- A Conversation about Racial Reconciliation:
- Online and in person at Mt. Pisgah church at 7 p.m. June 28th, July 12th, August 2nd and August 23rd.
I have to admit that my feelings are mixed about this moment in time – summer 2020 – where we find ourselves wrestling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, alongside historic protests against injustice and racism. In light of Jesus’ call to be ready to suffer for the Gospel (take up one’s cross daily), a call fully affirmed in word and deed by the Apostles’, I sense that this time in history is not to be wished away by the Body of Christ, but welcomed as a golden opportunity to practice Peter’s exhortations: do good, even if you have to suffer for it! That is, be the countercultural people of God. Be a people who represent a third way, an alternative to the political agendas of either side of the aisle, a voice that decries violence of all kinds – whether sanctioned by official policy and law, or advocated by movements under the guise of “revolution” or the like. Having spent so much of my pastoral and educational ministry introducing disciples of Jesus to the likes of John Perkins, and the history of the civil rights movement, I can’t help but think that this summer could be this generation’s “Freedom Summer” that may rival the important summer of 1964 in the Civil Rights movement. Now is the time for us as followers of Jesus to be prepared to “give a defense” for our views and actions with respect to injustice and racism. We are stewards of a gospel that has the power to bring about reconciliation at all levels of the human experience!
I want to make the most of this time. I would like to host, on Zoom and in person, a series of conversations that address the issues of racism and injustice. I am planning four Sunday evenings for us to gather both online and at Mt. Pisgah church at 7 p.m. – June 28th, July 12th, August 2nd, and August 23rd. For those comfortable with meeting in person, we will gather at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary at Mt. Pisgah. We will safely distance and masks will be required. We will broadcast the gathering at Mt. Pisgah on Zoom, allowing anyone who is not comfortable coming to the church to participate via Zoom. I ask you to register for the gatherings, whether you plan to be there face to face, or join via Zoom, by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling/texting me at 412.977.9454. I will send a Zoom link to you directly if you choose the Zoom option.
We will use some of the resources listed below to guide our conversation. I intend for our conversation to be both informational/educational as well as practical. The time we spend in conversation ought to lead to specific, sober-minded, honorable action on our part as those who are aliens and strangers to the patterns, values, and ways of this age.
I implore you to approach these challenging issues with your ears to the scriptures. We must start with the word of the Lord, or we are lost. With that in mind, I suggest the following resources as a starting point for hearing a faithful Biblical perspective of the history and reality of racism and injustice. I also believe that it is imperative that white Christians learn to give first hearing to the voice of black and brown brothers and sisters. The only way for whites to understand the issues involved is to listen first to people of color whose experience of racism is firsthand.
John Perkins and the John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation – I attest to the humble wisdom of this servant of the Lord who turned 90 this month! I know of no Christian voice that has the combination of depth of experience, understanding, Biblical faithfulness and commitment to the Gospel than John Perkins. You will find many resources here: http://www.jvmpf.org/
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. I dare say that you will not find a more articulate presentation of the dynamics of racism and its institutional character than Bryan’s. You will find information at the Equal Justice Initiative website and numerous videos available on YouTube. Try this one for starters, https://eji.org/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2tOp7OxyQ8. Bryan’s work is captured in the recently released movie, “Just Mercy” now streaming on Amazon Prime for free.
13th, the documentary, is a powerful, well-done film documenting the injustice associated with the current approach to criminal justice and the prison system and how this approach contributes to institutionalized racism. https://www.netflix.com/title/80091741
Bishop Desmond Tutu articulates the Biblical character of reconciliation on a societal level. He headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. There is much to learn from the work of the TRC in South Africa for our situation here in America. Go to this YouTube video to get started with Bishop Tutu’s work in South Africa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujOL8FS2wv4.
Here is a reading plan that a member of Mt. Pisah shared, put together by Tony Evans – “The Power of Unity Bible Reading Plan.”https://www.bible.com/en/reading-plans/20081
Lawyer and author Michelle Alexander is another important voice that is both seasoned and articulate. Her book, “The New Jim Crow,” provides a powerful presentation of how the current practice of criminal justice has essentially continued the legacy of Jim Crow laws. You will find a helpful starting point with Michelle’s presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQ6H-Mz6hgw.
Lisa Slayton, formerly the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, and currently the Executive Director of Tamim Partners, offers this helpful reflection:https://tamimpartners.com/new-blog/k5x8rdg7hjffrycmkxcpma8fr6yhzg?ss_source=sscampaigns&ss_campaign_id=5ee767db4fc28e2aed2683c0&ss_email_id=5ee7698c4fc28e2aed26999e&ss_campaign_name=Justice%2C+Whiteness+and+Voice+%5BFixed+Link%5D&ss_campaign_sent_date=2020-06-15T12%3A29%3A41Z. You will find additional links at the Tamim website.
Made to Flourish provides resources to help pastors and congregations live out the fullness of the Gospel in the life of work and engaging society. Here is Made to Flourish’s statement on racism that you may find helpful:https://www.madetoflourish.org/resources/statement-on-racism/.
We will add to this list over the weeks to come. Please join me in praying daily for guidance, wisdom and strength to follow Jesus closely in these times, for the sake of God’s Kingdom and Glory!
- Men’s Group #TheDudesAbide
- 1st Sunday of every month from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. at Helicon Brewing, 102 Union Ave. Oakdale, PA