Churches Beyond Borders—Advent Call to Address Racism and White Supremacy

November 30, 2020

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4).

In the wilderness and in the river, on the margins of society, John the Baptizer offered faithful witness to the ongoing work of God. People went beyond the borders of their familiar lives to hear the words of a prophet, to seek renewed faith, to begin new journeys and to be transformed through baptism.

What does it mean to offer faithful witness today? As we ponder this question together as national church leaders, we experience shared challenges, new insights, mutual encouragement, deeper faith and common callings. Our common witness is bound not by ecclesiastical or national borders but by our common baptism. As leaders of four churches on a shared continent, and with shared complicity in the legacies of the Doctrine of Discovery, the enslavement of Black people and the mistreatment of all people of color, we hear the prophets and the Spirit speaking clearly when we listen together.

This Advent, we feel called to name the truth that the sin of racism and white supremacy is ongoing. People continue to be subjected to and oppressed by these systemic evils, even within our own churches and the ecumenical movement.

For the sake of our common mission and witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, we share a commitment to dismantling racism and combating white supremacy, and we actively seek opportunities to engage more deeply. We bind ourselves together in this work, even as we are bound together by a common history of complicity with evil. We look forward to meeting with members from the Black, Indigenous and other communities of color within and beyond our churches to help us develop specific goals and actions. We know this will not be easy, but it is essential. It happens only by moving beyond the borders of the familiar, encountering the truth, trusting God’s grace and being transformed. We have much to learn from and with each other.

The birth of Christ to dwell among us holds the hope for our own rebirth. Our faith is in God’s ongoing work that establishes God’s kin-dom of equity, equality, justice and liberty for all. Our calling is to prepare the way of the Lord by embracing truth, promoting healing and acting in love.

As you make your Advent preparation this year, what do you need most? Forgiveness, repentance, healing, renewal of baptismal vocation, time in the wilderness or a word from a prophet? We are confident that God will grant us all that we need to be transformed for faithful witness.

Let us pray

God of all, form us into churches beyond borders.
When we feel stuck, amplify the prophet’s word.
When we are distracted by privilege, put us in the wilderness.
When we need a new way, dunk us in the river.
When we are wrong, move us down the path of truth-telling and repentance.
When we need healing, sustain us with your love and hope.
When we cannot see beyond ourselves, move us beyond arbitrary borders.
Bless us with the Holy Spirit, that the good news may be for us a beginning.

[signed] +Linda Nicholls

Archbishop and Primate Linda Nicholls
Anglican Church of Canada

[signed] +Michael Curry

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry
The Episcopal Church

[signed] +Susan C Johnson

National Bishop Susan C. Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

[signed] Elizabeth Eaton

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

John 15:12-17

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Luke 11:33-36

The Light of the Body

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket; rather, one puts it on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is unhealthy, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36 But if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus Cleanses a Man

8 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, and there was a man with a skin disease who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be made clean!” Immediately his skin disease was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”