The theme of this year’s Annual Gathering was The Elephant Within. We were reminded of this theme through the many stuffed elephants scattered around the venue and the logo presented on our T-Shirts. The elephant refers to the racism we all carry, we all carry “isms” whether it is racism, ableism, homophobia, ageism, etc. We were invited to explore our inner Elephants and to be inspired to action. Those of us of European ancestry were invited to learn more about how we have benefited from institutionalized racism.
I learned that one technique used to keep communities primarily white was the practice of including Property Covenant statements in deeds of ownership. These statements prohibit the sale of the property to certain groups (Blacks, Jews, etc.). This racist practice began in Berkeley, California.
Today, the biggest issue for the black community is the lack of generational wealth. Generational wealth is most often built through property ownership. The disparity in home ownership really stood out for me: 70% of White households own homes, while only 40% of Black households are homeowners.
This year there was only one resolution presented for consideration. The Black Wealth Builders Program was submitted by the Rev. Barry Cammer, on behalf of Arlington Community Church, UCC, Kensington, CA. The stated resolution title was:
“A call to action: Calling local churches to become a Black Wealth Builders congregation, and take action to repair the racial inequity in home buying that exists as a result of slavery, White Supremacy, personal and institutional racism, and White privilege.”
The resolution was passed and asks local churches to “live out a faith-based belief in racial justice and to take intentional steps to put those beliefs into action by becoming a Black Wealth Builders congregation.”
The Black Wealth Builders Program will be implemented following the model of the UCC’s LGBTQI+ Open and Affirming Program. Individual churches will determine if they wish to adopt the program and if so how to do so. The conference is strongly encouraging churches to do so.
The presentation made it very clear that this is not about churches being able to call themselves a Black Wealth Builders congregation. It is about careful study, planning and action. The conference staff will work with each congregation as it discerns what study and actions are a fit given the congregation’s location, make-up, financial abilities, etc. They projected that it may take 3 to 5 years to work through the resolution steps.
The process will include an audit that will explore how each congregation has benefited from institutionalized racism. They noted this process will be uncomfortable and should be led by a professional facilitator.
What is a Black Wealth Builders Congregation?
“A Black Wealth Builders Congregation is a local NCNC UCC church congregation that:
- Undertakes an intentional congregation-wide study to understand the history of racism in the United States, and our individual and corporate relationship to institutional racism.
- Affirms by a congregational vote the intention to take specific action to address racism as it relates to the generational wealth gap between Black and White members of our society.
- Creates an ongoing program in the life of the congregation, the goal of which is to assist Black families and individuals in the acquisition of a home, thereby increasing Black generational wealth.
- Some options for action are:
- Supporting the Black Wealth Builders Fund led by Arlington Community Church
- Create your own Black Wealth Builders Fund in your geographical area
- Support an organization that specifically assists Black families and individuals in the acquisition of a home”
Congregational participation could be as simple as raising money for a fund like the Black Wealth Builders Fund. Barry will assist any church who is considering this issue.
An extensive biblical, theological, historical, and ethical analysis was presented in support of this resolution. This is available for your review.
The following motion was passed on Friday, June 16, 2023.
WHEREAS in the UCC we understand racism to be a sin and are called to repair the damage that years of slavery and racism have caused and continue to cause; and
WHEREAS we as faithful Christians and followers of Jesus seek to emulate the ministry of Jesus by inviting those on the margins into the fair and just “center” of our common society; and
WHEREAS we have come to understand that many of us of European ancestry have benefited from racism in ways known and unknown; and
WHEREAS we, as a UCC Conference seek to encourage local churches to take specific actions to further the repair the damage of racism; and
WHEREAS a result of slavery and racism is to deny Black individuals and families the opportunity to accumulate “generational wealth”; and
WHEREAS generational wealth is most often accomplished through homeownership; and
WHEREAS a major product of racism is the denial or discouragement of Black individuals and families from purchasing a home;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ invite all congregations and ministries within our Conference to take specific action to become a Black Wealth Builders Congregation in a manner suitable for each specific congregation in their respective locations within the Conference.
BE IT RESOLVED that the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ charges the Justice and Witness Ministries, in collaboration with the Associations and Conference ministers to work with local churches in bringing this resolution to fruition.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Justice and Witness Ministries, et.al. will be sensitive to the geographical location, congregational size, financial abilities of the members and racial makeup of each church as it encourages the churches to take specific action.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Justice and Witness Ministries, et.al., will have intentional conversations with churches of color and receive feedback from them as to their desire to participate in taking action as noted in the resolution.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Justice and Witness Ministries, et.al., as a part of its work with churches, will develop a strategy of working with multi-racial congregations.
What did the UCC Arlington Community Church do?
The Arlington Community Church program has helped 13 black families become first-time homeowners. They received donations from church members, real estate agents/realtors, and others. Every first-time homebuyer participant is required to go through home ownership training. They:
- Created a fund to hold the donations.
- Partnered with a bank that was already working with mortgage applicants to qualify them for a mortgage.
- Asked the bank to refer black families who qualify for the mortgage, but were short the full amount of the down payment. These families had the other required pieces in place, their income, credit score, stability, etc. The only missing piece was sufficient money for the full downpayment.
- In these cases, the Arlington church provided the missing portion of the downpayment as a zero-interest loan which will be repaid when the home is sold or refinanced. Repaid funds are reinvested in the fund. The average loan size was between $15,000-$20,000.
In conclusion, the conference presentation emphasized that we must adapt or we risk becoming a legacy church. We / the church do not have “the solution” to be imposed upon victims of racism. We must listen to those impacted by systematic racism. Whatever process we adopt must first be based on a study and listening phase. We may find that the Arlington model is a good fit for our community, or we may discover that there is a different approach that would be more impactful to address the lack of generational wealth in the black community.