Is the Church standing as an agent of change in our communities? Is the Church relevant in restoring race relations in our society? Bishop Phillip M. Davis, senior pastor of Nations Ford Community Church of Charlotte, NC, believes that believers are “called to confront the culture” and address the moral and social issues that plague our nation.
In light of the tragedies related to Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and Eric Garner, Davis recently hosted “The Reconciled Church Summit.” The event, sparked by nationally-known, The Reconciled Church movement, sought to produce deeper conversations about race and the church’s role in healing our land. Davis invited GT contributor Bishop Harry Jackson, co-founder of The Reconciled Church movement and senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland., to share best practices and practical ways for the church to lead the way toward reconciliation and restoration.
Faith leaders, as well as political, business, and community leaders, came together in a time of prayer and planning to bring healing and hope to our cities. Davis talked to Gospel Today about the summit, and the church’s role in bridging the racial divide.
GT: You’ve recently hosted The Reconciled Church Summit about healing the racial divide. What is The Reconciled Church Movement and how can people get involved?
PMD: It’s a movement that was begun and founded by Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Harry Jackson, and Dr. James Robison, and they called together church leaders from across the country to discuss best practices, best practical ways for churches to start tearing down the divide of race and denomination, and class, and all of the things that separate us, and build bridges of peace between us so that we can then model for the world, and for the society as a whole, what a reconciled Church looks like.
The Reconciled Church movement is a national movement that has to be played out on a local level on a grassroots level, every community has to decide to come together and break down some of the barriers, some of the divide and build bridges of peace between us so that we can show the world what Jesus really meant when He said that,” I pray that they might be one.”
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GT: Has the Church done enough to address the issue of race in America?
PMD: It’s my personal opinion that the Church has hidden its head in the sand, when it comes to the issue of race in America the Church has to be the one who calls into question the issues of race and racism, and to do so unapologetically, and call, particularly pastors–even more importantly, white evangelical pastors–to “come out of the closet” and talk about the issues of racism in our nation, because only a reconciled Church can model the kind of unity that will keep this kind of hatred that we see happening in Charleston and other places from happening.
Only a reconciled Church can model the kind of unity that will keep this kind of hatred that we see happening in Charleston and other places from happening.
GT: What are some other things that the Church can do to address the issue of racial injustice, in addition to hosting the “town hall” meetings in our communities?
I think the church has to do more than this traditional Sunday morning meeting, if we’re going to make any headway in the area of racial reconciliation.
PMD: I think the church has to do more than this traditional Sunday morning meeting, if we’re going to make any headway in the area of racial reconciliation.
It is incumbent upon church leadership, senior leaders,and pastors once again, to address the systematic problems that lead to racial separation and segregation. For example, we have to address the criminal justice system that is totally out of balance from the perspective of black men being incarcerated, and given harsher sentences for the same types of crime as white men and others. We have to address our school system, which for black boys, has become nothing more than a pipeline to prison by way of being suspended and placed in Special Ed. classes.
The Church has to address these issues, and not just the black Church; this is not just a black problem, this is a white problem. So these are things educational systems, and economic development, job opportunities, all of these things the Church has to raise up as issues that confront a marginalized and a disenfranchised community of people, and until we do, we will see a continuation of the kind of things we’ve been seeing.
This Summer, there will be rioting in the streets. The issue is, at what point will we get in front of this and bring about systematic changes that can mitigate some of the violence that’s headed our way?
GT: In July, a trial will begin in Charlotte regarding the death of an unarmed man, Jonathan Ferrell, who was shot and killed by a former police officer, Randall Kerrick. What is the Church’s role in preventing riots and acts of violence, sparked by the injustices of our society?
PMD: I think the Church has a responsibility to get in front of young people who might be the targets, or who might be the instigators of acts of violence or civil unrest, and teach them and help them to understand that while they do have a right to protest, and we affirm that right for them to peacefully protest, we want to help them understand that it makes no sense to tear up your neighborhoods and to tear up other neighborhoods, simply because you want to protest.
There’s been many protests throughout the nation and throughout our history, that have been peaceful and powerful because of the fact that the protests were done in such a way that it called the business community, the church community, and the political community to accountability.
GT: Is there anything else that you’d like to share, or speak to in regards to race in America or in the churches?
PMD: In terms of race in the Church and in America, we are on the verge of what I believe is a revival. You cannot have a revival without first having repentance, and you can’t have repentance without first having an admission that we have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
I believe that the acts of violence, and the things that we see happening around the country today is pushing us toward that point where we will cry out to God and say, “we are guilty before You, and we ask for Your gift of repentance,” and then I think the racial issues of our day will begin to subside, even though we will have to work on the very practical out-workings of what that looks like.