Antiracist Feminist Pastor and a Matthew 25 Church

This is hard work. The results are slow coming. But it is important work.

I am part of an interfaith antiracist group in the area of Pittsburgh where the church I serve is located. This group gathers to have the difficult conversations around racism, to hold each other accountable, to support on another, and to take action together for our shared community. It’s incredibly valuable to me to engage in this work with other faith leaders. I am grateful for the rich wisdom being shared and relationships being built. Mostly, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be in difficult conversations. It seems like an odd thing to be thankful for, but this process is transformative for me personally and as one of the leaders in a church that is striving to be antiracist too.

Third Church has decided to be a Matthew 25 church (more on that later), support my work with the antiracist faith leaders in the community and among students at Chatham University. I am excited (and scared) to be part of a liberation theology talk series on campus this fall in partnership with Dr. Sharon Higginbothan. All of this feels like it’s been a long time coming and at the same time overwhelming with how much is happening all at once.

The culmination of these events feels like an affirmation to the call I feel to be the kind of feminist that is intentionally intersectional in her work and at the same time brings that imposter syndrome feeling of not being qualified to be in these spaces. I’ve read and reread Elizabeth’s Lesser’s chapter in “Cassandra Speaks” titled “overcoming the imposter syndrome”. She says sharing this imposter feeling and finding solidarity is helpful for freeing herself from that feeling (so I’m hoping naming it here can be helpful for me). She reminds all of us to show up as our true selves, which I will keep in mind as I prepare for the speaker series. The chapter closes with this prayer/mediation/sentiment, “Grant me confidence, but make me earn it though excellence. Grant me confidence, but keep me humble, keep me kind, and keep me real.” So, I’m writing those things in my planner too, right next to a couple of books I plan to read prior to the event to remind myself to do my best work and show up as my best self.

Below is a church newsletter article that I co-authored with the chair of our mission committee that will help explain what it means to be a Matthew 25 church and how Third Church is trying to live out the mission to build congregational vitality, dismantle structural racism, and end systemic poverty.

The Matthew 25 vision calls for the PCUSA to be actively engaged in their communities by working toward: 1) building congregational vitality; 2) dismantling structural racism; and 3) eradicating systemic poverty.

Building congregational vitality refers to the intentional and continuous faith development of pastors and members of a congregation that leads disciples who are members in a church to actively engage with their community.  Dismantling structural racism involves breaking down the laws, policies, practices and structures that reinforce and perpetuated discrimination, bias, prejudice and oppression of people of color.  Eradicating systemic poverty refers to the elimination of the economic exploitation of impoverished people through laws, policies, practices and systems that perpetuate an impoverished state.

These goals are based on biblical teachings rooted in theology, can further enhance Third Church’s capacity for purposeful mission.  In June Session approved a motion by the Mission Committee for Third Church to become a Matthew 25 congregation.  This commitment means that we have agreed to pour love, energy, and action into one or more of the three focuses as a faithful expression of what it means to be Christ’s disciples in this time and place.

Before making the recommendation, the mission committee discussed how these topics align well with ongoing activities within the church, and with future activities mentioned in the Mission Study Report developed in 2019. Regarding item 1, Matthew 25 looks toward, “Empowering every member to discover their individual calling and the gifts God has given them so they can go forth and serve.”  Additionally, “opening our doors and hearts to all people, to build relationships modeled on God’s love, which leads to genuine reconciliation and peace.” Regarding item 2, Third Church’s mission funding to Open Hand Ministries, East Liberty Family Health Care Center, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and Neighborhood Academy all work toward supporting efforts to help dismantle poverty, housing discrimination, and healthcare and education disparities—all underlying causes of racism. Our adult forum has been reading anti-racism acknowledging that anti-racism work begins with eliminating racism in ourselves.  Pastor Karie is part of an anti-racism interfaith clergy group that holds each member accountable for doing the personal work and engages in anti-racism actions as a group.  Finally, regarding item 3, again, our support for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and our outreach this past summer with Feed the Hood, are aligned with the goal of eradicating systemic poverty.  Our support of Global Links and the Pittsburgh Chapter of Days for Girls also aligns with this goal (more on a global level, but both groups are building more local connections too).  

Our work as a Matthew 25 church will be to engage more deeply in our work that already aligns with the goals and to find ways to respond in a personally meaningful way to in the three focuses.  In addition to our benevolent giving, we will be looking for other ways to dismantle structural racism and eradicate systemic poverty.

The mission committee noted churches in our area have joined Matthew 25. There may be opportunities to partner with one or more in activities that will be beneficial in expanding our outreach.  These churches include Bethesda Presbyterian Church, East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Hiland Presbyterian Church, Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, Second United Presbyterian Church, Waverly Presbyterian Church, and Whitehall Presbyterian Church

For more information on the Matthew 25 project, please see: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/matthew-25/  

Pastor Karie and Joyce Mull, Mission Committee Chair

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