Racial Formation, not Racial Reconciliation

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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.

Anglican Communion Panel.jpgOn 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. 

2 replies »

  1. After reading this, I wrote as follows on my blog:
    We have so many problems in our society today, it is a wonder why we choose to fight between ourselves over what color we are, or what or national origin is. I am from British stock on my father’s side and Italian/Sicilian stock on my mother’s side. Having been a history and culture professor before concentrating on teaching writing, I am fully aware that there is a great racial mixture in my background. On my father’s side, I am English, which means that there is some German and French blood running through my veins, and Scottish, which means that I may also have some Viking blood in me, which could be Norwegian, Swedish, or even Russian. On my mother’s side, there is French and Italian, which could also mean some Austrian, or Hungarian blood, but it also could be some norther African blood, which means I could have a mixture of Greek and Black African blood running through me.

    I know that I can send for a DNA kit to show where my extended long-dead relatives originated, but I don’t care. I am part of humanity, you know, the one that God made in his image and likeness. I cannot imagine what God looks like; this is far beyond my capabilities as a mere mortal human. What I am certain of is that there is no color for God; He, or She, is beyond and far superior to an image of Him, Her, as a mere mortal. To me, the face of God is Jesus. According to my faith, and the faith of millions of others, Jesus is the Son of God, or at least the most important prophet placed on earth by God.

    As I look back on the makeup of Jesus, as the Son of Mary, the granddaughter of David, many generations back. If that is so, we know from the Bible that David co-habitated with Bathsheba the nubile Queen of Central Africa, which, in all likelihood, means that there is Black African blood in Jesus. The face of Jesus, as I portray Him, is not that of Max Von Sydow, or Jeffrey Hunter, who portrayed him in the movies. If I were to take a realistic stab at it, Jesus was probably a short man, of middle eastern, or east Asia complexion. I know that this next statement will offend many, but I must make it anyway. If I am going to truly think of what Jesus looked like 2000 years ago, he could probably look much like Yassir Arafat did when he lived. Short, but with a dynamic personality that attracted many poor workers to follow him.

    I think that God had a plan for this; we cannot know what Jesus truly looked like, which is why, when you enter a Christian church that is not predominantly white, Jesus is portrayed as a man with dark skin.
    So, when theologians, and people concerned with racial reconciliation, I truly believe that what they really mean is that as a community, we must re-form our thinking. This is a formation, or a re-formation of God’s society. Any reconciliation must come from within each person. We must reconcile within our own selves how we want to live and who we want to share this wonder world with.

    I apologize if I have offended anyone; my prayer is that I have planted a seed within those who read this. That seed should be to reconcile with yourself and God so that we can reform our society, the entire society of the world into a more open and accepting entity.

    God bless you all. I Love you all.