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Open letters on race call for meaningful engagement

“We can — and must — do better.”

So reads an open letter to members of Churches of Christ signed by 77 ministers, scholars and thought leaders within the fellowship. The letter is a response to recent, ethnically charged violence in cities including Dallas, Baton Rouge, La., and Milwaukee.

“We believe that the choice before us is clear,” the letter’s writers — William Lofton Turner, Tanya Brice, Sandra Parham, David Fleer, Mark Hamilton, Richard T. Hughes, Don McLaughlin and John York — said in a statement to The Christian Chronicle. “We can allow the racism that abounds in America’s popular culture to set the agenda for the church or we can allow the biblical vision to determine what we believe, how we feel and how we act. And, the biblical text is clear: racism is a sin. It violates Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

The letter recounts statements and actions of Churches of Christ in decades past — some supporting segregation and others opposing it. It also addresses current issues in race relations, including the Black Lives Matter movement, and calls for believers black and white to spend time in meaningful dialogue that leads to understanding.

“I am convinced that racial justice and reconciliation are central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Eric Gentry, associate preaching minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Cordova, Tenn., who signed the letter. “While social pressure tempts us to remain bystanders, this letter calls us who share in the Gospel to ensure that black lives matter in the Kingdom of God.”

Fate Hagood, minister for the Metropolitan Church of Christ in Carson, Calif., said he has experienced strong, cross-cultural relationships — and strong, racially charged insensitivity — within the fellowship.

“There’s a peculiar dichotomy between our traditional rhetoric of unity and oneness and the reality of our disjointed fellowship, especially concerning race relations,” said Hagood, who signed the letter. “I signed the letter in hopes that our reality can begin to match our rhetoric.”

The Chronicle received another open letter on race relations written by church members Harold Shank, president of Ohio Valley University in Vienna, W.Va., and Robert L. Solomon, assistant vice provost in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at The Ohio State University.

“As we study the holy Scriptures and the ministry of Jesus, we see a story of love, compassion, inclusion, mercy, equity and equality,” Shank and Solomon write. “We see a story of serving those on the margins of society and reaching the forgotten with the Gospel of truth. It makes perfect sense that Christians should be champions of equality and fairness, rather than passive observers.”
Read the full letters:
An open letter to members of the Churches of Christ – ministers, scholars and thought leaders within the fellowship

Speaking Up on the Issue of Race in America – from Harold Shank and Robert Solomon
From the archives:
•  ‘We realized we’re all just people’
 What a uniformed officer in the Bible teaches us about today’s interactions
 A fishing trip to racial harmony
  Milwaukee church responds to local riots
•  Baton Rouge churches say response needs to unify community
•  In Dallas, a somber Sunday
•  ‘Worship is our protest,’ says Ferguson, Mo., church leader
•  The broken soul of Baltimore
• ‘This is not a race issue, it is a humanity issue,’ minister says
•  On Christian journalists and #blacklivesmatter
•  On Ferguson, faith and the fight for equality

Filed under: News Extras

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