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Well-Being in Society
  By Allyson Carr, Justice Ministries
Note: This article includes a discussion of racism and gun violence
It is probably not controversial to say that there is a crisis afoot.
What is the crisis? There are several to choose from—war, a pandemic, the continued de- tection of unmarked graves at the sites of former Residential Schools that churches (including the PCC) operated, the climate crisis with its attendant fires, floods and droughts, a hous- ing crisis, the opioid crisis and a number of other crises besides. Many of them are related. But the one I’m speaking of here is a cri- sis that has been going on much longer than any of the specific cri- ses I’ve listed, though it certainly contributed to several of them. I am talking about the crisis of racism. Specifically, I am talking about systemic racism, which in our present context goes hand in hand with colonialism.
I say that the crisis has been going on for a long time, and that is true, but in many ways it is more visible now. Its current visibility is an important reminder that if we don’t—or won’t—see it, we can’t address it.
We need to address it. If we look at the myriad ways and means by which racism harms people, the intensity and depth and breadth of the harm becomes much more apparent. According to the numbers, racialized people in Canada have less access to
health care, experience greater economic, food and housing in- security, and are at greater risk of being targeted for violence. The PCC affirms in Living Faith that we are called to seek “the best way to create well-being in every society” (8.4.4). Surely doing our very best to create a church andasocietywheretheinequali- ties and injustices mentioned above are dismantled would go a long way toward creating well- being. Racism in a society, as in a church, stands in antithesis to well-being.
Naming the crisis of racism and addressing it can feel over- whelming—not least because it manifests in very particular and targeted ways. Racism isn’t sim- ply “racism generally”—rather, it is anti-Black racism, anti-Indige- nous racism, anti-Asian racism, racism against people with brown skin, and many other forms of specific, targeted oppression, violence, prejudice or discrimi- nation based on someone’s per- ceived race. Addressing any one of these forms of racism, one must take into consideration its particular characteristics. One size does not fit all.
The church today is of course not the first iteration of the church to “see” this problem and know that the Spirit calls the church to a new way of being—even if not everyone agrees what that might look like. The PCC has a history it can draw on (however imperfect) of speaking and acting to address and dismantle racism.
In the Life and Mission Agen-
cy’s report to General Assembly this year, you’ll find (under the Justice Ministries heading) a lengthy history of the PCC’s jour- ney toward addressing, over the past 60 years, the crisis of harm that racism has fostered and con- tinues to foster. There you can see, beginning with work nam- ing racial inequalities across the world in the 1960s through to the church’s present efforts to ad- dress racism and colonialism in its midst and examine what it will take to decolonize, an arc in the tradition of working toward well- being in every society. That arc is sketched out in policy, preaching, reports, teaching; advocacy and action; listening and learning; ac- knowledging as the Apostle Paul did on the road to Damascus so many years ago, when one is wrong and has to change. It is anchored in life-giving aspects of the heart of Christian practice: love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself.
The arc the report describes has tried over the years to make that love faithfully concrete in practice and witness. The church has tried to learn how best to wit- ness as the body of Christ while
acknowledging we live in and are part of a world shaped and marred by racism. This fact of a world so marred was brutally brought home yet again recently at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, where on May 14 a white nationalist filled with hate and fuelled by white supremacist con- spiracy theories killed 10 people, all of whom were beloved mem- bers of families and communi- ties. He explicitly targeted Black people.
This did not happen out of the blue. There is much that could be said about how it could have been prevented and certainly there is conversation that needs to hap- pen around access to guns in the United States and elsewhere. But this was first and foremost a rac- ist act of a white supremacist and white nationalist who, it appears, was already previously known to police for having made threats in other contexts. The fact that those threats were not taken more se- riously was enabled by a culture that has consistently resisted ad- dressing and undoing systemic racism, despite a decades-long movement for civil rights and ra- cial equity, led primarily by those
with lived experience of racism. Long before that gunman walked into the grocery store this past May, we knew, we know, that racism can be deadly—and most of the deaths it causes don’t happen through guns. Down to even the most minute and mundane aspects of life, racism is fundamentally a dehu- manizing force that tries to make it seem “normal” that some peo- ple—like myself, born and raised white—have privilege or advan- tage while others are actively be- ing disadvantaged, marginalized,
The report to General Assem-
bly I’d mentioned concludes with a recommendation that develop- ing an anti-racism covenant for the church begin. Such a cov- enant itself won’t solve the crisis of racism, but it would be one way of naming more specifically the importance, as Christians, of actively working against racism. Whether or not the General As- sembly decides such a covenant is the best next step to take, the call to work and witness for well- being in every society, as the body of Christ in all its diversity, remains.
 Letters to the Government
The church is called to witness and to be the body of Christ in the world. All that the church says, does and is silent on stands as a public witness to how the body of Christ lives and acts, and what it desires for the world. Part of this public witness involves formally speaking to those with authority in the world, such as government officials. The church properly uses its voice to call on such authorities to help shape the kind of world that allows all creation, including humans, to flourish.
Every year, the Moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada writes letters to the government of Canada advocating for change. Recently, the Rev. Daniel Scott signed on to an ecumenical letter to the Honourable Minister Mélanie Joly, urging immediate action to protect the rights of Palestinian Christians and Muslims to fully access places of worship in occupied East Jerusalem. The letter states, “Freedom of Worship is a human right, and ensuring unimpeded access to places of worship is a duty of every government.”
To read this letter and all letters to the government, visit

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