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 Many years ago, a friend and I were talking about how we identify people in conversation.  Steve said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said ‘So, I was with my friend Tim—he’s a black guy’…I’ve never said ‘So, I was with my friend Bob, he’s a white guy…’  Why is that?  Why do we feel the need to identify anyone who isn’t white?” 

That conversation has stuck with me over the years and to this day, I am conscious of when I offer that extra description and when I don’t.  My ruminations resonated with the words Debby Irving offers in the Introduction of Waking Up White.  She writes:

“For years I struggled silently to understand race and racism.  I had no way to make sense of debates in the media about whether the white guy was ‘begin a racist’ or the black guy was ‘playing the race card.’  I wanted close friends of color but kept ending up with white people as my closet friends.  When I was with a person of color, I felt an inexplicable tension and a fear that I might say or do something offensive or embarrassing.  When white people made blatant racist jokes or remarks, I felt upset but had no idea what to do or say.  I didn’t understand why, if laws supporting slavery, segregation, and discrimination had been abolished, lifestyles still looked so different across color lines.  Most confusing were unwanted racist thoughts that made me feel like a jerk.  I felt too embarrassed to admit any of this, which prevented me from going in search of answers.  It turns out, stumbling block number 1 was that I didn’t think I had a race, so I never thought to look within myself for answers.”

CA-CHING!  It’s that last sentence that got me.  As one in the majority race, I tended to think of race as something everyone else had—Asian, African American, Indian, Latino—you get the idea.  “White” or “Anglo” really wasn’t “race.”  

Now, I am aware some of you may be beyond this thinking—and I am glad for that!  You can help those of us who need to catch up.  I am looking forward to reading Waking Up White.  For me, it is going to be challenging and eye opening.   A number of you have already expressed interest in this and here’s my suggestion of how we’ll gather around it.  Add Waking Up White to your summer reading list.  Let me know if you need help buying the book and let me know you’re reading it.  In September, we’ll begin conversation groups around our reading.

Irving’s book is a compliment to the Belhar Confession, the most recent Confession in our Book of Confession.  The mental image that keeps running through my mind is from Sunday—Elizabeth Bull holding up the printed copy as she’s offering witness to what our future ministry should be.  Racial reconciliation, inclusion and equality, speaking truth to power—it’s all there.  How does this new confession frame and guide our conversation about future ministry?  Should it frame and guide our conversation?  Intentionally digging into the confession is the only way to find out!  

This study will also begin in September.  A copy of the confession can be found here.  Add this to your summer reading list as well.  And let me know if you’re reading this too.

So, what’s the discernment about here?  For me, it has to do with that edgy, uncomfortable feeling—I’m being invited to consider something new, to change my outlook or behavior.  From my perspective so much of what is happening in our country and in the church has to do with our inability, unwillingness to address the issue of race.  I, for one, am tired of feeling inadequate and apprehensive about participating in that conversation and working to bring about change.  A first step for me is to educate myself and work to understand my own thoughts and reactions.  I invite you to join me.


Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is a major influence as a leader and as a thinker. His
writing and speeches have had a deep impact on my life and work. He is a towering
figure in mind, a complex man for sure, but certainly worthy of the admiration he

I suppose that is why I get a little frustrated when his eponymous holiday rolls
around,  and I see quotes of his splattered all over television and social media
void of context and broken into digestible soundbites.

Consider the often quoted, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do
that Hatred cannot drive out hate, only love can do that". King's work is often
divorced in popular culture from his calling as a preacher. The quote comes from
a sermon that King revised while in prison about the Sermon on the Mount. In larger
context, the passage reads:

Let us move now from the practical how to the theoretical why: Why should we love
our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies
hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot
drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only
love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness
multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says "Love
your enemies," he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition.
Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies...
or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars
- must be broken or we shall be plunged into the darkness of the abyss of annihilation.

Here we see dynamic wrestling with the scripture which should inform the ways that
we all read it. We who stand in line with King's faith tradition should be the first
to recognize that King's work was an outgrowth of his faith and that without that
context, he is simply another motivational speaker. King's work for justice was
a byproduct of his faith.

I revisited this sermon, reprinted in a book entitled "The Radical King" edited
by Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West challenges us to move away from the "sanitized" version
of King to discover the prophetic man who changed this country. I would further
challenge us to remember that the radical King is a byproduct of a radical Christ
who challenged the powers of his day while standing on the side of the oppressed.
In this, I hope, that we will find a vision for a radical church that does the same.

APAH Breaks Ground on Gilliam Place

73 New Affordable Homes Advance a Faith-Filled Vision Arlington, VA (July 28, 2017) – Yesterday, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) broke ground on its newest project, Gilliam Place, which will be located at 3507 Columbia Pike in Arlington. Gilliam Place emanated from Arlington Presbyterian Church’s (APC) vision to put their faith into action and property into mission service. Gilliam Place will provide 173 new committed affordable homes for lower income individuals and families. Nearly 9,000 square feet of civic/retail space will enliven the neighborhood and expand opportunity for the Columbia Pike community with a mix of non-profit tenants. Read More at APAH

Glebe Bannera

“I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:19

We are moving forward with our Vision.  This page will keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings around living into our Vision at Arlington Presbyterian Church.  To follow our journey or to join us, click on a link below.  The most recent events are at or near the top.