Continuing the Pilgrimage Toward Racial Justice and Healing

A major point of the 2023 Synod of the Moravian Church Northern Province (MCNP) centered on God’s call to the work of justice, an integral and defining part of our Christian identity.

One congregation’s work of justice may address the causes of poverty or educational disparities, while others may be called to advocate for affordable housing, transportation or job retraining, depending on the concerns of their communities. Other justice work requires all of us working together to overcome institutional and systemic injustices that undergird and perpetuate injustices and imbalances in all our social systems and relationships.

Racial disparities are found in health, housing, education, legal representation, voting and other social systems. This justice work often demands much of us, and requires long-term commitment, perseverance and hope.

One of the proposals adopted by the 2023 MCNP Synod is a “Commitment to the Work of Racial Justice and Healing.” This legislation both affirmed the work toward racial justice and healing during the previous five years and acknowledged the need for a long-term commitment to move toward systemic change, and the healing and repair of relationships.

The 2023 Synod action extended legislation passed in 2018, “…recognizing that racism continue[d] to devastate the lives of people of color,” and “…acknowledging past failures to ‘work diligently to eliminate racism, and the fostering of diversity in churches.’” The 2018 legislation referenced the 1998 Interprovincial Faith and Order Commission’s, “A Statement on Racism and the Church.”

In this statement, drawing on texts from Holy Scripture, and excerpts from The Moravian Catechism, The Ground of the Unity, and The Moravian Covenant for Christian Living, Faith & Order stated unequivocally that racism is sin and “contradicts the teaching of Jesus and violates the known will of God,” and “God’s call for members of Christ’s church to be reconciled to God and one another and to be engaged in a ministry of reconciliation in the world.”

The Commission found that the church “has been affected by the very racism that is contrary to our beliefs,” pointing, for example to  “…the segregation apparent in our church’s worship life and congregational life…the absence of widespread dialogue on the issue and resulting congregational inaction to overcome the effects of racism in our society… the inability of the majority to hear the expression of frustration, pain and anger of minority peoples…”  2018 Synods of both the Northern and Southern Provinces reaffirmed the “Statement on Racism and the Church,” and adopted new legislation that included specific steps toward racial justice and healing.

In the Northern Province, these steps included a requirement for all pastors, licensed ministers and candidates for ordination to receive anti-racism training to equip clergy to lead congregations in this holy, healing work. The MCNP Provincial Elders’ Conference (PEC) began the process of planning for the required training by listening to the stories from clergy of color of the extensive harm and injury they and their families experienced due to racism and recognizing the church’s implicit and complicit role in this harm. In the spirit of the 1998 Statement on Racism, they listened to the frustration, pain and anger of our siblings in Christ; and repented, grieved together and prayerfully sought authentic ways for the church to hear of the stories of people of color and begin a sustained dialogue on racism.   

On a Pilgrimage

Initial training for clergy occurred in the context of a Pilgrimage Toward Racial Justice and Healing held in Montgomery, Alabama, in September 2022. Seventy-five clergy, licensed ministers and candidates for ordination, including six persons from the Southern Province, participated in this transformative event.

The week-long event included presentations by Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Justice and a heart-breaking account from Rev. Dr. Frank Crouch of our own history with slavery, racism and segregation. Several Moravian clergy members provided personal accounts of racial injustice, while teams of pastors worked through exercises in racial understanding. Participants were  confronted with the history and legacies of slavery and injustice through visits to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum and the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr., was pastor. You can hear more from participants in this Pilgrimage by visiting the Racial Justice and Healing page on 

Racial Justice Team

The Northern Province PEC organized the MCNP Racial Justice Team in 2019. Since that time, they planned the 2022 Pilgrimage, offered a variety of educational and advocacy opportunities and resources, and helped facilitate dialogue about racism and related concerns. Since the 2023 Synod, the Racial Justice Team offered an Advent “New Way of Being” series with presentations and small group discussions; provided resources for congregational use on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month, or at other times of the year; developed a pilgrimage grant program; arranged for raising awareness on May 5 of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women with members of the Morongo Congregation; and hosted the Bible study, “Being A Christian Citizen.”

The Racial Justice Team is available to assist with resources and support for your congregation’s pilgrimage toward racial justice and healing and our shared pilgrimage to end systemic racism. We have been called to live into God’s vision for our Province and to do the work of justice entrusted to us.

“First” and “next step” resources are available for congregations at any place on the “pilgrimage” to racial justice and healing. What the Faith and Order Commission observed in 1998 is still true today: the segregation apparent in our church’s worship life and congregational life. For some, a first step may be to explore the history of their communities’ development and barriers that may have existed (and/or exist) to greater integration. Resources are available for use by congregations, groups and individuals at justice. 

The Rev. Sue Koenig is director of Racial Justice and Healing for the Moravian Church Northern Province. For more information, contact here at [email protected].  We will share the work of the Southern Province Moravian Team for Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Reconciliation in a future issue.