Anti-racism

“As Christians, we must root out fear, and commit to … practices that help us to ground our actions … in love.” — former Moderator Jordan Cantwell
Living Cross stained glass
Credit: 
Sarah Hall

What We Believe

Although we believe that God is found in our common diversity, the sin of racism is present in our society and in our church. The United Church is committed to becoming an anti-racist church through a continuous struggle against racism. “Change is possible. We believe in forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation and the potential to learn from stories and experiences.” (That All May Be One, 2000)

The United Church of Canada’s anti-racism policy, That All May Be One, names four key areas of work:

  • Organize for the full participation of all peoples.
  • Organize for diversity by supporting anti-racism work and promoting positive relationships among diverse peoples.
  • Act justly within the church’s structures, courts, policies, and practice.
  • Speak to the world by supporting anti-racism work within broader society.

Our commitment to racial justice includes building right relationships with our neighbours, particularly reconciliation between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples. It means engaging in interfaith dialogue and speaking out against violence and discrimination rooted in racial and religious bigotry, including Islamophobia and antisemitism. It finds expression in our intercultural vision. It means having the courage to talk about racism and White privilege in our church and in our society.

As Moderator Jordan Cantwell put it in her March 2017 letter, “We need to name and examine our fears, prejudices, and assumptions. The privilege that many of us are born with may desensitize us to the injustice, exclusion, and hate that some in our community experience on a daily basis.” Only in that way can we build, as “That All May Be One” envisioned, a church and society “where all are welcome, where all feel welcome, and where diversity is as natural as breathing.”

What You Can Do

UN International Decade for People of African Descent

Logo: UN International Decade for People of African Descent
The United Church of Canada supports the International Decade for People of African Descent.

The United Church of Canada and the United Church of Christ (USA) are jointly participating in the UN International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024). This decade is an occasion to

  • work together with people of African descent around the world in a spirit of recognition, justice, and continuous development
  • acknowledge the profound contribution made by people of African descent to the economic, political, social, cultural and spiritual fabric of our communities, societies, and countries
  • implement concrete measures to promote their full inclusion and to combat racism, xenophobia, and intolerance

2020 Prayer Cycle

2020 marks the midway point of the UN Decade. As people of faith, we know that prayer has the power to transform and amplify or actions. We invite people to pray throughout 2020 for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent. A daily schedule of suggested intercessions will be released throughout 2020 in four parts; these resources be made available under Downloads, below throughout the year.

Follow the United Church on Facebook and Twitter to virtually participate in our Prayer Cycle. Consider amplifying these prayers or sharing your own on social media (use the hashtags #AfricanDescent, #UCCan, #UCC).

Learn more in the article “Two Churches Are Better Than One,” under Downloads, below, from the Winter 2018 edition of Mandate.

Challenging White Privilege

The United Church of Canada’s White Privilege Working Group is part of the church’s movement to becoming an intercultural church, the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Alongside the church’s commitment to anti-racism and to challenging anti-Black racism, identifying, understanding, and dismantling White privilege has been prioritized by the church.

As this church works to become one that is equitable, organizes for diversity, and seeks the full participation of all, transition may be difficult for people from dominant groups who have traditionally held power. Identities and place in the church and society may be challenged to make space for people who have been on the margins. Our current ways of being as a church and as a society have been painful for Indigenous, racialized, and bi-racial people for some time. People who are part of the dominant church may have to enter into places of pain to collectively move to a place where all are fully present at decision-making and leadership tables throughout the church and where diversity is as natural as breathing.

Many resources are available for worship, study, and reflection. A small sampling is available below and under Downloads.

Worship

Communities of faith may wish to plan a time of worship and prayer related to anti-racism. It may be helpful to view the online worship service United against Racism, which was hosted by the Black Clergy Network of the United Church on June 14, 2020 (video embedded above).

Other resources for reflecting on anti-racism in worship include

Reflection and Learning: United Church

Reflection and Learning: Ecumenical

The Work of Our Partners

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Published on: 
February 16, 2018

Full disclosure. I am a Black man. I was born in Jamaica and I am an immigrant to Canada. Having served as an ordained minister of The Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, I am now an ordained minister of The United Church of Canada. I wanted to say this upfront so that you can understand the context from which I speak. Let me be also very clear that when I speak about immigration I am speaking specifically and only about those persons who are lawful and legal immigrants to a country.

Like so many, I listened with concern and deep distress recently to the comments...

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December 5, 2017

Blackmail. Blackhearted. Black as sin. Washed white as snow. Over time, in our English language, we have become accustomed to equating evil as black, and purity as white. Even the dictionary adds credence to this. One dictionary defines “black” as “without any moral quality or goodness; evil; wicked.” The same dictionary defines “white” as “morally pure; innocent” (from dictionary.com). Similar definitions exist for the words “light” and “dark.”

Our ingrained – and at times binary – notions of black/white and darkness/light as inherently good and evil can guide how we...

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October 23, 2017

The Jane Finch community, situated in the northwest part of Toronto, is a community that has been plagued by gun violence. Much of this is due to larger systemic issues related to racialized poverty. Last year there were 65 gun discharges in Jane and Finch.

I work as the Community Minister at the Jane Finch Community Ministry which is situated in one of the social housing communities in Jane and Finch known as Firgrove. The role of the ministry is to stand in solidarity with the community providing...

Published on: 
August 14, 2017
Last updated: 
August 20, 2018
In the aftermath of the August 12 weekend when White supremacists and White nationalists converged in Charlottesville, Virginia, The United Church of Canada is asking its members to recommit themselves more fully to challenging the systemic racism manifested by this event.
Published on: 
February 13, 2017

Attendance at a Friday afternoon Muslim prayer service at the General Council Office (GCO) almost doubled last week, thanks to the presence of about two dozen GCO staff members and guests. They were there to show solidarity, following the mass shooting at the Centre Culture Islamique de Québec in late January.

The Muslim prayer group meets in the GCO chapel each week. Prayer group leader Mohamed Osman thanked the visitors for coming, noting that he is grateful that Canadians from coast to coast have been reaching out to their Muslim neighbours after the deadly shootings in the...

Published on: 
January 30, 2017
Last updated: 
November 1, 2019
Moderator Jordan Cantwell's open letter to our Muslim neighbours in response to the shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec.
Published on: 
January 12, 2017

I am a racist – a recovering racist. My workplace has helped me open my heart and mind to how racism shaped me. As editor of the At the Heart of Justice blog, I was pleased to uplift the theme of racial justice. What I came to understand was that my pleasure reflected my White privilege — I could choose to focus on this issue.

Over the years I’ve worked with racialized staff. Our working relationships were sometimes difficult because of different perspectives and cultural norms. But I also came to recognize my racism — the belief that my way, or...

Published on: 
November 23, 2016

We stood in the hallway of a retreat centre and listened to our instructions. The animator would read us a question. If our answer was yes, we were to take a step forward. If our answer was no, we were to stay where we were.

The animator told us to move forward if this statement was true for us. “When I learn about our Canadian heritage or about ‘civilization’, I am shown that people of my colour made it what it is.”  I stepped forward.

She read: “I can do well in a challenging position without being called ‘a credit to my race’.”  I winced and stepped forward.

We...

Published on: 
November 22, 2016
Last updated: 
August 23, 2019
The Executive of the General Council strongly denounces the recent incidents of racist graffiti in Ottawa.
Published on: 
November 17, 2016

That our United Church of Canada is undergoing change goes without saying. As generational and demographic experiences of church have shifted, the church has been exploring many matters which centre on diversity and inclusivity.