Monday, February 21, 2011

Public Penance

Because we are funded by an assortment of churches and individuals, I myself am often asked to give voice to who we are. I usually say, “We’re an outreach ministry.” But that’s not entirely true. While it is true that we engage in acts of outreach in an underprivileged area, that title doesn’t get at the heart of our identity. Who are we then?

We are a public act of repentance for the public sin of racism. We are brokenhearted over the riff that exists within the body of Christ. We are grieved not just that we are divided, but that we are divided along the same lines by which worldly kingdoms are divided. We believe that a message of reconciliation proceeding from the mouth of a dismembered bride fuels a cynical attitude toward the church. We contend that racial division in the pews provides the illusion of divine consent to the subtle racism that remains in many secular institutions.

We are convinced that the epidemic in the black community is due in large part to a wound that they did not create. We have a growing sense that this epidemic and the division that inflicted it are deeply spiritual in nature. We affirm that prayer, confession and forgiveness are our God-given allies in the task at hand.

As the leader of this ministry, I know that this work starts with me. In recent weeks, we have begun to refocus on racial reconciliation as our primary task. To some degree, this means that we must scale back our more tangible acts of service in the community. Painful truth: Good works can at times be used to gloss over the deeper issues. They create a temporary sense of unity but, on their own, don’t address the diseased root of our separateness.

My single goal/prayer is that I and others would stop looking at racial division in the church as a mere inconvenience. I long for us to see it for what it truly is…proof that we are not as close to God as we think we are.