Press Release about Clergy Call

Call to Clergy and Faith Leaders - Summer 2017

To our Colleagues in Ministry and Friends in Faith,

We need your help. On August 12th we call for 1,000 clergy and faith leaders to show up in Charlottesville, VA to confront a national white supremacist rally.

On August 12, will you please join us in prayer and in person in Charlottesville, Virginia? We call on white clergy, especially, to join us in person. This is a call for partnership in direct, nonviolent action on a crucial day for our city, and in a critical moment for our country. We need your prayerful presence.

Charlottesville has recently become a hotspot for national white supremacist organizations and demonstrations. Our city council recently voted to move Confederate monuments from our prominent public parks, sparking increasingly explicit and violent expressions of white supremacy in our community. An infamous white nationalist held a threatening torch-lit rally in our park. Most recently, a KKK chapter from North Carolina held a rally in the center of our city. During this rally, non-violent community members standing against racial hatred were met with chemical weapons, military vehicles, and hundreds of militarized police, some carrying grenade launchers and automatic weapons.

On August 12, hundreds of white supremacists from around the country will rally with white nationalist leaders for hours in our most prominent public park. From information that these groups are presenting and sharing online we have concluded that there is an extremely high potential for physical violence and brutality directed at our community.

We need your help - we don’t have the numbers to stand up to this on our own.

This is a local event, but white supremacy is a national problem, and the way we respond on August 12 will have national implications as we move through these trying times. It is our hope and prayer that your congregations will commission you to join us in this movement to confront white supremacy.

As faith leaders in Charlottesville, we are committed to nonviolent direct action, standing in solidarity with community members and groups such as Black Lives Matter and Showing Up for Racial Justice. We do not want a repeat of July 8th - we want to grow forward in number and in narrative to visibly counteract this hate, proclaiming with our bodies and our sanctuaries that God rejects white supremacy, and that God is present with those hurt, angered, afraid and confused by this massive national event in our small town.  We call on 1,000 clergy and faith leaders to join us on August 12th


Congregate Charlottesville

Brittany Caine-Conley, Lead Organizer of Congregate C’ville and MID at Sojourners UCC, Charlottesville, VA

Rev. Seth Wispelwey, Consulting Organizer of Congregate C’ville and Directing Minister of Restoration Village Arts



National Call to Conscience - 2017

Dear friends in faith across the United States,

Will you commit to counteract the narrative and agenda of white supremacy? In the aftermath of multiple deaths, we bear witness to the need for every American to understand that the isolation and divisiveness of white supremacy is the way of death for all people, and particularly for the most marginalized among us.

Therefore, we call on you to embody love over fear by proclaiming these truths, which are in stark contrast to the evil ideology of white supremacy:

Black Lives Matter
Queer Lives Matter
Indigenous Lives Matter
Differently Abled Lives Matter
Refugee Lives Matter
Jewish Lives Matter
Hispanic/Latinx Lives Matter
Trans Lives Matter
Muslim Lives Matter
Immigrant Lives Matter

As members of Congregate Charlottesville’s clergy we thank you for your many demonstrations of love and solidarity since white supremacists and neo-Nazis attacked our city. As we said to the violent hate-mongers who pushed us to the ground and cursed us outside Emancipation Park, “Love has already won.”

We know by faith that love wins, even when we cannot see it, and we have committed ourselves to trust love over fear.

Why is this important?

The nation’s response to events here in Charlottesville makes clear that we need moral leadership in every community. As followers of God we call all people to admit that white supremacy is a structure of evil, injustice, and oppression. We as people of faith must engage in the long, deep work of dismantling white supremacy in all of its forms. We must confront and counteract white supremacy within ourselves, within our communities, and within legal, political and religious systems.

White supremacy is a systemic sin that is not unique to Charlottesville or to the South. It is woven into the DNA of the United States. We call upon you to partner with us in the holy task of renouncing and confronting white supremacy and dismantling the white nationalist agenda in your own community. Together, with God, we can restore God’s vision of a world where all are welcomed and affirmed in their full humanity.

Let us be clear that we will not allow our leaders to condemn hate while they continue to condone the policies and practices of white nationalism. Opposing white supremacy is not a partisan issue. All people of faith and conscience must commit to the deep work of justice.

All elected leaders at local, state, and national levels have the power and moral obligation to enact policies which uplift, protect, and provide for the most marginalized in our society.

As an act of choosing love over fear we call upon all people, especially our faith and public leaders to:

Choose to stop racist voter suppression and gerrymandering by fully reinstating the Voting Rights Act.

Choose to oppose the RAISE Act, defend DACA, and refuse funding for a border wall.

Choose to work for comprehensive criminal justice reform and reject the “law and order” culture which has cast black and brown people as the enemy of America.

Choose to condemn political rhetoric and policies that target the LGBTQ, Jewish, Immigrant, and Islamic communities.

Choose to support access to health care, affordable housing, jobs, and equal access to goods and services for all people.

Signed in solidarity,

Brittany Caine-Conley, Congregate C’Ville Lead Organizer, Charlottesville
Rev. Seth Wispelwey, Directing Minister, Restoration Village Arts, Charlottesville
Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin, Congregation Beth Israel, Charlottesville
Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas, St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville
Rev. Dr. Brenda Brown-Grooms, New Beginnings Christian Community, Charlottesville
Rev. Liz Forney, First Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville
Deacon Don Gathers, First Baptist Church, Charlottesville
Rev. Phil Woodson, First United Methodist Church, Charlottesville
Rev. Robert Lewis, Hinton Avenue United Methodist Church, Charlottesville
Rev. Dr. Jeanita Richardson, Charlottesville
Rev. Tracy Howe Wispelwey, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ, Charlottesville
Ann Marie Smith, Grace Church Red Hill and New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care-Charlottesville
Rev. Diana Brawley, Counseling Ministry of Charlottesville
Rev. Dr. Jan Rivero, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, Charlottesville
Sharon Beckman-Brindley, Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville
Adam Slate, President, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church-Unitarian Universalist, Charlottesville
Rev. Dr. Harry Kennon, First United Methodist Church, Charlottesville
Sheikha Latifa Till, Sufi Ruhaniat International, Charlottesville
Rev. Dr. Michael Cheuk, Charlottesville
Elizabeth Shillue, Charlottesville Friends Meeting
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President & Sr. Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, School for Conversion




Cover photo by David McNair, from The DTM.