In January of 2017, around the time of the presidential inauguration, we gathered as a small group of church leaders to offer theological framing of that political, religious, and cultural moment in U.S. history through the Sarasota Statement. Our intention was to confess the sins of our past, acknowledge the threats of the present, and reaffirm the teachings, values, and practices of God’s vision for justice and Jesus’ way of love. As we have learned from the German Confessing Church and faith leaders of the U.S. Civil Rights movement, the Church today cannot keep silent. We have the obligation to confess faith in God by standing against racism, imperialism, and any thought, action, or policy that denies the dignity and humanity of God’s children and the sanctity of the planet.
Since that time, much of the corruption and brutality many feared and some resisted has grown more rampant and accepted. White supremacy and nationalism have found fertile soil in U.S. Christianity and daily destroy the lives, health, and freedoms of people who struggle to survive simply because of the body, gender, color of skin, class, or country into which they were born. Additionally, immoral handling of the coronavirus pandemic and lack of basic compassion from our political leaders have brought unimaginable suffering to millions of people across the nation.
When we composed the Sarasota Statement, we sought to proclaim our hope in Jesus Christ, take responsibility for the ways we fall short, and commit ourselves to more concrete action. While we sought to engage a broad audience with a prophetic word, we did not speak as prophetically as we could have and prioritized the comfort of dominant voices. While we committed to dismantle white supremacy, we failed to surrender our privilege to align with those for whom power is actively and systemically denied. While we committed to reject and resist racist practices, not all of us fathomed the depths to which societal and religious structures would go to protect white privilege and perpetuate patriarchy. Even in our attempt to seek and proclaim justice we sinned and caused our siblings harm. For this we repent, we seek forgiveness, and we pray for transformation.
As Black women, men, and children are ruthlessly murdered, and people of color and those made poor endure the sins of institutional bias, discrimination, and justice denied, we unequivocally declare that Black lives matter and we stand for the liberation of all oppressed peoples. We acknowledge that there can be no reconciliation without reparations. We reaffirm the Gospel truth that we are one family in God’s household; no one is an outsider or stranger. We pray not simply for decency and belonging, but also for value restored, voices amplified, legacies renewed, and livelihoods revived. All humans deserve health care and clean water. People of every gender, culture, and identity have the right to integrity over their bodies. And the planet, in all its richness and diversity, is to be cherished as a gift given by God.
We implore our siblings in the church to come alongside us as we re-engage the Sarasota Statement—wrestling with what it means to live anew the liberating teachings of Jesus—and to take up the cross of discipleship in this particular and turbulent time. We must ask ourselves: How do we challenge religious, cultural, and political ideologies and usher in God’s beloved community by building an antiracist church? How do we work to disrupt our own complicity in unjust systems? How do we disavow a false faith that mirrors the divisions of our hearts, society, and nation?
No matter what the future holds, in this particular moment we believe God calls the Church to declare our faith boldly, to embody Christ’s love radically, to demand justice fully, and to participate in the Spirit’s transformation and healing of our world. As writers of this statement, we offer our voices in this moment. As persons of privilege of varying degrees, we repent of our own complicity in systemic injustice. As agents of the gospel, we strive to love one another as God loves us.
To God be the Glory.
The Sarasota Statement authors