What were the biggest challenges the authors faced in drafting this year’s materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity?
Dr DeYoung: The work of composing the materials was very personal for the team of authors. They all had direct experience with racism, intense feelings of grief and outrage at the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and subsequent involvement in the protests that resulted. Engaging scriptural texts to call for racial justice and unity required revisiting the very personal nature of the work. Another challenge was selecting language that would convey a Minneapolis or United States perspective of racism in a way that could be understood by a global audience. A third challenge was how to speak to an institutional church that contains both those in power and those who feel powerless. Calling for Christian unity requires a balance of both a prophetic and pastoral approach that acknowledges complicity and offers healing.
For people that would term some of your resources “political” rather than “spiritual,” what would you say to them?
Dr DeYoung: Issues of racial and social justice cannot easily be divided between political or spiritual. The Hebrew prophets often spoke truth about injustices to the political leaders of their time. Jesus preached a gospel that was good news and liberation to those oppressed. The spiritual is political; and the political needs the spiritual.
What is your personal hope for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity?
Dr DeYoung: I hope that this resource created by a team of Minnesota Christian leaders will motivate Christians around the world to address the injustices in their context that divide society and the church. This begins with dialogue that creates a biblically-informed shared understanding and is followed by a commitment to the long haul.
Can you tell us a little about how the team was selected?
Dr DeYoung: Given that George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in 2020, the World Council of Churches reached out to the Minnesota Council of Churches to form a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity writing team that represented racial justice activist voices here. We organized a team with a majority of Black voices, yet included others who were engaged. The 2023 resources were designed by a team of six Black, two Indigenous, and one Latine Christian leaders in Minnesota. All equally contributed in the writing and editing. They are as follows:
Stacey Smith and Anthony Galloway – African Methodist Episcopal Church
DeWayne Davis – United Church of Christ
Leslie Redmond – Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
Cynthia Manns – Roman Catholic
Jia Starr Brown – Disciples of Christ
Kelly Sherman-Conroy – Lutheran (ELCA)
Jim Bear Jacobs – Presbyterian Church USA
Jose Antonio Machado – Lutheran (ELCA)