Dear friends, brothers and sisters
I want to apologise for not writing sooner this week in response to the shocking death of George Floyd. Every day, as we have read and perhaps watched the videos that have emerged of his death, we have been deeply moved, upset, saddened and shocked. Anger and deep sorrow mingle together. As followers of Jesus, even though distanced by thousands of miles and a wide ocean, I think it is vital for us all to reflect deeply on this event and search our own hearts for any lingering racism. I am doing exactly this at this time and taking time to slowly and intentionally reflect on my own prejudices asking God to search my heart, to see if there is any offensive way in me and to lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139)
In my reading and reflection, I have been helped by a number of thoughtful, humble and honest reflections from around the world but I was very impressed with our own Satellites Team who addressed the issue on Wednesday evening at the end of their session. I was proud of how Katie Madanat spoke so powerfully to the young people about how to talk together and think as Christians at this time. I commend the Satellites Live! video on Youtube. Katie and Martin talk about this together around the 53 minute mark which was at the end of a great evening of fun and serious content. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvPv_hpf7Yg
I have been also helped to reflect on this from a conversation between Pastor Derwin Gray of Transformation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and one of my favourite theologians, Scott McKnight. You can find out more about Transformation Church here and read about what it looks like to be a multicultural, multigenerational and mission-shaped church.
The interview is a discussion they had together back in 2016 following the deaths of two other black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. What I found so powerful and convicting was the call to the church of Jesus to be a sign of the Kingdom of God where there is no division between people of any kind. A podcast of this conversation can be found here
In the podcast notes they say this:
Racial tension is at a high point. The embodiment of the Kingdom found in the New Testament and lived out through the Church was to be a vision of unity and diversity. The Church in America, unfortunately, has remained one of the most segregated organisations instead of being a vision for unity and diversity. Pastor Derwin Gray and Transformation Church is a shining light of how the Church can be the type of diverse community it was intended to be.
Hear about Pastor Derwin’s journey of planting Transformation Church, the challenges they faced from being a multiethnic church, and steps any church can take to become a richer expression of the diverse Kingdom of God.
And they recommend two resources to read:
- The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World by Derwin Gray
- The Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight
As we look out on our world and look inside our own hearts, we are coming to realise at this time that there is more than one virus in our community that endangers us and which we should work with all our might to overcome.
I am very aware while we live on the edge of one of the world’s most multicultural cities, that Reigate, as a town, is predominantly white and affluent. As a church family that seeks to represent Jesus and to live according to his gospel I would love to see us use this time in the coming weeks to explore together what God is saying to us and what he is leading us to leave behind – any behaviours or attitudes – that don’t fit his kingdom ethics.
Do please join me in reflecting and talking with others about this matter and to pray for God’s healing, justice and restoration overseas and here at home. Pray also for us a church that we might better represent the gospel of reconciliation which we treasure so highly and repent of any failures on our part, individually and as a church.
Pentecost is the time of year we remember that the mission of God is universal and for every person from every tribe and tongue. The languages given as the Spirit fell was the first sign of this and as we pray to be filled with the Spirit let us pray for us to be able to speak the gospel and about the good works of God to everyone in a language so that they can understand.
PS – Updated 07/06/2020
Thank you for those who have connected with me over this issue. I am grateful for the conversation. I continue to listen and learn as I reflect and pray in response to the events across the world this week, and here is one more resource. It’s from the Pastor Theologian Podcast that I sometimes listen to and it’s excellent.
It’s a conversation between two American Christian leaders which is honest, challenging but also full of grace. I really recommend it!
Here are the podcast notes:
Dr. Eric Redmond joins the podcast to discuss his experience as an African American man, father, and pastor in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. We lament and discuss how it feels to be a black American and a black evangelical at this historical moment. What can pastors, particularly white pastors, do to lead their congregations toward repentance and care for those of African descent in their communities. Dr. Redmond is a professor of New Testament at the Moody Bible Institute and an associate pastor at Calvary Memorial Church in Chicago.
Peace be with you