsely claimed ‘superiority’, at the cost of others’ pain, degradation and dehumanization; those that suffer from the residual, entrenched beliefs, policies, and laws that continue to rob descendants of enslaved Africans in America. The wrong turns must be recognized and and new paths forged; paths that converge and bring us to the place where we live together under the grace of God. It is time to commit ourselves to creating a new history that shows that we stand ‘against injustice and with the wronged.’
We should not falsely reassure ourselves that taking action without remorse for the sin of slavery and persistent racism is enough—pretending that the past did not happen, thinking that as long as the right thing is done now, that we can simply leave the past in the past. The times in which we are living are replete with evidence of the legacy of the past and persistent wrongs — ten in a Buffalo supermarket, nine in a Charleston church, Freddie Gray-Baltimore, Sandra Bland-outside of Houston, Breonna Taylor-Louisville, George Floyd-Minneapolis. Too many names to mention, but we need to remember every one….Let’s be intentional, and give full voice to why and how we came to be in this place of pain and degradation. That harvest looks promising—there is wealth, plenty, and prosperity—but only for some. This harvest grew from seeds of hatred, division and abuse. It’s time to rotate the crop—dig out the roots of that which leached the goodness of our spirit, and start over with seeds that will grow that which will nourish and sustain our right relationship with God. We must plant seeds of love and harvest justice, peace, and equity. We must commit ourselves to creating a new history and stand, with our Lord, ‘against injustice and with the wronged’.
I urge you to vote ‘yes’ in favor of this Overture.
– Advocate, Annette Snyder, RE