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Reconcile

The conversation around racial reconciliation is so important. On this page you will find links to interviews with Black leaders, resources for further study, ways to help, and more.

 

René's Thoughts

Some thoughts on the tumultuous times we face. 

I was deeply moved by my meeting with Pastor Lattimore of the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in Santa Cruz recently. This Black pastor prayed for our two churches, and in his prayer he noted how, in this cultural moment, some are leveraging the strong emotions associated with essential, urgent, and noble causes––such as ending racism, enacting criminal justice reform, and suppressing spread of the coronavirus––to drive wedges between churches and church members. But biblically, the goal of justice is reconciliation.

Pastor Lattimore prayed for unity and for patience. Most of all he prayed that we all, as Jesus-followers, remember what we hold in common, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only hope for human hearts. Because, he said, it is only as White and Black and other People of Color work together as brothers and sisters that unity and healing can truly be accomplished.

I’ve been thinking a lot about his prayer, and what the Bible says on these issues. These are Biblical values we hold in common. 

As Christians we must strongly affirm that every human is made in the image of God and worthy of equal respect (Genesis 9:6). We are called to seek justice for the poor and marginalized (Isaiah 1:17). We are called to repent from favoritism and prejudice, no matter how subtle, both on a personal and national level (James 2:1-9; Daniel 9:4-8). We must not put ourselves above others but stand with the "lowly" (Romans 12:16; Philippians 2:3,4). We should flee self-righteousness and instead humbly ask God for mercy and continued growth (Luke 18:10-14).

In America, this includes grappling honestly and painfully with the ongoing tragic repercussions of slavery and racism, a reality made painfully clear once again after the horrific killing of George Floyd, not to mention Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor and others. It means affirming the simple but powerful truth that black lives matter. As I heard another very conservative pastor say this week, "As a Gospel issue, black lives matter. Of course, black lives matter. Our black brothers and sisters are made in the image of God. Black lives matter because Jesus died for them." As another evangelical pastor said, "That 'Black lives matter' is important to affirm right now because we are seeing in our country the evidence of specific injustices that many of our black brothers and sisters and friends have been telling us about for years." 

A Black woman at TLC asked me to share that, when she says "Black lives matter", she does not mean other lives do not matter, she means Black lives matter too. And saying these words does not mean we must agree with all the policy prescriptions or social theories associated with others who may also say these words. When Christians say Black lives matter, it means something more than partisan politics. It means we affirm those three simple words as a truth rooted in our biblical worldview of human dignity. It means we lament how far we are from God’s heavenly vision of every ethnic group worshipping in beautiful unity (Revelation 7:9). It means we seek to change not just our words but our actions to match our beliefs (James 2:14). 

It means we reach out in repentance, humility, and love, with reconciliation as our goal, through efforts like helping our local Black churches and other People of Color like the Navajo Nation. It means we wrestle with the racist practices and attitudes of our past. In the specific case of Twin Lakes, it means acknowledging that apologists for the Ku Klux Klan held a series of lectures defending the KKK in the old 7th Avenue Twin Lakes Baptist Church auditorium, according to historian Ross Eric Gibson (“Founded on fiction, KKK recruited in Santa Cruz”, Santa Cruz Sentinel 6/29/2020, p. A2). This incarnation of Twin Lakes was dissolved and new leadership reorganized the church, decried the Klan, and invited Black pastors to address the congregation. In 1974, the same old Twin Lakes auditorium where Klansmen once lectured was used to start a new African Methodist Episcopal Church. Still, we must still acknowledge this painful part of our own history, in part to admit how the pervasive evil of racist ideology touched not just the American South but coastal California as well, and in part to motivate our own reparations to the local black community through support of Black churches.

We are also called to honor and respect and pray for the civil authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Timothy 2:1-2). We must pray for our law enforcement personnel, many of whom are brothers and sisters in Christ seeking to live out their calling in that context, often with long hours and low pay. They need our spiritual support. And we must seek justice and reform when civil authorities are corrupt (Proverbs 29:2; Proverbs 14:34; Isaiah 1:23). As we seek justice, we must have mercy and humility (Micah 6:8) and remain non-violent, overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). 

We are also called to show love to "the least of these", to seek not our own advantage but to sacrifice for the weak, the elderly, the vulnerable (Philippians 2:3-8; Matthew 25:40, Romans 12:10). In our situation this means we must take into account the impact of our actions on those particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus including the elderly, the sick, the poor, and communities of color––even as we seek to bless those whose businesses depend on our patronage and whose well-being depends on our continued loving interaction.

It really is possible to seek racial reconciliation, and to honor law enforcement personnel, and to seek police reform, and to wisely and compassionately navigate the coronavirus crisis. These things are not mutually exclusive. We may disagree about how to implement these values, and Christians will certainly disagree on political solutions, but the verses I referenced here are all part of our deepest, core convictions. As Pastor Lattimore said, we all must share a passionate commitment to seeing the gospel, the good news that God so loved the whole world, lived out in the way we love others above ourselves. This is how the world will know that the Father sent Jesus: That we love one another (John 17:23). If Christian unity will be the sign to the watching world that Jesus was sent from God, then the enemy of our faith will seek to undermine that unity at all costs.

So let's not put ourselves above need of correction from God, but admit we are sinners in need of repentance (Romans 12:3; 1 Timothy 1:15; Proverbs 28:13). Let’s not judge others for exactly how they choose to live out their commitment to Christ, but treat them as fellow believers on a lifelong journey (Luke 6:37; Romans 14:10-13). Let’s listen charitably (James 1:19-20). Jesus told us to love our enemies, so certainly we should love those who are not enemies but simply have different views. 

Growing together and humbly discussing how we implement these biblical values will, in the long run, be far more productive than assuming we have no more to learn and hastily condemning one another over every disagreement. I’ll be blunt: Let's spend more time letting Scripture influence our attitudes and actions than a news channel or a social media feed. God’s Word is designed to help you grow. Many talk shows and news feeds are designed to make you angry or fearful so you stay tuned or keep scrolling. 

When Scripture fills our minds, we are dwelling on what binds us together— and will grow us closer together. As Christians we all serve the same Lord, are part of the same Body––and we all fight the same enemy, whose greatest weapon against the church is disunity. We do not all possess the same skills or passions or roles in the fight, which means we will each express our convictions in these areas differently, but we are all in the same effort (Romans 12:4-8). 

We come from different backgrounds and political perspectives, but there is so much biblical common ground to find if we approach these issues with humility and an eagerness to learn. I am reading a fascinating book related to this on racial reconciliation, One Blood by John Perkins, which came to me recommended by Rick Warren and Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary. If you pick it up, you may not agree with every line, but you will underline and highlight page after page, and you will grow in understanding. 

Finally, one last verse: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:2-6 

God can develop in the church something the world rarely sees: Unity without uniformity. Let's grow together in that spirit. 

Thanks for reading. I ask for your patience and grace as I seek to lead our church forward. I eagerly anticipate the many ways we will learn and grow as a Body, on these and many other issues, for years to come. 

Conversations

These are conversations with Black pastors and leaders from around the country recorded by Bayside Church near Sacramento at their Thrive conference on June 15, 2020. They represent different perspectives on this very important issue.

T.D. Jakes
“Don’t allow the ways you describe your convictions to alienate you from your brothers and sisters. Let’s be more Christian than anything.”
watch.thriveconference.org/#5B44163BD44EF388f392B82CEff5

Dr. Raleigh Washington
“We’ve got to get beyond vanilla and chocolate and go to fudge ripple.”
watch.thriveconference.org/#29Dfd48465B3B2cE513474F20968

Miles McPherson
“We get stuck in us vs. them thinking. There is a third option: honor.”
watch.thriveconference.org/#59536D50CFd5A9E4583F8B3fC35E

Condoleezza Rice
“Look hard at everything you do and ask, will this help bring a world where every human being is valued as an image-bearer of God?”
watch.thriveconference.org/#B9C27C126FF86327AaD448816d0c

Latasha Morrison
“You can be the bridge”
watch.thriveconference.org/#062058392533e9BC3AF8FBAA131C

Albert Tate
“This is a big monster of evil, and not one single group can take it down.”
watch.thriveconference.org/#7fBD0A77F695451E5Aa79EB0fEB4

Bayside staff pastors talk about their own experiences with racism
watch.thriveconference.org/#81f10fBE89BF8C19386787605FAb

A Pastor and Police
T.D. Jakes sits down with several former and active members of law enforcement to discuss policing in America and how to address the divide between the police and the community.
youtu.be/HqCP49yorBs

Resources

Here’s a sample of the many valuable books and other resources on the Black experience in America.

Books

  • Insider Outsider, Bryan Lorrits
  • The Third Option, Miles McPherson
  • Be the Bridge, Latasha Morrison
  • One Blood, John M. Perkins
  • Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
  • Oneness Embraced, Tony Evans
  • Woke Church, Eric Mason
  • A Personal Challenge to Black and White Americans, Tony Evans
    This is a free e-book you can download to your device
  • Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, Timothy Keller and John Inazu,
    Keller and Inazu bookend chapters by leading Black voices like Lecrae, Trillia Newbell, and others about one of the challenges of our time: In a deeply divided, antagonistic age, how can Christians both stand up for truth and justice without compromise—while also showing respect and humility to those who disagree? 
  • Compassion & Conviction, Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler. While not exclusively about racial reconciliation, this book explains how Christians can navigate the complex politics of race with integrity and love. If you are looking for a way to go beyond the binary way political debates are usually framed, and have wondered about the balance and compassion your faith might bring to these issues, check out this book.
  • Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope, Esau McCaulley. Written by a Black priest in the Anglican church who teaches New Testament at the respected evangelical school Wheaton College, this is a look at Bible topics related to the Black experience. If you wonder whether the Bible can bring hope to the discussion of racism, if you've heard others assert the Bible is racist and pro-slavery, if you've wondered about the power of Black preachers––all those questions and more are considered thoughtfully here.

Other Resources

  • Faith & Prejudice
    This web site describes itself as "a movement of Christians who are committed to living a life of radical love and humility as demonstrated by Jesus Christ; the type of love and humility that confronts and dismantles racism in America once and for all". They offer a host of additional resources including online workshops and lectures.
  • Christianity Today 
    This respected evangelical magazine created a page with its latest articles on the topic of racism. Includes interviews, book reviews, editorials, and more. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/topics/r/racism/
  • National Association of Evangelicals
    This organization is an association of dozens of evangelical denominations and churches, from traditional Lutheran and Presbyterian to lively Pentecostal congregations, and churches of various ethnic groups. This page with links to their own webinars and blogs, and also various denominational sites with their own resources. https://www.nae.net/racialjustice/
  • Racial Unity Resources from Tony Evans
    At the top you’ll find books for purchase, further down there are free sermons, interviews, and other videos. https://tonyevans.org/racial-unity-resources/
  • If I am anti-racist, does that mean I endorse Marxism? What do "Critical Race Theory" and "White Privilege" mean?
    I've received emails from people suspicious of the phrase "Black Lives Matter" because they've heard it has connections to Marxism. The field of Critical Race Theory is also thought by some to contradict the Christian Gospel. Others dislike phrases like "White Privilege" for a variety of reasons. I found this article by an academic expert in Marxism and race theory--who is also an evangelical Christian at the very conservative Liberty University--to be helpful, discerning, and thought-provoking... christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/june/reflections-from-christian-scholar-on-social-justice-critic.html
  • On the web site Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black ManEmmanuel Acho, a Christian and former NFL player, explains for white viewers the struggle for racial justice. In Episode 7, linked here, he and Hillsong New York pastor Carl Lentz talk specifically about the role of Christians in combating racism. https://uncomfortableconvos.com/episode/episode-7
  • Life in the Gospel Journal
    The free quarterly online journal Life in the Gospel (part of Tim Keller’s ministry) began a 4-part series on racism this year. Very timely and very good. There are articles on the Bible and racism, the Bible and social justice, analysis of contemporary race theories, and more. Here’s a link to the first article, which has links to the others…

 

Help

SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANK
Latasha Morrison and other Black leaders point out that food programs are a foundational way to help People of Color and other minority communities, because food insecurity tends to hit such communities hardest—and can be tied directly to academic performance and physical and mental development. To donate or volunteer, click here. https://www.thefoodbank.org/

PROGRESSIVE MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH
TLC has begun a relationship with the oldest historically Black congregation in our community, the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Santa Cruz. This is a Bible-centered, gospel-preaching community that we are proud to partner with. To find out how to donate or help, email .

COMMUNITY BRIDGES
This local non-profit envisions a thriving community where every person has the opportunity to unleash their full potential. Their family of ten programs provides equitable access to resources, and advocates for health and dignity across every group and life stage. To help, go to https://communitybridges.org/

Sermons

Check back here regularly for great sermons we’ve found on racial reconciliation

HURMON HAMILTON “GREATER THINGS"
Here’s a powerful sermon Pastor Hurmon Hamilton delivered on June 7, 2020 to his ethnically diverse congregation about 4 ways to connect with Black brothers and sisters at this moment in our country’s history.
nbccbayarea.com/messages/2020/06/08/greater-things-part-8

EFREM SMITH, “WHEN THE CHURCH BECOMES A BRIDGE”
Great sermon Pastor Efrem delivered at Twin Lakes in 2019…
tlc.org/resources/sermons/when-the-church-becomes-a-bridge/ 

TONY EVANS, “WHAT IS SYSTEMIC RACISM?”
Good 6-minute explanation of systemic racism
youtube.com/watch?v=p7Rq78jFiJg 

HURMON HAMILTON "FINDING HOPE" 
Why is it so hard to talk productively and transparently about racial reconciliation? In this profound message, guest speaker Hurmon Hamilton speaks about the three main hidden obstacles to productive conversations on reconciliation and justice, and where we can all find hope for healing.
https://www.tlc.org/resources/sermons/finding-hope/