On Charlottesville

Dear Church,

The brazen display of images of white supremacy and nationalism, the death of Heather Heyer, and the injuring of dozens of others in Charlottesville this past Saturday have captured our nation’s attention. During worship we stopped to acknowledge these realities and bring the evil of racism in the United States before God in lament. Today I wanted to take a moment to respond a little further. 

Coming less than a week after a sermon on the Gospel roots of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural church, the contrast of this Saturday’s events was striking and highlights the reality that racism is antithetical to the Gospel. From Genesis to Revelation the witness of Scripture is clear, all people are made in the image of God and will be drawn from all nations into God’s renewal of all things. The elevation of one race over another and the hatred of those who are different from us are contradicted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

While racism in all its forms is evil and exists throughout our fallen world, we can be precise in naming the particular evil on display this weekend as white supremacy. The images and symbols from Charlottesville confirm again that the evil of white supremacy remains a part of American society. The hold and sway of this racism in the United States is something to be mourned and fought against in the name of Jesus Christ. 

As we read on Sunday, “…there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” (Romans 10:12) In Jesus Christ reconciliation with God is open to all, regardless of ethnicity or culture; all are justified by faith. The Church’s life together is to embody and demonstrate this reality. For many of us the sermon from two Sundays ago was a compelling reminder of this, and the events of this weekend are a wake-up call to the context in which this call comes to us. As a church formed by the Gospel we are called to something better. We want to embody the good news of Jesus Christ. That takes work. 

The Gospel work of rooting out racism, of God’s kingdom coming more fully in our lives and in the United States, is complex and always ongoing. As the church our work begins as it did on Sunday, in prayer. We bring the reality of white supremacy in the United States before God, we ask for His kingdom to come. We pray for those most harmed by racism, for their protection and flourishing. We pray for those held in thrall to racism, that their hearts would be turned. We pray for ourselves, confessing individually and corporately, inviting the Holy Spirit to make us instruments of shalom, to give us insight in how we are to respond to the reality of racism. We ask for God’s justice and peace in the United States. 

The work begins in prayer, but it does not end there. There is listening and learning, especially from our brothers and sisters across cultural and ethnic lines. There is repentance and the consolation of those suffer.  There is the opposition of racism and the doing of justice. This is part of the gracious work of embodying the Gospel, this is the good work of the church. Let it take place among us. 

Just last night as our Parish Council gathered we paused to read Scripture, pray, and reflect upon how we can continue to grow and learn in this arena. A "Lunch and Learn" regarding this work will be happening in the coming weeks. Please pray for me, and our leadership, and the whole of COTC as we seek to participate in God's renewal in the area of racial reconciliation and justice.  

In Christ, 

August 15, 2017

Ps. There have been all manner of responses to Charlottesville, to my thinking these have been among the best: from the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, from Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller, from the Anglican Multiethnic Network, and its director