A pastoral note in response to those upset with Black Lives Matter in our GLC media

A pastoral note in response to those upset with Black Lives Matter in our GLC media

Author: Pastor Chad Johnson
July 01, 2020

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

To be clear, Black Lives Matter is not a political statement.  Black Lives Matter on our sign, website and in social media is not a vote of missional support for the Black Lives Matter organization.  While some may directly support that organization, this is a personal choice.   

For the church, Black Lives Matter is a clear and compelling vision of Jesus calling us to stand with the most vulnerable in our society as they are literally being held back and down by systemic racism.  This is the sin that we are asking forgiveness for and then going about the hard and necessary work of being made new. 

Please see the many blog posts that we have written on our website and review the sermons that we have been preaching for many weeks.  I encourage you and those you refer to as upset to then reach us directly with the specific words of our sermons, podcasts and articles that are counter to your understanding of the gospel of Jesus.  Everything is archived and available to all.  I will expect deep and thorough conversations to come.   

Black Lives Matter, when turned to a simple ‘political’ statement completely misses the mark.  That view is held by particular individuals within the media industry and yes, then politicized even further by the current divide in American politics.  If we view the most reputable unbiased media sites none of those have any mention of BLM as an anarchist group.  A simple internet search shows where those attacks are coming from.  I always encourage folks to share their links of reports when stating their ‘truth’. 

Make sure fact checks are done before spreading inaccurate reports.  Here is one neutral source that is good to check:  https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/

Articulating that Black Lives Matter produces life.  You don’t get to “all means all” without being specific.  Jesus was very specific in his work.  The Apostle Paul took those individuals and then moved them to an articulated position of oneness – which is only possible when standing with the most injured, disenfranchised, and outcast person.  All are called to lament today over the injury and devastation that has been heaped upon black people in America.  If the church can’t do it then we have completely lost the call of Jesus in our lives.

As a father to our two black daughters, I would fully expect the church called and commissioned as Grace to be on the forefront of the full gospel proclamation.  Taking on injustice and restoring justice to the bruised and battered is the call of the church.  I have found other churches to look past my black daughters and to see me only as their white pastor.  I would be shocked and surprised that the people of Grace would do the same.   

Say over and over Black lives don’t matter.  Make it about politics.  Continue to injure those black and brown siblings standing before you.  There is good reason why the ELCA is the whitest denomination on the planet.   

Saying that Grace has never had anything in print that is this controversial or political would shock me.  As Grace was started in the 60’s I have the assumption that many of the charter members were marching with King and other civil rights leaders of the day.  If it were not so, why the church?  This would have been seen as highly political of course.  But was it?  Jesus was leading that march.  I assume with the recent 50 year celebration of the ordination of women in the ELCA that there were members of Grace rallying in the larger synod and church in making that happen – a move way too long delayed.  What took so long? This would have been seen as highly political of course.  But was it?  Jesus was leading that march.  I assume with the recent 10-year anniversary of the ordination of LGBTQIA+ that there were folks at Grace writing, printing, marching, etc. in making that happen – a move way to long delayed.  What took so long?  This was seen as political of course.  But was it?  Jesus was leading that march.  And at every turn, Jesus, along with many others, was being crucified. 

The votes or politics of the above matter, but what matters way more is the way we live it.  For too many in the church they have said, okay whatever, as long as it doesn’t affect me personally.  No change in the life of the individual or organization.  

Thank God that God did not let Jesus stay dead, in order that life and love may ultimately win.  There is hope.

The church of Christ in every age is called to be on the leading edge.  Sadly, the church has lost its edge in so many ways and for the world has been mostly rendered meaningless in the lives of those who are struggling. 
And there are billions struggling.

The church went to the position of a few good works and projects but backed away from the very work of dismantling broken systems in order to build up something that would produce life for all.  Most believe that life is not possible for all.  Most believe that they can only have what they have if they protect their own and build their own kingdom. 

And so we gather in places that add to our comfortability and keep everything the same – safe and predictable.  We let our “worldly parties” dictate our choices and block out the voice of our savior.  Sixty plus years of worship and sermons at Grace and racism still has its hold on us. 

Rooting out our sin is hard work. It’s painful and it requires transformation. 
It seems that the church is just getting started in its mission.  Our prayer would be:  Please Lord don’t be done with us yet. 

Many will love our mission and vision statements.  They especially love them if they simply sound good and hold space on reader boards or computer screens.  They love them because they feel mostly safe. 

Just like our Welcome statement. People like it on paper because it feels safe. 

Start getting specific – start saying here is how we are going to live it – be it – bear it for the world – and all of a sudden the word is not so fast – not what I believe – not what I am going to support. 

And just like that the church is held hostage by those they love and have walked with for years. 

More pain and suffering. 

No transformation. 

Just another congregation on another street corner made up of generational friends who act how they believe their friends want them to act in order to be loved.  Don’t rock the boat.  Play nice.   A continued move into a lifeless and dead worldly organization. 

This is not the call of the church.    

I’m looking forward to our group book studies in July.  I am expecting most at Grace to be diving in to those resources and conversations.  For those that have arrived at their own conclusions and declare themselves to not be racist, they won’t find any meaning here.   But for the rest who are open to the Spirit’s work this time will be transformative.          

We have work to do.  Racism is one of America’s “original sins”; white supremacy as the philosophy that has privileged people since the beginning of America; political corruption that undid the gains of African Americans following the Civil War; Jim Crow laws that mandated segregation in the south from the 1870’s until 1965; Black Lives Matter as a call to white people to see African Americans, who are often invisible in crowds of white people and to come to terms with the awful truth that too many African American men have been apprehended and even shot, when all they were guilty of was walking down the street while black.

Personally, are my black daughters treated differently from my white children? Yes. And yes within the church, while at school, when shopping in stores, in check-out lines and when walking anywhere.   Put down because of skin color and their hair.  Demeaned and devalued because they are ‘different.’  From the time of George Floyd’s murder until now – only one person at Grace asking how our black daughters and our family are dealing with all of it. 

Our daughters will live with a lifetime of racism heaped upon them.  We surround them with our love and listening and pray that we will do the work necessary for a better world for them and for all.  Sadly, for us, the work is not just out there in the world – it is right within the walls of the church that I have been called to serve.  Maybe one-day Grace can be on the leading edge versus the following edge of such a movement.         

For the fall, we have written a detailed road map for our worship life together.  We will work through the gospel witness and allow the work of the Beloved Community of MLK and others to form the pathway.  Again, my highest hope that Grace would not have enough room either in person or online to gather the crowds that would want to be a part of such important work. 

May you hear the call from Jesus and respond. 


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