Last night Rock Spring held a candlelight vigil for peace and unity. A week after the mass shooting at a church in a small community outside San Antonio Texas we opened our sanctuary doors to our Piedmont Heights community and congregation for a time of lamenting and grieving those killed through acts of violence and also a time to contemplate peace in the world and in ourselves.
Those present could light a candle for people and situations that are affected by violence. I found myself lighting candles for and thinking about and grieving for those of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs and for those of Emanual AME church in Charleston, SC. I lit candles for people affected by domestic violence and targeted by sexual predators. I lit candles for those people whose stories of violence I don't know. I lit candles for those affected by violence caused by forces of nature: hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis...
We were offered a handout out to guide of meditations (see below) and it lead me to redirect my thoughts after grieving to consider the concept of peace and to inventory where I find it in myself and in my life. It challenged me to be open to how I might become more of an "instrument of peace" for myself and others.
If you missed our candlelight vigil consider having one of your own, at home. Use the rubric below.
A Vigil is a time set apart for lamenting and grief and also for watching and waiting.
In a quiet setting:
Heresy. Other than speaking of historical, and often ancient controversies, I have not used this word. I have spoken of the Declaration of Barmen, and the Belhar Confession, both of which address contemporary heresies of segregation and racial hatred in Nazi-era Germany and Apartheid-era South Africa, but I have not discussed religious expressions as heresy regarding current events at any time in my ministry.
What follows is a more refined statement of my unrehearsed words about the abhorrent displays of racism in Charlottesville, VA.
This is not a statement of faith from the members of the church nor their elected leaders, called the Session and elders. This is my pastoral discourse about white supremacy and white nationalism.
Yesterday, Sunday, August 13, 2017, with gratitude of the call to the preaching ministry of this particular church, I prayerfully waded into deep waters with many other white pastors across this nation, and declared to our mostly white congregants that
White Supremacy, White Nationalism, and the pursuit of white race based policies promulgated by people in the name of Christianity are heresies.
They are not faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the grace and love of God for God’s beloved creation, nor the ongoing work of reconciliation in the Holy Spirit. The Triune God of Christian faith is not, I repeat, not compatible with any form of differentiation that pits “white against black” and claims or enforces any form of superiority for whites. To believe in white supremacy is to believe in an idol and to reject our God.
We are all one in Jesus Christ our Lord who teaches us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no love in demeaning another person, in word or action, for the color of their skin. There is nothing inherently good about classifying oneself as being white, and nothing inherently bad in being classified as black.
From Genesis and God’s idea to create humankind in the image of the divine and Holy One, to the ministry of Christ that reconciled all divisions between peoples into one new human being, to the birth of a religion called Christianity that recognized no differences between “Jew and Greek” and claimed one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, the witness of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is for our common inheritance as beloved children of God, without distinction.
However, there are privileges associated with whiteness in America that create an unequal and unjust system of socioeconomic power and freedom suggesting a special blessing upon white people. This is a false blessing. It is not an endowment by our Creator. The advantages have occurred due to inequality begun in this nation with the enslavement and domination of a subjected, kidnapped, and imprisoned people from the nations of Africa. Chained to their owners, they were subjected to patriarchal religious oppression by their white slave masters and clergy. Yet, the descendants of these slaves who came to believe in Christ have much to offer whites just as Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, came to rescue the Israelite people of ancient times. If white people will listen and learn.
For white Christians, some faithful responses to the hatred, bigotry, and idolatry of white supremacy is to actively work toward racial reconciliation and communion, to actively understand the nature of racism and its roots in American society, to actively uncover one’s own biases and advantages with an eye toward repairing the breech that prevents black and African-American people from being able to achieve the same positive outcomes from the same level of opportunity and efforts.
The best chance for success in any of these avenues is in conversation, in truth-telling, in the painful honest dialogue between white and black citizens. Go, learn, grow.
Or come to Rock Spring Presbyterian and grow with us.
This week we will prayerfully consider the 3 words of our goal: Justice, Mercy, and Humility (faithfulness), and the 4 words I introduced as a posture for achieving those: Welcome, Authenticity, Laughter, Love (building the WALL).