In my post last week, I invited you to meet and celebrate the decision by the Evangelical Covenant church in 2000 to become a multiracial church. What I didn’t tell you is that for the leaders of the Covenant Church, one of their major influences for embarking on the journey to create a multiracial church was Jim Wallis, editor of the Sojourners Magazine. I am not surprised since Sojourners has given more voice to authors of color and those advocating more for racial justice in society and the church than any other Christian magazine I have found.
Part of the reason for that advocacy is that Jim Wallis was kicked out of his church as a 15 year-old because he became an activist in the early expressions of the civil rights movement. That was, in fact, part of his motivation for starting Sojourners Magazine. It has been a major influence in my life.
When Jim came to Seattle in 2017 to share about his new book, America’s Original Sin, I went to listen to him. His presentation was moving but his book was more convicting than any book I can remember reading; waking us up to the widespread and destructive nature of racism in America.
It is still, in my opinion, the most important book written by a white Christian author for white Christians to read to discover how we can become more positive members of the interracial community in America and the interracial community of the followers of Jesus that reach around our troubled world as we all grapple with this new destructive global pandemic.
In the June issue of Sojourners, Jim Wallis’ editorial is “Learning to Love is Crucial for our Survival.” This issue also includes an article titled, “Finding Hope in ‘The New Dark Ages’’’, that reconnects to the hopefulness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Now I want to take you back to some of my earliest encounters with the Covenant Denomination as it began its journey towards becoming a multiracial denomination in the early 2000s, which I presented in my last post. Remember their primary strategy for creating a hope filled future was by starting an aggressive program of planting multiracial churches.
One of the first Covenant new church planters was Pastor Efrem Smith. He became the founding pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in a multiethnic congregation in North Minneapolis. Christine and I got to know Efrem because his travels often brought him to Seattle. In fact, we were able to secure Efrem Smith as a keynote speaker at a conference in the early 2000s on the challenging topic of how to prepare for a richly multiracial future in America.
It was a very powerful wake up call for a primarily white audience. Efrem is the author of a book that can help us on the journey: The Post-Black and Post-White Church: Becoming the Beloved Community in a Multi-Ethnic World.
Recently Efrem Smith, who is now the co-pastor of a large interracial Bayside Church Midtown in Sacramento, CA, wrote on Twitter: “Another unarmed African American killing. This time in South Minneapolis in the neighborhood where I grew up. The heartbreak continues. I shouldn’t have to fear for my life because of the color of my skin.”
Bob Smietana of Christianity Today asked Efrem Smith in their June/July issue to address racial issues in America. He asked, “What kind of response have you seen from faith leaders?” Efrem responded, “Those that have been involved in ministry that includes initiatives of justice and reconciliation—the response has been consistent: a call for justice, the call for love, a call for reconciliation, a call for changes through public policy… But then there’s also a significant segment of evangelicalism that is either silent or late to the party when it comes to the church calling for justice.”
Efrem Smith stated, “Evangelicalism needs a more humble posture of receiving and learning. Allow the church that has been deemed the other, the marginalized church, to be the teacher at this moment, and to have the most dominant form of the church in America be the student who is learning to share power.”
How can white followers of Jesus end white silence?
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