Adele Halliday, Anti-Racism and Equity lead for the United Church of Canada, moderated the discussion, posing questions for panelists and also allowing time to explore spiritual moments.
Rev. Dr Kent Walley, rector, at St Luke's Episcopal Church in Gladstone New Jersey, and recipient of a Lilly Foundation clergy renewal grant, shared that he was participating in the webinar as a learner. “I really feel like I’m coming as one who is on a journey,” he said. “In a word, ‘sin’ is the place to start.”
Barbara Reynolds, UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, agreed with Walley about how to begin the discussion: “Most simply, it’s sin,” she said. “Let me emphasize that.”
Rev. Philip Vinod Peacock, executive secretary for Justice and Witness for the World Communion of Reformed Churches, shared why he believes racism is so difficult to eliminate. “Because it’s not found in the larger atrocities that happen every now and again,” he said. “I feel that racism is hard to eliminate because it’s in the mundane. We have normalized it to such an extent that we do not even recognize it.”
Rev. Prof. Dr Margit Ernst-Habib, professor of Systematic Theology at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, said eliminating racism will take more than just forms of self-examination such as unconscious bias training. “We have to learn, especially in churches, that well-meant is not always well-done,” she said.
Peace Ashenafi, peace-building officer and senior enquiries officer at Tearfund, spoke about sin and theology. “It is sin; that is one of the core reasons as to why it’s so difficult, that so much of people’s behaviors—and the systems and structures—that have been created,” she said. “I do also think that one obstacle to be eliminated in overcoming racism would be our theology, particularly from the Christian perspective where our theology has historically endorsed this kind of behavior. If we believe that we have all been created in the image of God, that should surely change our minds and the way we relate to the other.”