Rev. Holly MillerShank
The United Church of Christ has made significant strides in becoming a Multi-Cultural/Multi-Racial, Open and Affirming, Accessible to All church. As we strive for these ideals of inclusion and wholeness, however, we continue to be plagued by bias, both conscious and unconscious.
In my ministry, I hear anecdotally about UCC members, born in other countries, who experience difficulties navigating our Member in Discernment process. I also hear from Authorized Ministers about their struggles in securing a call to ministry because of a perceived bias of race, age, or physical disability.
Thankfully, strong diverse networks such as the African American Women in Ministry (AAWIM), the UCC Disabilities Ministries, the 20/30 Clergy Network, and numerous other groups help to support and promote the needs and gifts of their members to the denomination.
Still, more must be done to name and address the underlying issues of bias throughout the church. Our Unitarian counterparts offer a training to all of their search committees called "Beyond Categorical Thinking" to talk frankly about issues of bias. We, too, need to imbed intentional opportunities to talk about issues of race, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation, and other important factors in our local churches, committees on ministry and wider-church settings.
In this Advent season, it is incumbent upon us to reflect on Jesus, our Savior: Jesus who, himself, was judged because of his age, the town he was raised in, and the economic status of his earthly father, Joseph. Jesus, who repeatedly broke down barriers of race, gender and class. Jesus, whose ministry exemplified the phrase we use today, "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here." May it be so.