The past few weeks have been quite busy and I wanted to share some of my reflections. I spent most of last week in Long Beach, CA attending the Mosaix National Multi-cultural church conference. There were many highlights from the conference, but for me, a critical moment was hearing Dr. John Perkins deliver a message near the end of the conference. Some of you may not be familiar with Dr. Perkins, but he is one of the leading evangelical voices from the Civil Rights Movement. He is an international speaker that primarily focuses on the topics of racial reconciliation and Christian community development. He is a living legend. Near the beginning of his speech Dr. Perkins said, “I feel finished.” I felt a well of emotions come through me and my eyes began to water. I am somewhat aware of the losses in his life, his struggles through the Civil Rights Movement, and his passion for the gospel and the Church as God’s people. Those few short words for me held the weight of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. Dr. Perkins, in his lifetime, has seen with his eyes many of the things that Dr. King could only dream about. And as he looked over a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-cultural audience of approximately 1,000 people, all of whom have covenanted to love the Lord and his church, and to share the gospel without fear, Dr. Perkins had a mountain top experience. At his revelation, I was reminded again of the privilege that I have to stand on the shoulders of people like Dr. Perkins and the responsibility that I have to pass the baton on to the next generation who will raise up a standard for Christ.
The Mosaix conference also included an interesting and unsuspected event. Ed Stetzer, President of LifeWay Research, closed his speaking points with a video from Lifeway Preisent and CEO Thom. S. Rainer apologizing for the Far Out Ricksaw Rally” Vacation Bible School curriculum material which was quite offensive to the Asian American community. I was first made aware of this offense when I read Soong-Chan Rah’s book, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity. The challenge with this issue is that Lifeway initially blatantly disregarded the offense. Disregard was followed by years of leadership response, “It was not my fault.” Most recently, our Asian American brothers and sisters have called our white evangelical leaders to the table to talk about the continuous racism, racial stereotypes, and lack of cultural sensitivity within the Church. Here we are ten years later with Lifeway apologizing for this injustice. Many, like myself, are glad the apology finally took place. Some believe that the action was too little too late. Others are hopeful that this simple act of obedience will restore broken relationships. But the questions that many of us are asking is: Where do we go from here? Are these dominate evangelical churches and organizations serious about reconciling all people to Christ and to each other, and if so, what does look like when people who are not in the “in” group asks the dominate culture to address issues of systemic injustices, lack of diversity in all levels of leadership, and challenge the ways we are called to practice unity in diversity as credible witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
All conference attendees were asked to sign The One Church One Body Pledge. Signers of the pledge agree to commit to the mission of racial reconciliation; do our part to repair the criminal justice system and protect the safety and security of all men, women, and children; and take to congress the critical need to restore the integrity of the Voting Rights Act. I have signed the pledge and encourage you to research these issues (some of which you can do through the search box on this blog) and prayerfully consider signing the pledge here as well.
I returned home from the conference and 12 Years a Slave had finally arrived at my local movie theater. 12 Years a Slave is the personal life story as documented by Solomon Northup, who was born a free African American from upstate New York. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery for twelve years. He was a husband, father, and extraordinary violinist who used his mind and family inspiration to survive the harsh conditions of slavery in the pre-Civil War United States. Paul MacInnes from The Guardian.com said of 12 Years, it’s “not just a great film but a necessary one.” I was not looking forward to viewing this movie but felt that I must. It is an uncomfortable viewing. I still cannot fathom in my mind how such atrocities happened in America. We must remember this history so that we are not blind to all the subtle ways of thinking that allows some image bearers to abuse power and dishonor others in our midst. We must remember, call out these injustices when we see them, and even take action when necessary. Go to the movies and see 12 Years a Slave.
God, help us to see as you see and better reflect your glory on earth. Amen.
Blessings, © Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013