Next Steps from 7/2 Call for White Faith Leaders against the Burning of Black Church

Action Steps from the Call

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SURJ Call for White Faith Leaders Against the Burning of Black Churches – Notes- July 2, 2015

Here is a link to the recording of the call. 

Opening - Dara Silverman, SURJ National Coordinator

SURJ is a national network of white people taking action for racial justice. Makes such a big different for people of faith to stand up against the burning of black churches. Excited to be with all of you.

Opening Prayer from Molly Casteel, Presbyterian Church

Crucial to be hear together to respond to crisis of burning black churches and Charleston.  Appreciation for Micheal Ray Matthews from the PICO Network and Jacki Dupont-Walker from AME Church movement to share steps for taking action against burning of black churches.

Jason Lydon in Boston, Unitarian Universalist minister

Putting this into context is important to recognize that white violence has been happening against black churches since 18th century, to destroy targets of black spaces of worship. Black churches have always been a tool of power in black communities, place of community building and organizing, history dating back long before civil rights movement--as many of us remember the terrifying trend of black churches burning in the South. Black churches burning is a response to received empowerment of black people.

White response to black community control, black power, community strength, has historically been seen as burning of black churches. At end of slavery, during 18th century, again during civil rights movement, and then in the 1990s, federal legislation passed against church arsons. Attacking of black churches by white people is tool of terrorizing black communities. Amazing for us as white folks taking action is to always remember black resilience. Power and way that black people are surviving is not new but comes from long legacy. We as white people responding to this is similar legacy of white solidarity.


Thanks for framing for us black reliance and black resistance. Black communities have been doing this for more centuries in an ongoing way. Also history of white communities standing up against racist violence.

With us today representatives of folks organizing in black and multiracial communities.

AME church leaders just put out a call last night for action.

Jackie Dupont-Walker, AME Church

Thank you as we come together across faith groups. One of the most challenging moments of our lifetime for black church. We have the opportunity to not just say that we wish we had done something, on our watch to do something.

First time to be together across faiths in unity and solidarity. Council of bishops calling on us to lead a conversation, not let this be a sound bite or brief moment--we believe that the United States. Liberty and justice for all must not be just a phrase. We know people on this call are committed to this. Without the camera we would not have acknowledgement.

AME is a major tourist attraction, we had technological preparation.

Our doors will always be open. We can make sure that those that need to be locked away, will be--but we will face those who want to do the right thing. In our local congregations, going to roll out action plan for AME churches and beyond. Many things happening in our communities that we know are unacceptable. Not just about physical property, but unacceptable actions making sure those are addressed. Ecumenical groups challenge to be on the ground working together.

Sometimes we talk about working together and we go back to our local congregations and become siloed. Dialogues, we have agendas. Time for us to get to know each other, to take the leap to say things that have been harder to hear.


In terms of taking risks and being in streets to protect AME churches. Can you share what you are thinking and what white people of faith can do to support?

Jackie Dupont-Walker

Call folks to come out, get others to sign up, to say I will be part of this. Physical patrol or coming together to have rapid response network. A physical presence. Sometimes in signage, sometimes being on talk shows right wing. Sometimes public testimony. We want to keep this in front of the media. It is being present, being words of conscience.


Thank you Mrs. Dupont Walker. So many folks want to take action, and to show up for racial justice when you put out the call.

All of us who do this work, draw from source that keeps this work going. White people, stand on the shoulders of white anti-racist people who have been doing this work for decades, for hundreds of years.

Michael Ray Matthews, PICO network organizing faith communities for economic and racial justice. Will share with us some of the plans that PICO has in the works working for week of action. Response to church burnings.

Michael Ray Matthews, PICO Network

I work with the PICO national network, director of clergy organizing. Sharing a bit of what folks are contemplating in response to the burnings of African American churches in recent weeks.

A lot of this work has been lead historically by African American congregations. Plan involves incorporating regular organizing practices: Live free campaign.

This weekend, Freedom Weekend, asking our congregations to preach and pray and act around crisis, and encourage folks to donate to rebuilding fund. July 12-18th week of righteous resistance. PICO and beyond with other partners.

Sunday, July 12th, will hold live free Sabbath, live free campaign. Designate weekends where faith communities are preaching and praying on emphasis praying for and teaching about what burnings represent. Monday, participate in Moral Monday marches, July 13th. Dr. William Barber. Tuesday and Wednesday, training focused on building justice ministry, education folks about history of struggle. Teach-ins and trainings. Thursday, hosting series of screenings of movie about Jordan Davis, extension of education. Friday, peace walks in neighborhoods responding to intercommunal violence. Final day of this week of righteous resistance: Rally on Saturday.

KKK rally being panned in S.C. on July 18th. Lead counter rallies in S.C. but across the country. Part of that rally will include unveiling of research of some of the corporate, religious, and political connections to white supremacy. Divest from institutions perpetuating white supremacy.

Lastly, calling for commissions focused on directing resources to congregations that have been impacted.


Thank you for joining us Michael. Highlights of what Michael mentioned:

SURJ is putting together a toolkit for clergy. People be able to preach and do sermons about burning of black churches, tools for education of children and young adults. Releasing next week. Please share toolkits that you have used before. Child educators that are creating toolkits to use with children. Resource packet for people from different faith backgrounds to create lectures, educational modules. Email tools to

You can participate in this week of action. One of the things some are doing is standing out after church services with Black Lives Matter signs, white people standing against church burnings.

Join rapid response team. To have ways to plug in with other folks in your community to protest black churches and what you know is right, t stand up against white supremacy.

Going to break in small groups by state. Talk about history of black churches being burned, what we heard from Ms. Dupont Walker, setting up rapid response teams from PICO network. Week of resistance. Going to break up into groups. 15 mins to have conversation about what makes sense to do in your state.

Questions: what actions can you take? What are ways to plug more white people into taking action in your state?

What kind of support do you need? What kind of support do you need to bring more white people into racial justice in this moment? 

Closing Prayer from Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, T'ruah