My dear brother in Christ,
I hope this letter finds you well. I am thankful that you both are aware and are passionate about the injustices of the past and present. In fact, me as your White brother, I’m the less likely one to know about these injustices. You are right, who have been the ones in history who have prevailed against these injustices? Black pastors are, I am indebted to them. As one coming after them, they have rescued me from a hostile environment. As one who grew up with more of a desire to be friends with Black people than White (many contributing factors for this), indeed, they may have rescued me from several beatings and possibly being lynched. Who knows maybe had I grown up in that hostile environment, my heart would’ve been hard to you as a Black man and I would’ve sinned grievously against God and you. Oh how deeply indebted to the Black church and its leaders I am. I praise God for their faithful service. I agree that the White church left the inner city and worse, shoved Black folks into it through segregation. What a vile sin the church has committed. I agree with you and your sentiments in many respects, indeed, I have written to defend you against backlash and insult. I have written to defend the validity of your claims, not because you need me to in any way but because I’m filled with the desire to. You can see what I have written here: Tokenism and Scapegoats, the Enemy of Racial Reconciliation: COTH church plant & Rev. Michael Jordan of New Era Baptist Church.
In fact, my desire is for the reconciliation of ethnicities in America. My desire is for racial equity. My desire is for the desegregation of churches. Why do I desire Black People in my church or to be in a Black church? Think of your history, I need Black leadership brother. I need brothers and sisters that are refined in perseverance that can teach me the same, this is one of God’s means of preserving me in faith. I can think of no other brother/sisters in America more tested and who have persevered. I need the contributions of Black theologians to my theology or I will be massively blind.
My Reason For Writing
Now, I must begin to tell you why I have written. I hope you have seen above that I respect you and care deeply about the truths you articulated. I write to you with a desire for racial equity. I write with a desire for your repentance. Why an open letter to talk about repentance? I have two reasons that I believe give me warrant for such, even in light of Jesus’ command to go to my brother in private. One, I have reached out to you in every way I know how. It is very possible you haven’t had the time to get back to me yet. If I have written too soon, please forgive me. Two, private sin affecting only me calls for private interaction, open sin affecting many calls for open interaction. Further, I write to you because you fit the category articulated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, you are an overseer and must live above reproach. I’m sure you know the qualifications well. But for clarity sake, I will include the verse and highlight what it means to live above reproach:
1 Timothy 3:1-7 “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (ESV Bible)
Living Above Reproach
Everything Paul says to Timothy above is living beyond reproach. I am concerned you have broken that. To be clear, Paul speaks as an overall pattern of life, not an isolated instance and I am writing to you about an isolated instance. I am writing concerning your report on the news and your chosen signage. I do not know you outside of this one event and you may very well live out the above qualifications, I hope you do. Nonetheless, my dear brother after reviewing all of your interviews it doesn’t appear you have spoken with “self-control”, others don’t appear to think you have spoken in a “respectable” manner, others have perceived you as not speaking gently, I share that opinion. I am not some soft-spoken White boy who thinks because you spoke passionately you spoke unkindly, if you have one conversation with me you will quickly learn this. Moreover, my brother, you must “be well thought of by outsiders, so that [you] may not fall into disgrace, into the snare of the devil.” Whatever this means in entirety it means at least two things: your personal ministry is at stake and more importantly the gospel is at stake. Satan may be pleased to have unbelievers scorn the gospel because of your behavior, I know you must not want this.
“White Folks left our Churches”
How painfully true this is! How painful it is that White people, professing to be Christians have pushed Black people out of their churches and have contributed to their marginalization (and still do!!!). However, my dear brother, do you remember the parable of Christ about the wicked slaved who refused to forgive a debt after being forgiven an even greater debt? The one I refer to is in Matthew 18:21-35. The God of the universe (through parable) speaks, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?” (V. 32b-33). God has forgiven the debt of your sin, you must forgive the debt of others. I did not perceive this in you, brother. You seemed hesitant to even say you would welcome White people in your church. You seemed unforgiving. I know how great a debt the offense is against you, even greater your offense against God. While I think you ought to forgive the offense, I in no way think you shouldn’t advocate a change of. If I have misperceived you, tell me please I will repent. But, if you do hold any unforgiveness towards White people, especially your White brothers/sisters, please heed God’s Word which says, “…If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” (Colossians 3:13b). Or said another way, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).
“Black folks need to leave White churches”
I am dreadfully concerned at such a statement, though, I understand you didn’t arrive at this sentiment in a vacuum. I am in angst that anyone should follow this request, here’s why, let me quote Galatians 2:11-14 and explain why:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (ESV Bible).
Paul opposed Peter (Cephas) directly to his face because when the Jews arrived he refused to eat with the Gentiles. Putting aside the former spiritual distinction between Jews and Gentiles we must recognize the difference in their ethnicities. Though, we must say, the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles, the spiritual distinction, has been torn down by Christ (Ephesians 2:14). This is why Peter is “condemned” for living in a manner inconsistent with the reality Christ has purchased and compelling others to do the same. If Christ has done this for these ethnicities that were formally separated by a spiritual barrier, how much more has he done it for those merely of different races? Notice that for Peter to be unwilling to fellowship with other ethnicities (Gentiles) and leading others to do the same, he lead “the rest of the Jews [into] hypocrisy”. In the same way, when you call “Black folks” to leave White Churches you are calling one ethnicity to live under a dividing wall that Christ has torn down. You are calling them to live in hypocrisy. (Believe me, I preach this to my White brothers and sisters). Having a concern for the Black and White community, I don’t want my brothers/sisters to live in hypocrisy. To be clear, I am speaking of those who would leave the church on the sole basis of one’s ethnicity, not for those weary of not being heard. Notice further, that when Peter compelled the rest of the Jews to separate themselves from Gentiles “their conduct was out of step with the truth of the gospel.” (v.14) When you compel Black people to do the same with White people, you do the same. My dear brother, please, please hear my plea, I submit it with humility and heartache, don’t continue to “walk out of step with the truth of the gospel.” Repent, retract your statement, and take the sign down.
Hear Other’s Concerns
When I watched the video recording of people in the community coming to you to express concerns you kept cutting them off and would barely hear their thought. I understand this footage may have caught you at a moment where you may have already spoken to many and perhaps were frustrated beyond what is normal for you. However, brother, we must “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). You were instead slow to hear, quick to speak, and already frustrated. This must not be so among the people of God. I write for your good my brother. Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” You were indeed, quick with your words, I don’t want this. You are a Christian, you ought to have more hope than a fool (one outside the saving covenant of Christ). When you are so quick to speak do you not demonstrate that you find yourself wise in your own eyes, maybe not. But please seek the Lord and ask Him to search you. For Proverbs 26:12 warns, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” You are a fallible man, so am I, we must hear the concerns of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray you hear my concerns.
Don’t think I have written with a desire to silence the truth, quite the contrary I desire to expose it. Don’t think I desire the lack of racial equity, I deeply desire it. I think you have harmed it with your words, true it is because many want to use you as their scapegoat for their lack of concern with it in the first place. Nonetheless, you have not been beyond reproach and have given that opportunity. People in my own church congregation that I have been pleading with to consider the racial inequality of America and its racist history are throwing their hands up and using you as the reason why. My dear brother, you are undoing the work and labor of your White brothers/sisters in Christ (probably even more so, the work of your Black brothers/sisters). Would you want to do this if you know I often weep (I mean cover myself in tears) because of the atrocities your ethnicity has faced, including you? I am not by myself. While I have written to you rather clearly, I hope you don’t perceive it as disrespectfully. If you’d meet me, I would meet you in meekness. Please, hear me.