I could have written an article with this title a year ago, but it would not have been quite as jarring as this one is. In the past year, I have expanded my knowledge considerably of my black friends’ worldview, and have altered mine in the process. This has been a very rewarding and very disturbing adventure for me. Let me give you some advance warning regarding this article, especially if you are white. I am about to not just disturb a sacred cow, I’m going to kick it in the gut. Buckle your seat belt and hold on tight – but please keep reading!
In Crossing the Line: Culture, Race and Kingdom, Michael Burns opens the doorway into dialogue and discussion of race and its impact on the culture and kingdom of God. Issues of racism, race, and culture bring out deep passion and potential conflict in the world; and because disciples live in this world, they affect us, our mission, and our unity. Every potential problem like this, though, can be a pitfall or a platform. It can be our undoing or an amazing opportunity to put the power and wisdom of the true gospel on display.
Newly-appointed Boston Church of Christ elder, Darryl Owens, addressed the pressing questions of race in the body of Christ in his sermon entitled, "Rollercoaster of Love... Say What?!" One of the highlights was providing a simple, practical way to have meaningful, loving conversations about race.
Welcome to the “Crossing the Line” series from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ. This series is not intended to be the definitive and final word on the complex questions of race and culture in our world today, but it does represent countless hours of prayer, discussion, research and getting the perspectives and opinions of hundreds of disciples from around the world who were engaged in conversation before undertaking this endeavor.
The Minneapolis/St. Paul Church of Christ hosted its annual Simunye Weekend Celebration on October 22-23, 2016. "Simunye" is a Zulu term which means "we are one." The special guest speakers for the weekend were Steve and Carol Mukenya. Steve and Carol have led churches in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; Lusaka, Zambia; and currently lead the church in Gwinnett County, Atlanta.
Why this? Why now? Why me?
During my 45 plus years of ministry, I have served in many roles in many places. When I turned 65, I resigned from my ministry staff role in Phoenix and began a teaching ministry. The advice I received from trusted, wise brothers about my future legacy was that my greatest contribution would come through leadership training and writing. Hence I embarked on the leadership training part, and pursued it vigorously for about seven years. Then we moved to Dallas and I served as a part-time staff person in 2015. Through these eight years, I wrote only one full length book and did second editions on a couple of others. I was unable to concentrate on writing while still considered even a part-time staff member. It was purely my problem, for the Dallas leadership didn’t put any pressure on me at all. This issue, along with continuing to have friends younger than I am die, led me to end the part-time staff involvement and devote 2016 to writing.
A few weeks ago I had a discussion with Jason Alexander, a teacher here at Gateway City Church. Jason brought up the issue of racism and its painful effect on the church. We had a great talk about the necessity of addressing this need in a straightforward, meaningful way. The next day Lori and I received an email from Yolanda Suber, an amazing sister here in St. Louis. Recent events in the United States have caused great pain in our cities, our neighborhoods and our churches. Yolanda asked if she could get some time with us to talk.
Few subjects are more emotionally charged than racism. We don’t like to be the recipients of it, and we don’t like to be accused of it. As a result, talking about it is problematic. It frequently does more harm than good because of the sensitivity of the subject. And yet, if we don’t talk about it, that’s even worse, since any subject that elicits that much emotion from us is effecting our hearts and our relationships. This is especially true in the church, where we are vulnerable with each other -- more than we probably realize.