On Saturday morning January 30, scores of church leaders, along with a smathering of parishioners, gathered in the basement of an old department-store-turned-church in Richmond, Virginia for a discussion on Race and the Church. The invited primary speaker was Dr. Sean Lucas, pastor of historic First Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg, Mississippi; adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary; and author of the recently released For A Continuing Church. I considered it a privilege to be among those gathered, though participation was an open invitation.
My primary takeaway from that morning meeting is that much of our current racial rifts, and the prevailing voluntary segregation of Sunday mornings, is due in large part to a history that has barely been openly acknowledged, much less genuinely and transparently repented. Dr. Lucas provided ample examples, as the video above reveals (and his book expands upon). And while in many respects progress has been made, and reconciliation is occuring, there is still work to be done for the church in America to truly be one, as Jesus prayed for us to be. (John 17) A large part of what is left to be done is for White Christians – the “White” church – to go back in time, to understand and to own our sins, and our forefathers’ sins, related to racism.
Some may balk. Perhaps understandably.
“How many times must we say we are sorry?”
“I was not even born during the period of the Civil Rights Movement, so how can I be responsible?”
While such rebuttals may be honest and true, they have not proven effective to bridge the reconciliation gap. The desire and demand of Jesus is not that we merely go through the motions, but that we be “One” just as he is one with the Father, and with the Holy Spirit. No doubt that in many cases there is forgiveness that has been withheld. But even where this is the case, there is still a need for those of us who were born into the majority side to repent – to take steps back, to come to understand what was done in the name of the Church bur for the cause of bigotry. And we do not go alone, but rather we go there with our brothers and sisters of color. We go together that we may walk together, retracing the ways we have failed – failed one another, and failed our God – moving together in repentance and faith.
Take some time to watch the video. If you are in the Richmond area, join us for a future event.