The following document was prepared by some participants at the Our Movement Forward Summit in Minneapolis who also attended the UM Next gathering in Kansas City. They define grace as opposed to pleasantness (“Oklahoma Nice” I call it), harm as opposed to discomfort, and offer a graceful way to hold a church gathering accountable to harm done in the moment rather than after the fact.
I personally think it is super helpful for any gathering, so I share it with that hope. While made by United Methodists, I would think it would be ecumenical in application.
Here’s the document.
(Note: POC+Q+T = Persons of Color, Queer, and Transgender persons. Acronym used by UMForward Summit)
OMF statement on Grace and Harm for UMNext
Our Movement Forward offers these definitions of harm and grace and a process by which harm will be stopped, named, and turned.
- Definition of Harm
- Harm is different from discomfort. Discomfort is the unease that arises from conflict. The response to discomfort is endurance.
- Harm in this context means repeating the oppression of marginalized people who have historically and culturally been emotionally, physically, and economically brutalized (ie. assaulted, silenced, dehumanized) by dominant powers in interpersonal and systemic ways. The appropriate response to harm is to stop and repair on the conditions set by marginalized people.
- This process is not meant to shame people of dominant identities. The focus is on the experience of marginalized people. Harm has been done to POC+Q+T people.
To do the least amount of harm this is what you need to do today [for church gatherings]:
- Definition of the Call to stop, break away, and rework the body.
- We need to center the voices and experiences of POC+Q+T persons. If a POC+Q+T person is experiencing harm during the proceedings, then any one POC+Q+T person will call to stop the proceedings and caucus to care for the harmed and bring back to the body a way for the harm to be redressed and to set us down a less harmful path. All business will be suspended during the caucusing time.
- There will be a symbol and singing that calls us to gather.
- Definition of Grace
- Grace is different than pleasantness. Pleasantness is extending courtesy for the sake of a collectively enjoyable experience.
- Grace, as modeled by Jesus, means offering feedback (ie. action/responses) that allows individuals and communities to more closely reflect God’s vision for the world. Grace certainly involves forgiveness and patience, though it also involves disruption of harm of marginalized people. Grace overthrows systems of power, it overturns tables. It agitates, transforms, and roots us.
- As Methodists, our foremost commitment is grace. It is our primary moral obligation to suspend pleasantness when grace requires it.
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