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By Maurice Dyer
Diocese of El Camino Real
The Anglican Communion promotes intentional discipleship – a discipleship focused not just on Christian living or evangelism for evangelism’s sake, but discipleship that shapes the very core of who we are as Christians. This kind of discipleship has everything to do with formation. And, not just with what we might call “spiritual formation,” but with every facet of how we are formed as people.
Reconciliation, particularly racial reconciliation, plays a key role in intentional discipleship and disciple-making. The Communion’s resource on this topic offers that, “Following Jesus will and must change every aspect of our being. At the core will be our reconciliation with God, but this can never be complete until we are at peace with ourselves, in vital communion with the whole Body of Christ, in a renewed relationship with the whole human family, and discovering a new harmony with creation as a whole.”
God wills that as adults become disciples, so do children, youth and young adults. We are constantly being formed, even if that formation is not intentional. This is certainly the case when it comes to race and how we view others and ourselves. We like to use the language of reconciliation when we are talking about racial justice, racial relationships. But, I want to say that to reconcile essentially means that we were together, we broke apart, and now are coming back together. When we look at the history of this country and many countries around the world, there is not a time where we can look back to as a frame of reference, like, “man we really had our stuff together then. Let’s use that as our guiding star into the future.”
I think a more helpful way for us to really build God’s kingdom and to be intentional disciples of Jesus is not to think in terms of reconciliation, but formation: racial formation. We are formed racially no matter what, just by being born in a particular place and time. Therefore, when we are trying to understand each other, we should use the language of formation in a way similar to how we talk about spiritual formation. This will allow us to be more intentional and aware of the way that we were formed, the way that we are forming others, and the ways in which we are called to reform ourselves as the Body of Christ.
On Thursday, July 5, at General Convention, the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary hosted a panel discussion on “Race in the Communion: Racial Formation and Intentional Discipleship,” focused on “how race is constructed in different contexts and how Christian formation plays a transformative role in race relations.” Maurice Dyer, a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary from the Diocese of El Camino Real, facilitated the conversation.