Statement on Racism and Racial Injustice from the Congregational Library and Archives, Boston, Massachusetts
As an institution founded to preserve, celebrate, and advance the history and practice of Congregationalism, the Congregational Library and Archives (CLA) affirms a Christian tradition that has, for hundreds of years, taken a stand against the immorality of racism in this country. In our collections, we have centuries of sermons speaking out against the American tragedies of slavery, race-based economic disenfranchisement, voting discrimination, and Jim Crow laws. Such a testimony of faithful protest reminds us that racism in the United States was built over generations, and dismantling it will take faithful, diligent work for those who face compounding, painful reminders of systemic racism. Never has it been more important for the church to step forward, to speak prophecy to power, to affirm the rights, dignity, and ultimate value of every child of God, that every human life is sacred and that those sworn to protect us must do so with care and compassion.
We live in a nation that is divided and damaged, and which right now struggles to find the moral greatness that we once held among the countries of the world. It is vital that we find a way forward, together, that recognizes our comprehensive failures on race, and that we prioritize the necessity of constructive reform not only for police and politicians, but for our American society as a whole. We cannot continue to daydream that we live in an America that is not critically wounded by its systemic hostility to people who are not white. Certainly, non-white citizens do not live in that daydream, but in an unrelenting nightmare of police brutality, political and economic disenfranchisement, and societal discrimination.
As Americans and as people of faith, it is antithetical to all we hold dear to allow this brutal inequality to continue. It is time to seek a new heaven and a new earth, where the accursed soil of racism has been washed away, where we might establish anew a country that values all of its citizens, in King’s words, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” To do so will take time, commitment, and purposeful action that respects the rightful impatience of those who demand such change immediately, for they have waited far too long for justice to be done. But change we must, if we are to be a country that stands for the values we have long espoused, and people of faith who live into the promise of our Christian witness.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray
Executive Director, Congregational Library and Archives