Black lives matter and racism is a sin, General Assembly reaffirms

The General Assembly has reaffirmed that black lives matter and racism is a sin.

Commissioners also backed calls for a report to a future meeting on racial justice and the legacy of slavery and the Church of Scotland.

As part of this work, they approved a proposal to consult widely with people of colour in the Church of Scotland and with majority black churches in Scotland.

Susan Brown
Very Rev Dr Susan Brown presenting the Faith Impact Forum report.

The issue was brought to the floor of the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh by the Faith Impact Forum, a merger of the Church and Society Council and World Mission Council.

It sparked a lively debate after Rev Dale London brought forward a counter motion calling for the words Black Lives Matter to be substituted with the words “every life matters to God”.

A passionate debate

Speaking by video conference, he said that black lives “absolutely do matter” but took issue with the motivation of the Black Lives Matter political movement.

Mr London said: “Racism is reprehensible and must be addressed strenuously but by feeding into the political argument that this organisation makes, we align ourselves, unwittingly, with something that is against the idea that God loves everyone.”

Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact Forum, said the issue being put to the General Assembly was nothing to do with the American movement which has organised mass protests across the US following the death of George Floyd in May.

“If we say that all lives matter, then we need to live as though all lives matter and right at this moment that is not how our society is shaped,” she added.

“Saying Black Lives Matter is not about excluding everyone else, it is about focusing on the deepest need.

“Jesus cared for all but he had a particular passion for the poorest, the most marginalised and for those who were suffering most.

“All lives do matter so let’s prove that by living that truth as a society and a church by saying loudly and clearly that black lives matter.”

Commissioners voted 358 by 116 votes to dismiss Mr London’s counter motion and backed the Forum’s original motion as amended.

Climate justice and homelessness

The report deliverance contained more than 11 action points that touched on a wide range of social issues at home and abroad.

Commissioners instructed the Faith Impact Forum to work with others to develop a strategy for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

They called on it to urge the Scottish Government to review spiritual care support in medical settings and work with government ministers in Edinburgh and London to tackle homelessness.

Commissioners also backed a call for a report on the ethical, scientific and theological arguments for and against “urgent divestment” from oil and gas companies.

It will be presented to the General Assembly next year.

A proposal to urge the Scottish Government to introduce policies and spending priorities in line with proposals for a Just and Green Recovery in response to the economic, social and environmental impact of Covid-19 was accepted.

Commissioners backed a call to encourage congregations to hold hustings in the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections next year and continue the Church’s long-term support for Christian Aid.

They voted in favour of sending love and prayers to the Church of Pakistan and Church of North India as they celebrate their 50th anniversary next month.