Response to Racism

Session Action Plan

Adopted July 2020

The life and teaching of Jesus Christ serve as an unequivocal commandment to seek justice, well-being, and peace for all, summed up in the Gospel of Matthew (22:39): “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” As we seek to live into these words, we acknowledge that our country has fallen short of them. Racism has again risen to a greater consciousness, both through new, prominent cases of Black people killed by police officers, and by the disproportionately poor outcomes of COVID-19 borne by those of color, outcomes linked to deeply entrenched inequities.

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we hold that such racism is firmly contrary to God’s Word. It has no place in a righteous nation. We confess these sins of hatred and oppression in the strongest terms; we acknowledge their stain in our full history; and we admit doing too little about them for too long. We commit now to redeeming ourselves through action. In the immediate days ahead, our community will define a plan to bring about more justice, equity, inclusion, safety, compassion, trust, and love. In the short-term, we will seek to strengthen our community by uplifting the disadvantaged and fearful and assist those in crises. We will not stop there, however. We commit to long-term empowerment and hope, so that we might one day effect true healing, absolution, and forgiveness. We will walk with any seeking constructive change and condemn those who would use violence to block progress.

We ask you to join us in our action, remembering always the words of Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

A Message from the Pastor

July 8, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of Westminster,

The Session (the governing body of our congregation) has been seriously embarked on a response to racism in our society leading up to and at its regularly scheduled meeting on June 24, in addition to the preaching and devotionals of our clergy since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. I want to share with you the actions and course for future action the Session has begun, acknowledging that this the beginning of an extended and important journey.

First, the Session has adopted the above statement.

Second, the Session is currently involved in the following process as it seeks to determine its own mind and chart a path forward for Westminster. Session members have participated in a professionally led small group, consisting of 5-7 elders each, meeting via Zoom, to consider the following questions:

Given that “God alone is Lord of the conscience” leads us to encourage and support our members in our individual actions and service in all aspects of our lives:

  • Is God leading us as a Session to lead our congregation in common action concerning our internal life of worship, Christian formation, congregational life, pastoral care, as well as our personnel, administrative, and financial policies, structures, and practices that can help address racism in our country? What elements should such action include?
  • Is God leading us to common action in our external life in mission in and to the community and larger church that is different from or adds to what we are currently doing? If so, in what ways?
  • How can we as a Session and congregation help lead our members, visitors, and friends as individuals to reflect and pray on our history and relationship with people of races not our own, to confess where confession is needed, to seek assurance where assurance is given, to find renewal where renewal is sought, to conversion where conversion is in order, and to action where action has not been evident?

These groups have been led by Whit Ayres, a member of the Personnel Committee, who has served as an elder in two PCUSA churches, and Dan Judy, who has served as an elder at Westminster, who are principals in the NorthStar Opinion Research Firm in Alexandria. They are collating the results and once shared with the Session, the Session will develop an action plan that grows out of these findings, begin to implement the plan, and set up processes to evaluate the plan and its progress periodically.

I want to thank the Session members for their diligent work and spiritual leadership of the congregation and ask for the congregation’s prayers and support as we move forward.  Please know that congregation members may address any suggestions or items for concern or consideration to the Session at [email protected].

Sincerely,

Larry R. Hayward
Pastor/Moderator of Session

A Message from the Pastor

June 4, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of Westminster,

One of the aspects of Westminster that I have appreciated over the years is the way you as a congregation appreciate and express support for hearing the multiple voices of your clergy in preaching and worship leadership.

In this day in which so many hunger for a word from the church and in which so many institutions – secular and sacred – are seeking to offer a word of wisdom, particularly in light of the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent responses to his death, I want to offer the multiple voices of Westminster pastors to you as an important resource for you to think, pray, and act to acknowledge and overcome the “original sin” of our nation’s history in slavery, and the racism which gave that sin its birth and which continues to live today. As we preach and pray, we who have been called to serve you as pastors seek God’s will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven,” in every aspect of our individual and common lives.

Each of these devotionals have offered the preaching of the word and prayer from our experiences and convictions of faith. We invite you to join us each Sunday at 10:00am and each weekday morning at 8:30 as we do seek to bear witness to the Word of God as it speaks our day and time.

Take care.

Larry R. Hayward
Pastor/Head of Staff

Watch the daily devotionals (beginning on June 1)

Watch the worship services