Story Magazine

Second Quarter, 2002

Dismantling racism

by Nicole Mason, communication assistant, nmason@luthersem.edu

Longtime justice advocates Nadine and James Addington were honored for their work developing the Minnesota Churches Anti-Racism Initiative (MCARI), a cutting-edge strategy for dismantling racism in the U.S. The two received this year's Race, Church & Change Award from Luther Seminary on April 11.

The award recognizes individuals who have facilitated reconciliation among diverse people and demonstrated commitment to constructive change that heals and nurtures community.

"James and Nadine are people whose lives are committed to justice on a variety of issues," said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches. "Literally thousands of Minnesotans have gone through the training work they have done," said Chemberlin. "Many, particularly in the white community, have come to understand racism as a systemic issue as they never understood before."

The Tri-Council Coordinating Commission (TCC), a cooperative anti-racism effort of the Minnesota, Greater Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Council of Churches, provides programmatic oversight of MCARI.

"Their impact is probably far greater than they'll ever know," said their pastor, the Rev. Paul Tideman, St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul.

In his commendation letter to the Addingtons, the Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, wrote: "Again and again, [Nadine and James] remind us that we will not become a more diverse church without being an intentionally anti-racist institution."

Nadine is co-director of TCC and has played a significant role in the development of MCARI. She is also a seasoned teacher and workshop leader in both cultural and religious studies and has worked with a number of organizations in the U.S. and around the world, including Jamaica and Africa. Nadine also served several years in Luther Seminary's department of contextual education. In 1986, she helped design and establish the seminary's Race, Church & Change award. Nadine is also an accomplished soloist in the Black gospel tradition.

"It's interesting that Nadine was one of those who helped plan the first program and award, as an effort to lift up models of significant cross-cultural ministry for our students," said Rod Maeker, director of cross-cultural education at Luther Seminary. "This award reminds us all of what God calls the church and leaders of Christian communities to be and do in God's diverse world."

Dr. David Tiede, president of Luther Seminary, quoted Nadine's adage: "Racism today is like the deadly gas, carbon monoxide. You can't see it, you can't smell it, but it could kill you." He honored their work that combats "the lethal mix of prejudice and power."

"This recognition affirms the work that we've been doing for quite some time," said Nadine. "It also opens the doors for further conversation." At the ceremony, Nadine and James acknowledged that they do not do this work alone. "Today would not be possible without those who have gone before us ... the 'cloud of witnesses' on whose shoulders we stand," she said.

James, current director of TCC, is the lead designer of MCARI workshops and primarily oversees the program. He also serves as co-chair of the board of directors for Crossroads Ministry in Chicago, an interfaith ministry for racial justice that provides training nationwide to dismantle racism.

"The value of our work happens on many levels, the first of which is personal," said James. "As parents and grandparents, we're committed to our children and our children's children not having to deal with racism. "This award signifies recognition by Luther Seminary of the importance of dealing with the issue of race. It's not easy work, but it is deeply gratifying and humanizing work."

For more than 30 years, James' work has focused on local community development, leadership training, organizational development and strategic planning. He spent 10 years outside the U.S. working on a variety of development projects in Jamaica, Venezuela, India, the Philippines and Nigeria. He served for nine years as the director of the Lutheran Coalition for Public Policy in Minnesota, an advocacy and public policy education arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Established in 1992, MCARI was developed shortly after the Rodney King verdict and the subsequent crisis in South Central Los Angeles. These events added urgency to efforts already underway by the Minnesota, Greater Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Council of Churches. At the time, each council sponsored separate efforts aimed at racial reconciliation and anti-racism training and organizing.

In May 1993, the board of the Minnesota Council of Churches endorsed a statewide anti-racism initiative. In the following year, the Greater Minneapolis and Saint Paul Area Council of Churches added their endorsement and sponsorship of MCARI. A year later, the three Councils merged efforts and financial support through their coordinating body, the TCC.