In our third part of United in Freedom on November 17, 2015, we look at how community and relationships are key to overcoming racial division in the body of Christ.
“To overcome racism, to break through the structural barriers of racism that perpetuate in our society, it requires that we build relationships with each other. It requires that we take the time to invest in learning the background, the stories and the root causes that have led to this,” said Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota.
“We have to be in relationships to eliminate prejudice. Principle among this is proximity, we need to get close to the issue,” said Rev. Richard Coleman, Executive Director of Hope United CDC.
Pastor Jerry McAfee of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church spoke about the importance of understanding one another’s experiences and pain.
“How devastating it is for us as baptized, born-again believers to allow the perversion of pigmentation to upset the purity of the Christ in which we serve. It is not strange that we come from different places and experiences, you may be from the suburbs, you may be from the city, but not being able to feel the pains of your other brothers and sisters, something is wrong with that,” said McAfee.
The floor was opened up for public confession, led by Transform Minnesota president Carl Nelson.
“I’m here speaking as a white male, coming from the white majority culture. I haven’t walked in the shoes of my African American brothers and sister, I can’t. I have to learn those stories and experiences from someone else,” said Nelson.
Melanie March Leehy, president of M.A.R.C.H. shared her experience as a black woman, “I don’t get a break from racism, it’s a daily thing. I forget about it but I don’t get a break either. I don’t get a choice, it’s not optional. I’m not apologizing, I don’t regret it, it’s just that I don’t get a break,” said March Leehy.
John 15:15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
After quoting Jesus in John 15:15 Melanie March Leehy asked, “Are we walking in transparency with one another, are we truly being friends? Or are we, as African Americans, in the back of the minds of those who have white privilege, still seen as slaves? Let’s be friends.”
“Publically confessing is somewhat uncomfortable, but if it will help. When you say something in public, you’re reminded of it in your conscience. You can move forward with a greater ease because you’ve publicly gotten it out there,” said Willie Daniels, member of Holsey Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal.
“There’s a level of vulnerability and a sense of awkwardness because these are hard issues, and I’m glad that everyone here was willing to step into that and be a part of it. Standing in the tension and feeling that and realizing that’s a part of the process, is important,” said Mikalia King, Program Director for Antioch Ministries.
Participants worshiped together through singing and holding hands, making promises starting with “I will…”
Rev. Coleman shared that our Christian faith calls us to experience the injustice that Jesus endured.
“People oppressed who know Jesus have a sharp insight into the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and the Church, and the work that we’re supposed to be doing. As a follower of Jesus Christ you better figure out how to relate to the suffering of Jesus, and in that brokenness and in that place of humility, you are better able to understand the afflictions of people and the role we all play in that,” said Rev. Coleman.
In order to stay connected and informed, we have provided the following current resources related to racial division, the status of the church and ways to engage in the conversation:
- 10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God by Kevin DeYoung
- How Deep the Root of Racism by Thabiti Anyabwile
- Starting Racially Reconciling Conversations by Efrem Smith
- Does Christianity Make People Prejudiced? by Christena Cleveland
- Working Together Toward Racial Reconciliation by Joy J. Moore & William E. Pannell
- Forgiveness and Justice: Two Keys to Reconciliation by Hak Joon Lee
- The 8 R’s of Talking About Race: How to Have Meaningful Conversations by Dwight Smith
- 5 steps to take in application:
- Organic engagement through proximity
- Expand relational circles
- Become students with questions instead of teachers with answers
- Expose ourselves to the social realities of others
- Embrace a comprehensive understanding of the Gospel
- Jesus is Lord & Savior
- Sin exists individually & systemically
Content from United in Freedom