The Common Good

After Racial Strife, New Pledge Commits Christians to Unity and Solidarity

Date: October 24, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2013
CONTACT: Joey Longley, Sojourners, media@sojo.net, o: 202.328.8842 ext 603, m: 419-953-5495


At the end of a year that exposed the racial tension that still exists both in the United States and the church, Sojourners is releasing the One Church | One Body pledge signed by over 75 faith leaders from across the country. The One Church | One Body pledge is a nationwide call for churches and faith leaders to be the multiracial and multiethnic body of Christ that they should be.

“The events that transpired this past summer left our African-American brothers and sisters hurting. The tragedy of Trayvon Martin, the legalized use of racial profiling, and the Supreme Court decision to nullify Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act have left the African-American community especially vulnerable,” said Sojourners Director of Mobilizing Lisa Sharon Harper. “The One Church | One Body Pledge calls churches and faith leaders across the country to affirm the truth of scripture: When one part of the body is hurting, the entire body is in pain. We are one church. We are one body.”

The One Church | One Body pledge identifies Christian leaders across the country who pledge their support to the African-American community during this time of heightened vulnerability. A signature on the pledge means that church leaders commit to “take our mission of racial reconciliation to a country divided by racial segregation, take it upon ourselves to repair our criminal justice system and protect the safety and security of all our brothers and sisters and their children, and take to the Congress the critical need to restore the integrity of the Voting Rights Act.”

“The gospel breaks down our human barriers to create a ‘beloved community’ that is welcoming to all,” said Sojourners president Jim Wallis. “White Christians cannot and must not leave the sole responsibility of telling the truth about America and how it has so often failed the black community, solely to their African-American brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s time for white Christians to listen to their black brothers and sisters, to learn their stories, and to speak out for racial justice and reconciliation.”

The One Church | One Body pledge is now live online and can be signed by faith leaders and lay people throughout the country. The text of the pledge and the principal signatories are found below.

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“In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female” (Galatians 3:28). There is no difference between races, classes, or genders in the salvation that Christ brings to us all. This is essential to the work of Jesus Christ, and the early apostles made a clear choice to create a multiracial Christian community. Therefore, a multiracial body of Christ is not only admirable—it is intrinsic, mandated, and expected by God.

So, as Christian leaders, we are morally concerned about the deluge of incidents this year in the United States that have revealed how racial divisions have yet to be resolved or, as we would say, reconciled.

Painful incidents like the killings of Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell, and countless others have opened up a difficult but necessary national conversation about how black and brown individuals are disproportionately watched, followed, suspected, and targeted. One person can meet a tragic fate—but when one after another meets the same fate in the same way, it is irresponsible to dismiss this pattern as merely unfortunate.

The thread continues. We must admit that we have yet to achieve Dr. King’s dream that all of our children should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. This sad reality is evidenced most vividly in the nation’s criminal justice system, which still reveals stark contrasts in arrests, convictions, and sentencing for crimes committed by white Americans compared to those committed by non-white Americans. These racial disparities are significant and shameful, and it is time that we morally confront them.

Further, we are deeply concerned about this year’s Supreme Court decision that removed a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. We’ve already seen efforts in several states that could restrict the voting rights of poor, minority, young, and elderly citizens. We are concerned about attempts at voter rules and identification changes, voter intimidation, and gerrymandered redistricting that could be politically disenfranchising and morally devastating to the most vulnerable among us. The Court has now put the issue of voting rights back with the Congress, where it must be urgently and morally addressed.

All of these events, and too many more, painfully reveal the racial divides at the heart of our nation. Today, every black parent in the United States has good reason to fear for the safety of his or her child. Many white parents have little idea what black parents say to their children, especially their sons, to prepare and protect them. Many white Christians and churches have no connection to what is being felt and said in black churches nationwide—both about fear for their children and fear of losing their voting rights.

The United States has indeed made great progress on racial justice, but the idea that we live in a post-racial society is a dangerous myth. Our work is not finished.

Churches have offered protection to those in jeopardy and danger and must do so again, especially for young people of color. Churches were instrumental in achieving the Voting Rights Act, and they are now essential in restoring it.

By 2050, most Americans will be of Latino, African, or Asian descent. Who will help lead the way into a multiracial and multicultural United States? Who will provide a moral compass for the journey into our nation’s new demographic future? It is time for the multiracial body of Christ to be clear that we are in this together. These issues are all of our issues. We are one church. We are one body.

Therefore, together we must pledge to:

Take our mission of racial reconciliation to a country divided by racial segregation. Every denomination in the United States has experienced the dividing blade of racism. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. Sadly, his prophetic words are still true today. The Apostle Paul compares the church to the human body, saying when “one part suffers, all parts suffer with it.” Christian churches have often been silent, blind, or actively complicit with acts of racial intolerance and injustice, hurting Christ’s body and causing suffering to our brothers and sisters. Racism is a sin that must be named, repented of, and healed. The church must come together as a multiracial community of faith for the sake of the credibility of the gospel of reconciliation that we preach. We must pledge to make this gospel vision a reality.

Take it upon ourselves to repair our criminal justice system and protect the safety and security of all our brothers and sisters and their children. Racial profiling is a sin against God’s children and against God. We must oppose it wherever it occurs, commit ourselves to a racially just criminal justice system, and strengthen protections against racial profiling by government and civilians, a practice that particularly threatens the lives of people of color and other minority groups. Christians must be among those who lead in defending minority children and their parents from danger in harmful environments.

Take to the Congress the critical need to restore the integrity of the Voting Rights Act. We will respond to the Supreme Court’s mandate to develop and enact an updated formula for Section 4 “preclearance” for any new regulations that could threaten the voting rights of minorities, including the young and the elderly—especially in those states and places where a history of race-based voter suppression has long existed. We must ensure public accountability for any proposed changes in voting procedures that threaten voting rights. Protecting voting rights for all is not only a foundational democratic principle, but also is rooted in the theological imperative to build a multiracial community that protects “the least of these.”

The public response to these events has revealed deep racial divisions that still exist in our country. Although there are many reasons to feel disheartened, we believe there is hope. We have hope in the power of God to change our hearts and lives—in both behaviors and laws—and to move mountains in our world. We have seen it before in the spiritual and social power of multiracial civil rights movements led by people of faith—and we can see that again today.

It is time for our diverse body of Christ to stand up for who we are. It is time for us to be a witness of racial justice and reconciliation to our divided society. It is time to speak the truth and to act on the gospel.

Principal Signatories:

Dr. Paul Alexander: Co-President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Onleilove Alston: Organizer, The Center for Race, Religion, and Economic Democracy (C-RRED) at Union Theological Seminary

Professor Randall Balmer: Chair, Department of Religion, Dartmouth College

Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr.: President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc

Rev. Leroy Barber: Global Executive Director, Word Made Flesh

Deborah Blue: Executive Minister of Compassion, Mercy & Justice, Evangelical Covenant Church

Rev. Joel Boot: Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church in North America

Dr. Peter Borgdorff: Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church

Rev. Jennifer Butler: CEO, Faith in Public Life

Sister Simone Campbell: SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Dr. Tony Campolo: Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Eastern University, St. Davids, PA

Rev. Mae Elise Cannon: Author, Social Justice Handbook (IVP, 2009) & Just Spirituality (IVP, 2013)

Rev. Noel Castellanos: CEO, Christian Community Development Association

Mark Charles: Board Member, Christian Community Development Association and Author of the blog “Reflections from the Hogan”

Rev. Eugene E. Cho: Lead Pastor, Quest Church

Richard Cizik: President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Shane Claiborne: Author & Activist, The Simple Way

Christena Cleveland: social psychologist, author of Disunity in Christ

Carolyn Custis James: Author/Speaker & President, WhitbyForum

Dr. Kit Daley: President, Neighborhood Ministries, Phoenix, AZ

Marie Dennis: Co-President, Pax Christi International 

Dr. J. Mark DeYmaz: Founding Pastor and Author, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas; Books: Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church; Leading a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church; Real Community Transformation

Joshua DuBois: Author of "The President's Devotional"; Founder, Values Partnerships; Former Director, White House Office of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships

Peggy Flanagan: Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota

Rev. Dr. Ken Fong: Senior Pastor Asian American Initiative, Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles (Rosemead), Executive Director, Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Wayne L. Gordon: President, Christian Community Development Association

Pastor Aaron Graham: Lead Pastor, The District Church

Rev. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson: Adviser for Ecumenical Relationships, General Secretary Emeritus Reformed Church in America

Dr. David P. Gushee: Director, Center for Theology and Public Life

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale: Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church

Bishop Mark S. Hanson: Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rev. Adam Hamilton: Senior pastor, Church of the Ressurrection

Lisa Sharon Harper: Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners

Dr. Frederick D. Haynes: Senior Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church

Jerry S. Herbert, Ph.D.: Senior Fellow, Institute for Public Service, Pepperdine University

Dr. Joel C. Hunter: Pastor, Northland Church

Lynne Hybels: Advocate for Global Engagement, Willow Creek Community Church

Troy Jackson: Director, Ohio Prophetic Voices

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori: Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church

Thomas L. Jones: Ambassador-At-Large for the CEO, Senior Leadership Team, Habitat for Humanity International

Kathy Khang: Regional Multiethnic Director, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Tony Kriz: Author, “Neighbors and Wise Men: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places”

Rev. Carlos Malavé: Executive Director, Christian Churches Together

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie: Bishop, 10th Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church

Rev. Brian D. McLaren: Pastor & Author, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World)

A. Roy Medley: General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger: author, speaker, educator, Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church (Eerdmans), Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths (Thomas Nelson);  Professor of Christian Theology & Theology of Culture, Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins, Multnomah University

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.: Pastor Emeritus, Mt. Olivet Institutional Baptist Church

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III: Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ

Rev. Rich Nathan: Senior Pastor, Vineyard Columbus

Mary Nelson: Executive Director, Council of a Parliament of the World's Religions

Rev. Glenn Palmberg, Former President, Evangelical Covenant Church

John M. Perkins: Founder and President, Founder and President, John M. Perkins Foundation; Founder and Board Chair Emeritus, Christian Community Development Association

Rev. Dr. Neal D. Presa: Moderator, 220th General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah: Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary

Pastor Rudy Rasmus: Pastor & Author, St. John's United Methodist Church

Rev. Frank M. Reid III: Senior Pastor, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow: Speaker, Author and Former Moderator, The 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Chris Rice: Director, Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation, Author, More Than Equals

Rev. William D. Roberts: Rector, St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church

Rev Gabriel Salguero: President, National Latino Evangelical Coaltiion (NaLEC)

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra: Special Assistant to the Bishop in charge of Welcoming Congregations, Southwest California Synod, ELCA

Dr. Stephen Schneck: Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Dr. Ron Sider: President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Dr. Andrea Smith: Board member, North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies; Co-founder of the Boarding School Healing Project and INCITE!

Glenn Stassen: Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary

Richard Stearns: President, World Vision

Adam Taylor: Vice President, Advocacy, World Vision

Dr. Al Tizon: Co-President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Justin K.H. Tse: Ph.D. Candidate, The University of British Columbia at Vancouver

Rev. Jim Wallis: Founder and President, Sojourners

Rev. Sharon Watkins: General Minister & President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Bishop Don diXon Williams: Associate for African American Church Relations, Bread for the World

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner: President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: Executive Director, School for Conversion; Author, Strangers at My Door

Dr. Randy and Edith Woodley: Eagle's Wings Ministry, Inc. Eloheh Farm and Village

Ken Wytsma: Founder, The Justice Conference; President, Kilns College