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Laity Convocation opens conversation on racism

Posted: February 21 2020 at 08:36 AM
Author: Mark Manzi, NIC Co-Lay Leader


Bishop Sally Dyck leads Bible study at the 2020 Laity Convocation invoking an introspective discussion on how racism is incompatible with Christian teaching.

Laity Convocation 2020 brought more than 185 lay and clergy from across the Northern Illinois Conference to Sycamore United Methodist Church on Feb. 8 to work toward “Unpacking Racism.”This year’s theme was based on the Conference’s strategic goal: “To live out the conviction that racism is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Bishop Sally Dyck led Bible study using the conversion of Peter (Matthew 16: 13-16, John 21: 15-17, Acts 10: 34-35 and 11: 15-18) to examine how Peter changed how he viewed who Jesus was, what his mission was really about, and how he viewed himself and others. She reminded us about the United Methodist Social Principles with regard to racism and then challenged us to look at racism from not only an individual position but of racism that is embedded in our institutions and our systems.

Bishop finally challenged us, especially those of us who are white, to consider our privilege. “Racism hinders our relationship with Christ,” said Dyck. “What’s your implicit bias? Looking at our own racism takes a lot of self-reflection. To grow in a relationship with Christ, we have to face it.”

A panel discussion on racism followed with Rev. Dr. Chris Pierson, senior pastor of Gary UMC inWheaton; Mrs. Judy Siaba, member of Euclid Ave. UMC in Oak Park; Dr. Richard Guzman, member of Friendship UMC in Bolingbrook and a North Central College professor; and Mrs. Rebecca Fraley, member of Steward UMC in Steward; with Rev. Alka Lyall, senior pastor of Broadway UMC in Chicago, as the moderator. Each shared stories of their experiences with racism, which gave personal meaning and context to the problems that still exist in our society and churches. The panelists answered a series of questions to help us dig more deeply into our understanding of racism and the effect it has in our country. Participants came away with motivation, inspiration, and resources for beginning discussions and study on racism with members of their local churches.


Dr. Richard Guzman, a professor emeritus at North Central College who teaches courses on race and ethnicity, shares how racism impacted his life growing up in America as a Filipino. Photo by Anne Marie Gerhardt

Dr. Guzman, who was born in the Philippines but grew up in the U.S., shared how his father’s attempt to assimilate to the American way was hurtful. “I remember it still very vividly my father coming home one day when I was young and telling my mother, ‘You will never speak to the children in our dialect again,’ and that caused a deep, isolating pain of losing my native language for me,” said Guzman. “Since I’ve been attending Friendship, one of the most diverse congregations in the Conference, I’ve been back with more Filipino friends than I have in decades. They love me and I them, but not being able to speak my own language, or the Tagalog most of them speak, is deeply painful for me.”

During worship, an offering totaling $1,668 was taken for UMCOR disaster relief to help Puerto Rico following damaging earthquakes. The closing worship ended with prayer, hymns, and communion.

Those who were unable to attend Laity Convocation 2020 may visit the Board of Laity’s page at to see a list of resources that can be used in local churches to take the first step on the journey to unpack racism by continuing this important conversation and empowering each other to become antiracist advocates – work we must do together.

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