Dear Rev. Lee
Dear Rev. Lee,
I want to first of all say thank you for answering the call of God toward racial justice. Thank you for being faithful to that call in spite of the backlash from those you expected and from some other who you probably did not expect including your own church membership. I want to thank you for being true to the call in the face what could be seen as a your white supremacists birthright.
Believe it or not, we share have a lot in common. Like you, I am ordained clergy in the United Church of Christ. Like you, I believe that our God is a god of justice and equity. Like you I am very passionate about racial justice specifically. Like you, my commitment has often run me into trouble and left me without a call within the United Church of Christ. In addition to those things, I would suspect that we share in common a passion for racial justice which was born out of our shared history. It may be strange to think of our history as shared. But we both find our ancestry in former Confederate States. My ancestors were enslaved Africans held in Louisiana and South Carolina.
Close to 10 years ago I left the denomination and Church of my birth and heritage to become UCC. I left where I came from because I wanted to talk about gender and sexuality and God in church and there was no room for that. And I came to the UCC, yes, because there was room for that. But I stayed UCC through many difficulties because of the clergy relationships I’ve made and the coalitions I have built with white clergy committed to the work of anti-racism.
I notice that I have become very close with many white UCC clergy like you who struggle to reconcile coming for both a long line of clergy and God-fearing and loving people AND a long line of racists and white supremacists. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the descendant of those who believed in God but sought to oppress and repress ended up in the same denomination and spaces of the descendent of those who also believed in Gob but were too repressed to live out to fullness of God’s call.
I also don't think that it is a coincidence that the UCC continuously finds itself in the center when major racial upheavals and un-earthings happen in our country. From Jeremiah Wright to Ferguson to you… UCC clergy seem to always be in the midst.
I don't say that to brag. I say that to affirm that text that says, unto whom much is given much is required. And because we’ve found ourselves here we must have a call to do real reconciliation work.
I believe that this overwhelmingly white and privileged yet progressive denomination has a particular divine charge and is perfectly positioned to dismantle racism and white supremacy. I think your (our) whiteness and your specific heritage grants you access to spaces that I would never be able to access. Yet there seems to always be a disconnect between the clergy and the local churches. This is a sign that we really need to do that internal work first.
Which brings me back to your present state. It saddens me to hear that you were compelled to leave your church. Yet it doesn't surprise me. There is a lot of work to do on the local church level before we can truly become what has been declared at the national level. There is a lot of discomfort when it comes to delving deep into the reality of whiteness, even as many of our churches are majority or all white. It's a conundrum that has tripped me up a few times too.
So I celebrate your bravery. And I affirm your need to find other ways to live out your call.
Even before you left your church I was seeking you out to contribute to what we do here. There is no money but there is room.
In all of this I hope you take time to recover but never lose sight of your call. Continue to condemn those who seek to make your ancestors’ legacy an idol of white supremacy. Know that you are not alone in the work.