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Journeying Toward Justice (JTJ) was organized in 2016 after several Epworth members attended a Jack Crum Conference sponsored by the NC Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. We came home from the conference with many questions and a desire to act on what we had learned about racism and white privilege continuing to afflict our society.
JTJ's purposes are:
- To educate ourselves and others about social justice issues,
- To engage with our community to promote social justice, and
- To make Epworth a place where all are welcome.
Journeying Toward Justice Members' Experiences
JTJ has presented a speaker series for the community which has included many notable authors, educators, clergy and activists:
Marcia Owen, coauthor of Living Without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence and founder of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham
Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law (sponsored by the Duke Endowment and Corridor District, NC Conference of the UMC)
Damon Tweedy, author of Black Man in a White Coat and physician at Duke Medicine
Malinda Lowery, author of Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation and professor of Native American history at UNC-CH
Rosalie Turner, author of March With Me and historian
Dr. Will Willimon, author of Who Lynched Willie Earle? and retired UMC bishop
Hope Morgan Ward, Bishop of the NC Conference of the UMC
Dr. Luke Powery, author of Rise Up, Shepherd! Advent Reflections on the Spirituals and Dean of Duke University Chapel
Brian McDonald, author of Not the End, But the Beginning: The Impact of Race and Class on the History of Jordan High School, 1963-1988 and educator
Timothy Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till and faculty member at Duke and UNC-CH
Dr. William Turner, Senior Pastor at Mount Level Missionary Baptist Church and professor emeritus at Duke Divinity School
Helen Ryde, Home Missioner in the UMC and Organizer for Reconciling Ministries Network
Carolyn Schuldt, Director of Open Table Ministry in Durham
Ann Moss Joyner, President of the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion and pastor at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church
Dr. Edgardo Colon-Emeric, Director of the Center for Reconciliation, Duke Divinity School
Gene Nichol, author of The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina and professor at UNC-CH School of Law
Amy Laura Hall, author of Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich and professor at Duke Divinity School
David Campt, a national expert on inclusion, racial equity, cultural competence and intergroup dialogue
JTJ fully supports Epworth’s status as a member congregation in the Reconciling Ministries Network.
How did Epworth become a Reconciling Congregation? Why did this happen?
In 2014, several individual members of our congregation approached our pastor (Rev. Hope Vickers) to voice concerns about welcome and inclusion for LGBTQ+ members in our church and community. Specific language had been added in the 1970s to the United Methodist Book of Discipline calling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” This was becoming a hot topic of discussion within UMC congregations and at Annual Conferences. Rev. Vickers responded to our concerns by inviting the entire congregation – by means of announcements in the Etchings – to participate in a series of holy conferencing sessions. Although attendance at the holy conferencing sessions was light, lively discussions took place. At the first two meetings, Epworth members shared their feelings about LGBTQ+ inclusion and how that might or might not be consistent with Scripture. We talked about how our hearts and minds had been changed in response to friends and family members who are LGBTQ+. At the third meeting, an outside speaker – Rev. Powell Osteen, currently serving as senior pastor at First UMC in Morehead City NC – was invited to speak. Rev. Osteen expressed his strong support of the incompatibility statement in the Book of Discipline, based on a conservative interpretation of Scripture. Following these holy conferencing sessions, the Outreach Committee agreed to present a resolution to the Epworth Church Council that Epworth joins the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and adopt an inclusive welcoming statement. After a brief discussion, Church Council voted on the resolution and it was accepted. In May 2014 Epworth joined the Reconciling Ministries Network.
This is Epworth’s welcoming statement:
Epworth United Methodist Church declares itself a Reconciling Congregation, seeking to welcome all persons, regardless of age, race, ethnicities, disabilities, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, into the discipleship of Christian living and proclaim our commitment to seek the reconciliation of all persons to God and to each other through Jesus Christ.
Epworth works hard to be a very welcoming place. We greet visitors warmly at our entrances and share the peace of Christ with them during worship. By joining the Reconciling Ministries Network (and being listed on their website as a Reconciling Congregation), adopting an inclusive welcoming statement and sharing it on our website and in each Etchings and church bulletin, by hosting the Journeying Toward Justice speaker series, and by including the RMN logo on our signage, Epworth is now signaling to the community that, as Rev. Karen Whitaker says each Sunday morning, ALL are welcome at Epworth.
Because the Covid-19 crisis has made it impossible to sponsor a speaker series in 2020, JTJ has donated the Epworth money in its budget to urgent local needs with two donations:
The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, to provide emergency food and shelter for nonviolent offenders released early from prison due to coronavirus concerns.
The Thriving Communities Fund, administered by Durham’s Communities in Partnership (CIP). CIP is a local, grass-roots organization whose mission is to organize and cultivate long-term residents, especially residents of color and low wealth, to work towards racial, economic, and social liberation.
As locally-owned restaurants and shops struggle in the pandemic crisis, your business matters.
Entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) may face additional challenges due to lack of access to capital. The large wealth gap that exists between White and BIPOC Americans may cause BIPOC business owners to be denied loans because of insufficient assets or collateral. Please shop and dine local, and consider some of the many BIPOC-owned restaurants and businesses in the Triangle.
Links to comprehensive lists of restaurants, shops, and services are provided below:
JTJ is also working to get out the vote in the 2020 elections!
We encourage each eligible voter to register and to exercise your right to vote. Voting is the most important way to participate in our democracy. The following information may be helpful:
There’s a little over two months before voter registration deadlines (though you can do same-day registration later at early voting sites):
- Please check your registration status to make sure your registration is ACTIVE and ACCURATE: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/
- You can register to vote (or update your address) ONLINE for FREE, it only takes a couple minutes: https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/offices-services/online/Pages/voter-registration-application.aspx
- You can request a mail-in / absentee ballot so you don’t have to go in person. No reason required. Ballots will be mailed in September but can be requested now: https://www.ncsbe.gov/Voting-Options/Absentee-Voting
- Please consider getting trained as a poll worker. All those lines you've been seeing in Kentucky and Georgia could just as easily happen here because many poll workers are in the high-risk category for COVID, and poll sites without sufficient workers may close. Click here to apply to the State Board of Elections.
Be a voter!