Racial Reconciliation and Ferguson, MO: Resources for Understanding

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Over the past few months, the city of Ferguson, Missouri has been in the spotlight of national news. Ever since the death of Michael Brown, the city has experienced protest after protest. Both the citizens and the police seek to have justice done, yet many disagree over what that justice will look like, and ask “justice for whom?” With the recent news that Missouri governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to protect the peace, this issue is far from resolved, and the Church must be prepared to respond with compassion and charity.

In a previous post, I struggled to articulate my reactions to the cultural fallout following the events in Ferguson. This article was informed in part by personal conversations with friends and in part by the rich welling-up of reflection from multiple writers. In the months since the shooting, there have been some incredibly beautiful, honest, and humble reflections that have helped to shape my own thinking and praying about the state of racial reconciliation in America and in the Church, helping me see how important it is for Christians to listen to the experiences of other Christians in the pursuit of genuine unity. As a Caucasian, my experience is crippled without the voices of my brothers and sisters of color. Here is a collection of the thoughtful responses that have influenced the dialogue in the Allkirk community of writers. I pray that, for the good of the Church and the glory of Christ, their voices are heard and are part of the Church’s prayerful response.

  • Ed Stetzer curated a series of reflections from African-American pastors. He speaks clearly to the white-majority culture in the Church with his series title: “It’s Time to Listen.”
  • Thabiti Anyabwile is always worth reading, and he speaks with passion and insight. His most recent post on transformation is critical to the conversation.
  • Phillip Holmes, writing soon after the incident, encourages prayer for the people of Ferguson, and with the grand jury decision on its way, prayer is as necessary today as it was in August.
  • Amy Julia Becker curated a panel of pieces on racial reconciliation in the Church, and over the course of 17 articles, the theme “Healing Begins Here” gets fleshed out in incredible depth, compassion, and conviction by each writer.
  • Sarah Bessey, a Caucasian writer, offered her own call for justice by calling attention to the details of the story and by remembering the larger narrative of oppression.
  • Kimberly Norwood, an African-American lawyer and mother, gives heartbreaking insight into the realities of parenting minority children in a majority culture. As a parent, I was struck by how blind I was to the realities of privilege and parenting until I read her piece.
  • Leon Brown, a PCA pastor in Richmond, VA, demonstrates how the Ferguson shooting highlights the continuing racial division in the American Church.
  • Russ Whitfield, a PCA pastor in Washington, DC, pleads for churches to be places where cultural divisions are broken, with advice for congregants and pastors to become cross-cultural bridge builders for the sake of the Gospel.
  • And finally, from South City Church in Saint Louis, there have been numerous examples of compassionate engagement in the pursuit of justice. As part of their ministry of reconciliation, they organized a public discussion, entitled “Listen and Speak,” giving a Christian voice to the racial tension in Saint Louis. I’m so thankful for the ministry of South City, and the thoughts from the ministry leaders are full of ache at the fall and hope in the Cross of Christ. Pastor Mike Higgins was featured last week at Christianity Today with his thoughts.

When we consider the pain present in our country and our Church, Karen Ellis frames our prayer in the only way possible – hope in Christ: “our whole world is churning, at home and abroad…Maranatha, Lord Jesus.”

About Billy Boyce

Billy is a pastor in Arlington, Virginia. His work and life aim to see Christ's Gospel embodied in the community of the Church for the sake of the world and the glory of God.

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