Resources for Racial Justice

God shows no favoritism. In every nation, he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.

– Acts 10:34–35

Church of God Ministries is committed to providing practical resources to empower our Movement in the fight against racial injustice.

Message to the Church of God

May 29, 2020

Jesus wept. It’s a famous line from John 11, capturing a poignant moment in the life of Jesus, as He stood at the tomb of Lazarus. There He experienced the grief of His dear friends in Bethany, moved by the depth of their loss and pain. Lazarus was a good man. He was too young to die. “If only You had been here,” the sisters of Lazarus said to Him. And, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

This is not the only record of the Lord teary-eyed. “But as they came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, He began to cry. ‘I wish that even today you would find the way of peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you’” (Luke 19:41-42).

READ MORE

And, what do we imagine Jesus is feeling just now, as He comes close to our cities, our towns, our country? As He stands in the cemetery with grieving families at the loss of over 100,000 in the United States to COVID-19 (and almost 7,000 more in Canada), does He weep? As He walks by the houses of over 40,000,000 Americans who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic (and a similar proportional number in Canada), does He pause with His eyes welling up with tears? And, as He thinks about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, law enforcement, streets filled with protest, buildings on fire, and toxic grenades thrown back and forth on Twitter, Facebook, and on cable news, does He cry? I think so.

Our world is a mess. What are we becoming? What kind of people are we? What will happen to us? To our children? Perhaps, we have approached what Strauss and Howe (historians and sociologists who popularized generational theory, giving us words like “boomer” and “millennial”) have dubbed the “Fourth Turning” (see their book of the same name). The Fourth Turning is a cataclysmic reordering of national trajectory, prompted by overpowering events. For instance, in American history, Strauss and Howe highlight the Civil War, the Great Depression and the World War that followed as Fourth Turnings.  When the Fourth Turning page turns, everything is reset for another century; norms are upended, sacrifices made, society shifts. Our present challenges would seem to qualify.

We stand with Jesus, who never changes. This gives us a certain anchor, a confident hope, even as our hearts are torn. But, if we can face the future with hope in Christ, it must also be said that to follow Jesus we must also know how to weep, to acknowledge the plight and confusion of the world before us. We are a part of that world, too. Jesus is as much about the here and now as He is the hereafter. How can we know the Man of Sorrows if we don’t know sorrow?

When ancient Israel stood at a crossroads long ago, the Lord gave a famous word. It is a word for today as well, as we stand at a crossroads. We cannot continue to run down the path we have chosen thus far; we must stop, take stock, and hear the Word of the Lord: “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

If ever there was a people called by “My name,” it is the Church of God. This Sunday, May 31, 2020, is the Day of Pentecost, by the church’s calendar. It celebrates the birth of the church, the descent and filling of the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. This year, Pentecost falls in the vice of the pandemic and the boiling, legitimate demands for justice and racial equity. This year, Pentecost falls as the nation’s heart is being torn asunder and gathering clouds darken the horizon abroad. This year, Pentecost providentially falls in a moment when the nations need the Church of God to fall on its knees.

Humility is the doorway through which we must walk. This Sunday, whether you gather with your church family online or in person, check your political opinions at the door. Leave Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, the matter-of-fact Facebook posts—which may, in fact, not be factual—and all the rest outside. Our call is to humble ourselves and pray. To admit we have been dressed by pride and hubris. To pray for new clothes, woven in Heaven for our hearts here on earth. To seek the face of God, without prejudice or pretense, simply opening our hearts to Him. To ask for forgiveness, for our land, for ourselves.

This is not the time to pray like “the proud Pharisee,” who bowed his head and said, “I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that guy over there…because I don’t sin!” (paraphrased from Luke 18:11-12). This is the time for us to humble ourselves, owning our intemperate speech, closed minds, harsh attitudes, prejudice, and self-sufficiency; this is the time to admit we are not self-sufficient and that we have not earned our good fortune or the Lord’s favor. This is the time to weep. For ourselves. And for the city in front of us.

If you are a pastor reading this, I ask you to bring this chance before your congregation this Sunday.  Perhaps, you will find a place to mention it, at least, before, after, or during your message. In so doing, you will be joining not only other congregations of the Church of God, but also a sweeping coalition of Christian communities across the land. Evangelicals, Wesleyan-Holiness, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Historic Protestant, Historic Black, and Pentecostal communions of believers will also be bowing before God this weekend to mourn the passing of so many in the pandemic and to seek the face of God. This coming together in this moment has few precedents, usually occurring only in seasons that might be defined as Fourth Turnings.

We cannot know what next week or next month will bring. The way forward will be found, but now it is shrouded by low-lying clouds and the fog of unbelief. Still, the Sun of Righteousness shines. He will make a way. It is for us now to humble ourselves and pray.

Many mayors and governors are calling for a Day of Lament on Monday, June 1. We at Church of God Ministries will observe this as well, by closing our offices for the day. In so doing, we are pausing to pray and listen in the wake of the pandemic. We have worked full steam—even remotely from home—during the last two and a half months and will take Monday to focus on prayer. We are also closing to stand in solidarity with our African-American staff and family throughout the Movement as they, especially, reel from the headlines and realization—once again—that when it comes to law enforcement, economic opportunity, and access to healthcare, growing up black is very different from growing up white. There are many other communities disadvantaged in our society; the challenges are not the province of African Americans alone. But, this weekend, we stand shoulder to shoulder with them, as together we sort out how to change the story.

Pentecost is the day the story of God’s people changed. And with that, the story of their world was changed. And now, it is our chance to change the story of our world. We will start with humble prayer.

May the Lord guide, protect, and provide for our every step. May the Church of God be worthy of the Name. Jesus is the subject. Follow Him.

I remain, humbly, your brother in Christ,

Jim Lyon

jimlyon-signature

A LETTER FROM THE LEADERSHIP OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

about RACE

bace9220-c860-454c-b284-901cce3e07fb-copy

May 18, 2020

Letter from the Leadership of the Church of God General Assembly for the United States and Canada, about Race:

Beloved in Christ, this letter comes not only from the pen, but also from the hearts of those elected by the General Assembly. Even as we write these words, we realize that the structure of our church does not make our words binding on anyone. Nevertheless, it is our sincere hope and prayer that our lives, our labor, and our love for this church will allow you to hear us and, perhaps, even heed what we have to share.

In 1903, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, the first African American to graduate with a PhD from Harvard, wrote, “The problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the color line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of ‘men’ in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.” Here we are twenty years into the 21st century and, sad to say, his words ring as true now as they did then.

On May 11, 2020, our general director, Jim Lyon, posted two comments to his Twitter account, which were reposted to the Church of God Ministries Facebook page. He was addressing the tragic shooting death of twenty-five-year-old Ahmaud Arbery of Brunswick, Georgia, whose story has become a much-discussed national headline.

READ MORE

Rev. Lyon’s post, on social media, brought many comments of support and thanksgiving for his boldness in speaking. Unfortunately, many comments that evidence the racial divide in the world today were also posted. As officers of the General Assembly, we hold no illusions that we can stop hatred or prejudice, but we can and indeed must stand up and speak out against it. We condemn every hint of racism, discrimination, and prejudice that may infect the church and disfigure our society. And we must name sin, where and when it is found, and that includes the sin of racism.

Years ago, this Movement had as one of its themes, “The world at its worst needs the Church at her best”. It is to that high ideal and lofty goal that we call, indeed summon, the Church of God in this season. One of our most distinguished theologians, Dr. Gilbert Stafford, spoke often of the new order that the kingdom of God brings. The Apostle Peter was startled by this new order but ultimately embraced the truth, facing a Gentile he was raised to despise: “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation, he accepts those who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34–35 NLT). This must become our charge, as well.

It is our prayer, indeed it is the longing of our hearts, that in a world so polarized, so fractured, and so divided, that we in the Church of God will allow what the Church of God historian Dr. John W. V. Smith said should define us, that in our quest for holiness and unity we will find ourselves, “nearer to God’s dream for us and…showing, sharing, and shining to a world so estranged and divided, the glorious light of this Reformation Movement.”

It is in that hope and with that prayer that we remain yours, in and because of Christ.

Resolution on Race
2015 Church of God General Assembly

Oklahoma City, OK

Whereas the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 12:15 that we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, and as we acknowledge the fact that we are one body and that there should be no division in the body, so that if one member suffers all the members suffer with it, and

Whereas in the wake of the fatal shooting last week of a pastor and eight church members during a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015 by a gunman motivated by his specific hatred of black people, and in the broadest of terms people of color, and desire to start a race war, and

Whereas recognizing tensions created by several highly publicized incidents involving police shootings, and
Whereas in observance of the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, a racially-motivated act of terrorism resulting in the death of 168 persons, as the General Assembly of the Church of God we resolve to express our compassion and concern in the following six ways:

READ MORE

Leadership–we call on pastors and leaders to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live out a countercultural lifestyle that works to expose and repent of the sin of racial division and acknowledges the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Prayer–we pray for healing, repentance, unity and peace, and we plead for God’s mercy on our nation and on those who are compliant with the racial violence and racial disparities being manifested in the church and in the systems of this world; 

Lament–we mourn in solidarity and sympathy with the people of Emanuel AME Church and the families, congregations and communities affected by the traumatic impact of these incidents, and we confess our past and present failure to walk faithfully and consistently in the light of our belief in a God who has no respect of persons; 

Forgiveness–we affirm radical forgiveness of the persons whose motivation for doing harm to others is racial hatred and discrimination, acknowledging what Jesus taught and showed us by His death on the cross, that love is stronger than hate; 

Justice–we acknowledge that ministers in our own General Assembly and fellow congregants have been victims of racial profiling, we stand for justice to be administered on their behalf in a fair and impartial manner, we urgently call for justice in all cases of racially-motivated violence, and we support those agencies and officials who enforce the law and administer justice equitably to ensure the safety and security of all of our citizens, congregations and communities; 

Vision of reconciliation–we commit ourselves as people of Christian faith to envision, strategize and work toward the realization of a reconciled church, nation and world. 

Let it be further resolved that we, the people of the Church of God Reformation Movement, come to a thorough awareness that there is a disparity between our vision for reconciliation and the actual experience of many of our brothers and sisters; 

And, let us learn to listen to the stories our brothers and sisters share, express in word and deed our feelings of empathy, and commit to walk together as we boldly stand against every form of racism. 

RESOURCES FOR YOUR CHURCH

Making Good the Claim: Holiness and Visible Unity in the Church of God Reformation Movement
Rufus Burrow Jr.
(Wipf and Stock, 2016)

Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism
Allan Aubrey Boesak
& Curtiss Paul DeYoung
(Orbis Books, 2012)

Beyond Rhetoric: Reconciliation as a Way of Life
Samuel George Hines
& Curtiss Paul DeYoung
(Wipf and Stock, 2011)

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
Michael Emerson
& Christian Smith
(Oxford University Press, 2001)

African Americans and the Church of God: Aspects of a Social History
James Earl Massey
(Anderson University Press, 2005)

The Color of Compromise
Jemar Tisby
(Zondervan, 2019)

Ministry at the Margins
Cheryl J. Sanders
(Wipf and Stock, 2010)

FURTHER READINGS

Before the Mayflower
Bennet, Lerone

A Black Theology of Liberation
Cone, James

The Cross and the Lynching Tree
Cone, James

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Douglass, Frederick

The Souls of Black Folk
DuBois, W. E. B.

Troubling Biblical Waters
Felder, Cain Hope

Waking Up White
Irving, Ebby

Called to Minister, Empowered to Serve
“Ethics of Holiness and Unity in the Church of God”
Mary Ann Hawkins, ed.

I Saw the Church
Strege, Merle D.
(Warner Press, 2002)

Up from Slavery
Washington, Booker T.

Video Resources

Posted by Church of God Ministries - Anderson, Indiana on Sunday, July 19, 2020

As leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, we are grieved by the wrongful killings of George Floyd, Breonna...

Posted by National Association of Evangelicals on Thursday, June 11, 2020
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search