The Trinity Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City is holding "Racism & Racists Anonymous" weekly meetings that are aimed to improve racial relations.
Rev. Richard Mize is white, while his congregation is mostly African-American. The church approved the program in January, and it began in February.
Mize, a former member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told The Christian Post about the program that sees over 20 participants a week:
In "Racism & Racists Anonymous," everyone is either dealing with their own racism or someone else's, in order to keep peace and foster reconciliation. We don't talk about statistics or systemic racism or anything in the abstract, except maybe in the context of telling our personal stories.
From the moment I first heard of Racists Anonymous last year, I thought it sounded exactly like the kind of bold, potentially controversial -- definitely attention-getting -- social justice effort that Trinity has been known for in the past.
Talking and listening respectfully to others' personal stories, without trying to fix, correct, argue -- just listening and sharing. It really is profoundly simple yet powerful.
Mize said that he heard about this type of program from Rev. Ron Buford, who created the first "Racists Anonymous" program at the Congregational Community Church in Sunnyvale, California.
"He is African-American, with a mostly white congregation," Mize added. "Different dynamics are at play, I think, which is why I opened it up and why we don't limit just to people dealing with their own racism."
The Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord, North Carolina, started a "Racists Anonymous" program in July 2016.
Trinity's Rev. Nathan King told The Christian Post in August 2016 why his church went with the program:
We began it because we recognized our participation in a system of discrimination against people of color and we seek to be more consciously aware of our internalized prejudices so we can change our behavior.
This is how we move the conversation forward and love more fully. Racism is a spiritual disease. In biblical terms it is sin. The 12-steps offer hope for turning that over to the care of a higher power.
With the past two years of high profile gunning down of black men in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, Charlotte, Fairfax, Charleston, to name a few, hopelessness was settling into our prayers.
We grieved. We prayed. We cried. We were wondering where and how it would finally end. We wondered if it would ever get better. It was clear racism was alive and growing.