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June 16, 2019 by Rev Brad McDowell
Concerning FCC and the “Roar” Vacation Bible School Curriculum
As a church, we are aware of some very racially, ethnically, culturally, and geographically offensive material that was originally included in Group Publishing’s VBS this year entitled “Roar.” This included having the children pretending to be slaves in a game, calling Africa a “country,” and other materials related to racial, cultural, linguistic and geographical differences that demonstrate ignorance at best and at worst are plainly offensive. You can read a detailed account of the problems here.
We want to let everyone know that we are aware of these problems, and have removed all the material that we and others find objectionable. Group has supplied some replacement material, but even that we did not find to have gone far enough, so we have taken the initiative to remove more material and replace it with new material that we have created to align with our understanding of the love and gospel of Jesus Christ. We want to give everyone the full confidence that the childrens’ VBS experience will not include any of this objectionable material and will be in line with our understanding of God’s love for all people and our calling as Christians to fight racism.
First Christian Church of Wilmington, NC is deeply dedicated to being a force of anti-racism and pro-reconciliation in our community, not because it’s fashionable or easy, but because it is essential to the gospel of Jesus and God’s dream for the world*. We were aghast when we first learned that this material was included in a curriculum that we had mistakenly trusted was also dedicated to the anti-racist, pro-reconciling mission of Jesus. It was our mistake to trust them and our mistake to begin our long planning process without reviewing the material with a fine-tooth comb. That is not a mistake we will make again.
The planning process for VBS is long and multi-faceted, usually beginning in the Winter at the latest. At FCC, we have the gift of a large team of designers, teachers, and helpers who all start volunteering hundreds of hours months before the first kids show up. Because of our mistake of not carefully reviewing the material, many, many hours had already been put into designing and decorating for VBS. We value the work of these volunteers greatly. However, had we felt that the VBS as a whole was unsalvageable, we would have abandoned “Roar” completely. Weighing the work of our volunteers and the amount of material that we were confident we could use or change, we have made the decision to continue with the theme, albeit a heavily changed version.
We will also be reevaluating any support for Group Publishing in the future, whether for VBS in future years or any teaching curriculum.
* If you want to learn more about our denomination’s commitment to anti-racism and pro-reconciliation, you can find out a great deal here: https://reconciliationministry.org/who-we-are/the-initiative/