A Word We Dare Not Speak

Presbytery of Chicago Mission Statement 2023

Pursuing worship, service, and communities of justice, we are the Presbytery of Chicago, flourishing together by relating people, neighbors, and churches to one another in Christ Jesus.

Are you familiar with the urban myth of Candyman? When I was a kid growing up and hanging with my cousins in the projects on 62nd and Wabash, we would crowd go into the tiny bathroomin the apartment, turn off the lights, look in the mirror and say, “Candyman, Candyman . . .” then stop. According to the myth, if you say “Candyman” three times, he will appear — and he was known to abduct children! I’m not sure if I ever said it three times. I do remember laughter, giggles, screaming, and just being kids having fun!

As we created our mission statement for the Presbytery, we debated whether we should use the word “anti-racism” in the statement. The argument that won the day suggested the use of the word would turn many congregations off — and might even tune out and miss the rest of the mission statement. Instead, we used the word “justice,” hoping it would convey anti-racism along with other forms of injustice that permeate Chicagoland.

I’m beginning to wonder if the word “anti-racism” is our Candyman. On paper, the presbytery is committed to anti-racism work through CARE (Commission on Anti-Racism and Equity) and FARE (Facilitators of Antiracism and Equity). These commissions have worked diligently and faithfully since their inception. The presbytery has shown commitment through funding and a 25-year plan of implementation. Yet, many congregations and members are afraid to say the word “anti-racism,” or to confess that we are an anti-racism presbytery or congregation.

In her acceptance speech for the Grawemeyer award, Kelly Brown Douglas said, “We are not to be gatekeepers of an unjust status quo, but rather we’re to provide a gateway of thought to a more just future.” (Douglas is the Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Seminary. You can watch her 2023 Grawemeyer Lecture on YouTube.)

Speaking out against racism and its tentacles of white supremacy, gun violence, and climate change denial is the pathway into a more just future for the Presbytery of Chicago. We are challenged to speak with courage, not fear — with audacity, not anxiety.

 As we live into the resurrection, may we speak loudly and offer the words that bring hope, liberation and justice to Chicagoland, and every congregation in the presbytery.