Clergy & Church Leaders: It’s Time.

It’s actually past time.

It would have been good if Christian churches had taught Christians beginning in 1492 that loving their newly discovered indigenous neighbors meant not committing genocide, land theft, colonization, enslavement, rape, and other crimes against humanity, not to mention treaty violations, the Trail of Tears, and continuing daily acts of racism and humiliation.

It would have been good if Christian churches had taught white Christians before 1619 that if you love your African neighbors, you don’t enslave, torture, rape, buy, sell, humiliate, degrade, whip, or kill them, nor do you separate their families and treat them like 3/5 of a person, at best.

It would have been good if Christian churches after the Civil War had taught white Christians that disciples of Christ must oppose the KKK, Jim Crow, White Supremacy, lynchings, and all the other acts of terrorism they committed against African Americans in the South and in the North.

It would have been good if, after the assassination of Dr. King, the majority of Christian churches around the country had begun to build relationships between racially segregated churches and denominations … relationships that would have undermined racism and increased solidarity through fellowship, mutual service, and joint mission.

It would have been good if churches taught people that the way we treat the alien and the refugee, including the undocumented farm workers and their children, is the measure of our love for Christ.

But none of these things happened then. And as a result, Charleston happened – and Charlottesville. Standing Rock happened, the most recent in a long line of atrocities and insults against Native Peoples. Multiple killings of African Americans by police, mass incarceration, hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and others happened – and continue to happen. On top of all that, enough people in enough states voted to elect a president who shows complete tone-deafness to these problems, no, worse, who shows he’s on the wrong side of all or nearly all of them … and one of our nation’s two primary political parties continues to support him strongly.

All of these realities demonstrate the failure of the white Christian church to teach its members the most basic, the most elemental, the most essential element of the teaching and example of Christ: love for everyone, no exceptions … and not just love expressed in word, but love expressed in deeds of kindness, service, sacrifice, and justice.


So now, it’s time for us to do what should have been done long ago.

A group of us have begun working on a plan, a tool kit, and a training process to help us do know what should have been done long ago. We will be unveiling that tool kit in the coming months.

But right now, in light of Charlottesville, here are four preliminary steps, something you can do in the next two weeks … something you can decide upon right now, without any committee’s permission or authorization.

  1. If you don’t have a personal relationship with at least 3 pastors of 3 different races, make the call now and set up a lunch or dinner. Bring them together. Learn their names and stories. Find out how they’re doing. Tell them you want to work with them to make sure the clergy or your town or neighborhood or city start doing what should have been done years, decades, and centuries ago.
  2. If you don’t have a personal relationship with at least 3 faith leaders of 3 different religions, make the call now and set up a lunch or dinner. Do the same thing with them as you did with Christian clergy who differ from you in race. Let them know you’ve got their back.
  3. At your first meeting, just get to know each other. Maybe devote a 2nd and 3rd meeting to deepening those relationships. But soon – we don’t have much time – ask them if they’d be willing to form a team with you, a team of spiritual leaders who will work together for the common good of all people – whatever their race, religion, gender, class, politics, etc. Tell them that the Charlottesville clergy got organized to face the white supremacists. Tell them that clergy in other cities have gotten organized to promote care for the environment and safe housing and drug-free neighborhoods and better schools and fair pay and fair lending. Tell them that you believe your little circle of new friends could bring together many more to do the same.*
  4. After you’ve done those 3 things, go to your church leadership board, bishop, or whomever you report to. Explain to them that you feel called, not just to be the chaplain of a church, but to be a representative of Jesus Christ in the community. That’s going to take some time. So ask them if they would support you could devote 20% of your time to this important work in the year ahead, after which you can reevaluate. If they say no, reduce your work hours to 40 and devote some of your free time to these activities.

*Obviously, if a group like this already exists, join it. Groups like PICO, DART, Faith in Public Life, Repairers of the Breach, and others are ready to help you.**

The good people at The People’s Supper have prepared beautiful and helpful materials to assist you in bringing people together – for building relational bridges, for healing from trauma, and more. Check out their resources here.

If you need some added motivation, check out this map that shows you where hate groups are. They’re organized. They’re on the move. They’ve been emboldened by our president, his party, and his news media.

If people like us don’t get organized and get moving, we can predict who will gain ground and who will lose ground in the months and years ahead. It’s time.

** Tim Conder and Dan Rhodes’ excellent book, Organizing Church, is a good place to learn more. (Here’s an interview with Tim.) So is Michael-Ray Matthew’s book Trouble the Water, and his podcast, Prophetic Resistance.) My new book should be of help as well: The Great Spiritual Migration. You may also be interested in the Convergence Leadership Project.