In recent weeks, there has been a national debate about the appropriateness of sermons preached by Dr. Jeremiah Wright from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Two weeks ago the controversy led Senator Barak Obama to deliver an important speech on race in America.
Opinion leaders in the national media praised the speech as courageous, but the notion that simply more talk is needed will no longer suffice. While politicians like Barack Obama and the national media wring their hands over a problem that has persisted in this country for nearly 400 years, they offer no solutions to the problem.
The tragedy of this most recent revelation of America’s racial divide is that incendiary remarks by Rev. Wright were delivered in a church, at the pulpit, by a pastor of a Christian church. If there is something that can heal the racial wounds of America, it is the Church. However, this latest incident underscores the lack of progress and the urgent need for a deliberate and coordinated effort among Christian pastors and prominent Christians to lead the nation in racial reconciliation.
The failure of good Christian people to provide a clear and convincing example of racial unity within the Church has contributed to the divide between the races in the nation and it only appears to be widening.
We must recognize that racism is not just a social problem in America; it is also a spiritual problem. It is a matter of the heart. Healing racism in the nation is, therefore a challenge facing our country that must first be addressed in and by the Church. We believe that contrary to what Americans have seen in the last few weeks, the Church can and must help lead the nation toward reconciliation among the races.
This diagnosis of the nature of racism in the US is in keeping with the clear teaching of scripture. Jesus prayed that His followers would be united. He also said in John 17:21 that the world would believe His mission and message because of the unity of His followers.
A racially reconciled church can eventually unite the nation. Evangelical churches are especially prepared to seize this strategic moment in American history because of their shared theology and value system.
The basis of our action is an empowerment theology that is based upon the scriptures. In contrast, liberation theology as preached by people like Rev. Wright, if taken to extreme, can fan the flames of class struggles and racial prejudice.
Many churches have already done a great deal to solve this problem, but there will be dire consequences if the racial tensions of the nation are not addressed. Just 16 years ago on April 29, 1992 a major race riot sent shock waves from Los Angeles around the world. Seven hundred million dollars of property damage, 13,212 arrests, 2,383 human injuries, and 54 deaths lay in the wake of an initial lower court verdict concerning the beating of Rodney King by four LA policemen.
We believe that repeat of that riot is possible today. The protagonists may be black, white, or Hispanic but the danger of unresolved race based anger deserves a national “intervention” by the Church.
There is no time to waste.
It is time for America to see the Church as an unbiased representative of Christ. We want to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by announcing this Reconciliation Referendum on April 4, 2008- the 40th anniversary of the his assassination. Over 40 leading ministers - 20 whites and 20 blacks - have made a commitment to bring racial reconciliation to our nation within the next decade. We collectively make a commitment to take the following intentional and purposeful steps to begin the healing:
1. Pray for racial healing and spiritual awakening in America.
2. Strategically evangelize across racial boundaries.
3. Conduct pulpit exchanges in our communities or regions which congregations of different racial majorities.
4. Commemorate the contributions of Christian blacks, Hispanics and other racial minorities to both the Church and the nation through black history month and other dates of multi-racial and cultural significance.
5. Develop cross-cultural leadership within our local ministries, including spiritual and administrative positions.
6. Recognize that biblical justice is a part of our social mandate.
7. Develop trans-denominational approaches to address domestic poverty.
What about practical solutions for non- churched people? In our book Personal faith, Public Policy we give a visionary game plan for a racially reconciled Church to serve the entire nation. As the Church unifies, there are many specific public policy initiatives we can introduce in order to create a greater atmosphere of biblical justice in our land.
We are calling for all Bible believing Christians to accept this Reconciliation Referendum and become proactive healing agents in this nation. Chuck Colson, Richard Cizik, Steve Strang, Tony Perkins, Bishop Wellington Boone, Tony Perkins, Marcus Lamb, Rick Joyner, Gary Simons, and over 1,000 believers have signed onto this statement since Friday. Please sign the Reconciliation Referendum at www.hilc.net