KMS believes that it is hard to talk about racial reconciliation if you don’t take time to understand the history and reasons for the sin, hurt, and abuse among brothers and sisters across different races.
America has a very particular problem with race.
For many years and in many ways there is a real church divide between more predominantly black churches and more predominantly white ones. There are some hopeful exceptions, but this division remains the norm. You have attempts and works of God to bridge the divide, but in so far as many multi-cultural churches exist and many other works of unity, this is again more the exception than the norm. Our prayer echoes the words of St. Paul when he prays that as Christians we would make room in our hearts for the other.
How You Can Partner
KMS hosts half-day symposiums featuring local speakers to kick off conversations on racial reconciliation. For a sample of a past event, click here. Please contact us if you are interested in hosting this unique event.
Momentary Interest Won’t Improve Race Relations
In the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and Orthodox leaders for the most part were willing to speak out against the demonstration by the modern day klan. There was a strong response both from those engaged in pastoral ministry and those engaged in the policy world.
Several Roman Catholic Cardinals and Bishops like Cardinal Cupich, Cardinal DiNardo, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Bishop Robert Barron all had very strong statements and developed resources on Charlottesville. Some of which can be accessed here, here, and here. Those engaged in the conservative policy world like Robert P. George and Ryan T. Anderson among others were also very outspoken, with Robert P. George going so far as suggesting that Bishops ought to force any Roman Catholics who marched with the modern day klan to renounce racism on pain of excommunication.
Several Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders like Ed Stetzer, Jack Graham, and Tim Keller among others were fairly outspoken. Some of what they said can be access here, here, here, and here. Those engaged in the policy world like Russell Moore and Ralph Reed had statements. Many Evangelicals and Pentecostals more directly associated with the President, including those on the President’s Evangelical Advisory Board said very little on race in particular with few exceptions. A partial list of responses can be found here.
In the Mainline Protestant world leaders like Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Bruce Ough President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, and Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA all had strong statements and resources which can be found here, here, here, and here. Those engaged in the policy world were also equally vocal.
In the Orthodox world, the Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America and the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America both issued strong statements here and here.
The responses across the Christian world have been fairly good, but what is often missing is sustained ministries that help heal racial divisions between white and black Christians both in the historic contexts meaning within historically black churches and denominations and their counterparts (listed above), and within traditions that have a significant diverse racial presence.
The divisions between black culture and the predominant white one are not easily healed, getting churches to work across dividing lines for common witness is also fairly difficult.
Within a few days, many of the leaders mentioned went back to their everyday ministries and tasks, as is natural, but what is needed in this moment is new and sustained efforts to help churches build more collegial relations around issues of common cause and justice but also as importantly on the congregational and parish level between churches and people who often won’t and don’t associate.
What we are currently doing is too small to heal the lasting divisions. How many more severe moments in the culture will it take before statements translate into sustained actions focused on building some relational muscle between different kinds of Christians. Racism is first a scandal in the life of the church, long before it becomes a lasting scandal in the life of the culture.
For this ministry, the last few years have been enough, and Charlottesville was more than enough. Starting now, KMS will be developing video resources on race and launching into justice initiatives as we hope to build our own muscles and witness along this lasting American Christian challenge.
In particular we want to focus our work on getting Christians involved in new areas where our combined witness can help tackle some of the systemic racial challenges in our culture, and on resources that can be used across a broad spectrum of the church.