The dust has settled following the nationwide protests calling for racial justice. Front page headlines are returning to other matters. For some, it’s over.
But for Christians, it is only the beginning. Or—hopefully—the middle. We follow a Lord who challenged the racism of his day by traveling through Samaritan territory, making a Samaritan the hero of one of his most-told stories and opening his mind to the pleas of a Gentile mother. Caring about the wellbeing of people our society has historically written out of the picture is central to our calling.
Here’s where things stand for Mennonite Creation Care Network:
Council diversity: A few (but not enough) Latino and African-American people have been on the advisory council, and the council has been challenged and enriched by their perspectives. Nekeisha Alayna Alexis joined us briefly, and questioned our assumptions about eating meat. I first met Lawrence Jennings, a community organizer from New York City, in 2018. On the way from the airport to our meetings, he quizzed me on the names of the African Americans who had been shot by police in the preceding months. I flunked. Haraldo Nunes, a pastor from Ohio heavily involved in immigration issues, made the burden of anxiety that immigrants in the U.S. were experiencing more real to us.
Right now, all MCCN council members except Lawrence are white. At our May meeting, we discussed ways to incorporate more minority people as advisors and ways to obtain a review of our organization’s practices with regard to racism and colonialism.
Congregations: We have not been successful at marketing ourselves to minority congregations. Admittedly, this is not the only gap in our marketing, and we would like to reach more congregations of all sorts.
Resources: Back in 2014, we aspired to translate our Every Creature Singing curriculum into Spanish. We were advised that it would be better if the resources came from within Latinx churches themselves. We then aspired to support a group interested in creating a creation care resource in Spanish, but we haven’t accomplished that yet, either.
Money: In 2018, we submitted a proposal to the Stoesz Family Foundation to create a small grant fund that could cover a variety of creation care needs but with priority given to environmental justice projects. Our first round of recipients included groups representing a mix of racial backgrounds.
Over the years, we’ve had personal connections with the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition, which has introduced us to the struggles of Indigenous Peoples. Our first leader, Luke Gascho, served on the coalition’s council, and before they had a fiscal home, we helped process their donations.
How you can help
You are MCCN’s hands and feet. Here are some ways you can help:
- Pray and Act on behalf of Oak Flat: This year, MCCN is joining network member Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in their support of Oak Flat, a Native American sacred site in Arizona that is in danger of becoming a copper mine. This may feel like a long way from your backyard, but we all have copper somewhere in our lives: in phones, pipes, wiring, gutters, cookware and many other places. Therefore, we have some responsibility to think about how it is mined. Many of us regret the history of our continent with regard to its Indigenous Peoples. Responding to an issue that matters to the San Carlos Apache today is a response that will be appreciated.
- Consider joining MCCN’s council: If you are Latinx, Native American, African American, Asian American, or another person of color and have gifts to bring to our council—or you have someone to recommend—email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Introduce minority congregations in your conference to MCCN—or introduce us to them. Ask them if they know about our two grant programs and our curriculum.
- Tell us how you are getting to know neighbors who are different from you or working with them to make our planet a healthier home.
I personally am an aging, white ethnic Mennonite. I am fiercely proud of my heritage, including but not limited to my ability to freeze, can, sew, sing in parts, bake pies, garden, paint frakturs, win Bible trivia contests and quote 16th century Anabaptists. I hope you cherish your roots as well. Whomever you are, we’re glad you are part of Mennonite Creation Care Network and hope you are working hard to preserve and pass on the best of your faith and life-ways.