On Thursday, January 15, approximately 150 church leaders from the major denominations met at The Potter’s House to begin a conversation on The Reconciled Church. Representing over 43 million Christians, these leaders convened at the behest of Bishop T. D. Jakes, Dr. James K. Robison, and I. The objective was to begin a solution-focused dialogue to heal the racial divide in The Church.
I challenged those gathered from the Scripture in Ezekiel 13:4-5 which says,
“Oh Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the LORD.”
Our negligence in handling the charge to offer protection, prophetic direction, and practical solutions to life’s challenges for the people of God has left the Church in a weakened state.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.…” (1 John 4:7-8)
Short term, we desired to bring a heightened awareness of the lack of Biblical love in the Church because racism remains and we also desire to expose church leaders to the great work of reconciliation currently occurring in churches around the nation.
The Back Story
Bishop Jakes was in Ferguson for the funeral of Michael Brown. He was moved by the level of frustration expressed in the community. He understood too well the dichotomy and disproportionality in the allocation of resources and public services in majority versus minority communities in America.
I was in St. Louis for The Urban World Summit with Bishop Raphael Green Pastor of Metro Christian Worship Center Church. For 20 years pastors gathered to dialogue about restoring dignity, promoting economic development, and offering alternative educational solutions to blighted communities in America’s urban centers. At the culmination of The Summit, The Ferguson Declaration and Seven Bridges to Peace were offered as practical suggestions/solutions pastors could implement or partner with other organizations to serve their communities.
Although The Summit was overshadowed by tense moments awaiting the verdict of Officer Darren Wilson, the tenor of The Summit was promising. However, hopefulness quickly gave way to fear and despair as demonstrations and protests escalated into rioting and looting when the not guilty verdict was released. I was concerned that fear would prevail resulting in a free-for-all and more deaths. Christians around the country began praying that the urban centers would not be placed under martial law and more lives lost. Pastors walked the street among protesters in an effort to keep peace.
The mantra Black Lives Matter was seared like a hot brand into the souls of people of color around the world as peaceful demonstrations occurred in urban centers. Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites marched in the streets. Along with Dr. James Robison, Bishop Jakes, and I surmised that the blood of people of color would run in the streets if the Church did not arise, put away her partisanship, prejudiced attitudes, and work in concerted efforts across the nation to heal the racial divide.
Our premise is that in a divided society, only the Church can model unity. In a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, I explained why the Church’s unity is so critical for the nation at this time. The subsequent deaths of Eric Garner in a brutal arrest gone awry and the senseless shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice confirmed our concerns. Escalating tensions framed by mantras, “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” resounded as numbers of protesters took to the streets in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC.
Yes, the Church must raise the prayer shield. But she must also be reconciled to her brothers and acknowledge that this is not post-racial America. The big fat elephant of racism is standing in the corner. The meeting at The Potter’s House marked the beginning of a movement. With deep contrition, pastors repented of pride, arrogance, racism, ignorance, and reached out without guilt. Minority and majority pastors were able to unearth prejudices in a healthy manner, exchange information in nonthreatening settings, and organically began conversation with pastors in their cities. Pastors exchanged ideas and best practices from their ministries. The goal was to provide exposure to existing outreach programs and share opportunities to collaborate in the same cities. While every bridge to peace is helpful, several pastors specifically sought opportunities to collaborate on ideas for criminal justice and education reform.
The work has begun. God is using the prayerful efforts of three concerned preachers and their friends who expressed their concerns, and implored the support of others to build bridges of peace to heal the racial divide.
For more information www.thereconciledchurch.org