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Think. Discuss. Act. Racism

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Church Racial Reconciliation

A Discussion on Church Racial Reconciliation

A cooperative plan between two churches of differing ethnicity (white and black) to seek true Christian racial reconciliation, a “calling higher than social equality,” using the outline of More Than Equals by Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice. (review)

Summary

(Download Racial Reconciliation discussion as a PDF)

The church in America has long suffered from divisions between the races.  This has been intentional in some cities and has been the result of simple neglect in others.  Perkins and Rice argue for the church’s role in achieving what secular American society has not been able to achieve and they offer a three step method to get there.  This series of meetings and discussions will utilize many of More Than Equals’ insights to further the cause of reconciliation in the church and can be used in any community.  It will also be based on Pastor Edward Gaskin’s philosophy that “revelation must precede reconciliation.” (The word Revelation below will refer back to this principle.)

Leader Preparation

  1. Pastors (or representatives) from each church will read More Than Equals to get familiar with the outline and some of the principal issues.  (Allow one month to read and absorb.)
  2. Pastors will get together to discuss book and the goals of the church’s ministry of reconciliation to each other.  (Allow one afternoon – 3 to 4 hours)
  3. Pastors will spend time in prayer together for the success of their efforts.  (As long as it takes.)
  4. Pastors will spend time getting to know one another on a personal basis.  (Dinners or other events to develop a working relationship with an eye to greater intimacy.)
  5. Pastors will agree on a schedule for the various meetings and work together to develop the outline and plans for the ministry.  (A few meetings to prepare this.)

Sessions

A.    First Session:  Introductions (name only) will be made by all the members of both churches.  (We will gather at the white church for this first session.  Allow three hours. Revelation)

1.     Topics to Cover:

a.      The purposes behind our future meetings:

i.        To seek first understanding of each other within our American and Christian contexts. (revelation)

ii.      To seek to overcome racial hurts and disappointments and grow in unity. (reconciliation)

b.     The resources we will use during our gatherings:

i.        More Than Equals by Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice (give history of these men and the basic outline of the book.)

ii.      Bible with specific references to the issues of unity and justice.

c.      Go over the basic outline of our three sessions from More Than Equals:

i.        Second Session will cover:  Admit “that the race problem exists and that our inability to deal with race has weakened the credibility of our gospel.”

ii.  Third Session will cover:  Submit “to one another, white to black and black to white.”

iii.    Fourth Session will cover:  Commit “to seek ways to make a difference.”

d.     Allow time for feedback with questions and concerns.  Place concerns within the context of the next four sessions so that the participants can see that their concerns will be addressed, but in order, so that each step will build upon the last one. 

B.     Second Session:  Admit:  We will spend this session considering the many facets of the problem of racism faced by our society and our churches.  (We will gather at the black church for this session.  Allow three hours.  Revelation)

1.     Topics to Cover:

a.      “Race Fatigue” – chapter 23:  The basic problem as we see it addressing the fact that we are all hurt by this problem.  Pastors will lead this discussion looking at a history of the problem. 

b.     “Black Residue” – chapter 7:  Black Christians will address some of these issues: anger and blame; self-doubt, etc.  They will also share what it means to them to be black in America.  We are seeking to arrive at the basic level of the beliefs of this group about their situation and about white people.

c.      “White Blinders” – chapter 5:  In what ways is the white community unaware of the problems of black Christians.  The white pastor will address such issues as:  “where was your starting line?,” the dominant European culture, statistics on “white flight,” “white privilege,” etc.  We are seeking to make the white Christians aware of many of the blinders we have, but have never considered.

d.     “White Fear” – chapter 14:  White Christians will have an opportunity to share their own concerns and views of black people in America.  We are seeking to arrive at the basic level of the beliefs of this group about black people.

e.      Period of discussion.  While questions will be permitted during each of these segments, a time will be given at the end for questions and feedback.

C.     Third Session:  Submit:  We will spend this session considering our common heritage as believers and deciding to submit to each other for the sake of our unity.  (We will gather at the white church for this session.  Allow three hours.  Revelation)

1.     Topics to Cover:

a.      “Weapons for the Battle” – chapter 11:  We will consider the weapons God has given us to heal ourselves and each other from the wounds of racism: forgiveness, the Word, perseverance, Jesus, the Holy Spirit.

b.     “Acts: A Reconciliation Story” – chapter 12:  We will look at Scriptural accounts of racial reconciliation:  Acts 6 (Grecian Jews vs. Hebraic Jews); Acts 8 (the Samaritans); Acts 15 (the Gentile question).  We will grow in faith that it is possible to overcome what seems insurmountable by looking at God’s successful reconciliation in Scripture.

c.      We will call each other to mutual submission as we seek to let the Spirit of God empower us to move on to the commitment stage.

d.     We will offer a time of discussion to address any left over or unresolved issues from our previous session.

D.    Fourth Session:  Commit:  We will spend this session looking at ways that we might all make a difference as the church.  (We will gather at the black church for this session.  Allow three hours.  Revelation)

1.     Topics to Cover:

a.      “The Character of a Reconciler” – chapter 13:  We will look at the following issues surrounding who we need to be in order to be reconcilers in our communities:  one who “confronts racial conflict,” “making the choice for unity,” the “path to corporate reconciliation,”

b.     “Kingdom Choices” – chapter 18:  We will consider the fact that we are a part of the kingdom of God and thus we have the responsibility to make choices pleasing to God.  We will consider: being “intentional” about developing relationships with people of the opposite race, taking “small steps of faithfulness,” seeking “unlikely relationships” and committing to continue the learning process.

c.      Homework Assignment:  Participants are to come back for the following session with a “Personal Plan for Reconciliation.”  This plan should include the following three sections:

i.        Admit:  Participants will prepare to acknowledge any previously held beliefs about the other race that they now realize were wrong due to ignorance or racist tendencies.  The participant should prepare to verbally state what areas those were, why they held them and that they now understand and believe otherwise.

ii.      Submit:  Participants will prepare to demonstrate mutual submission by seeking forgiveness from one another for previously held racist beliefs.  They may seek out individuals or address the other group as a whole.  This would be a good time ask for and received forgiveness from each other.

iii.    Commit:  Participants will have a list of six items demonstrating their commitment to being agents of healing and reconciliation.  The first three on the list should be things they plan to do within the next month and the other three are things to be done over their lifetime.

 E.     Fifth Session:  Reconciliation Meeting  (We will gather at the white church for this session.  Allow four hours.  Reconciliation). 

Description of Meeting:  The participants will now fully engage each other in seeking, offering and receiving forgiveness.

1.     Admit:  Participants will now acknowledge any previously held beliefs about the other race that they now realize were wrong due to ignorance or racist tendencies.  The participant will verbally state what areas those were, why they held them and that they now understand and believe otherwise.

2.     Submit:  Participants will demonstrate mutual submission by seeking forgiveness from one another for previously held racist beliefs.  They may seek out individuals or address the other group as a whole.

3.     Commit:  Participants will share their list of six items demonstrating their commitment to being agents of healing and reconciliation.

Group Building

The following is a potential group building exercise for the beginning of each session listed above. 

Answer the following question:

  • Session 1:  What is your favorite thing about being (white, black)?
  • Session 2:  What is the greatest burden you face because you are (white, black)?
  • Session 3:  When did you first realize that being (white, black) was an advantage?
  • Session 4:  When did you first realize that being (white, black) was a disadvantage?
  • Session 5:  What is the thing you learned about being (white, black) in America that you are most surprised by?

 Group Presentation

We will introduce the issues for each evening in a variety of ways.  Each session will have it’s own introduction as follows:

  • Session 1:  Film clip of “A Class Divided”
  • Session 2:  Film clip of “Eyes on the Prize:  The Civil Rights Years”
  • Session 3:  Film clip of “Acts” focusing on either Acts 6, 8 or 15. (Thomas Nelson)
  • Session 4:  Film clip of “Matthew” focusing on chapter 5:1-24 (Beatitudes)
  • Session 5:  Worship together

Group Discussion

Group discussion will occur within each session based upon the topic for the evening.  Questions will be generated from the materials to be covered from More Than Equals and presented by the facilitator for that evening.  When the meetings occur in the black church, the white pastor will facilitate and when they occur in the white church, the black pastor will facilitate.  (There is “home turf,” but no “home field advantage.”)  Possible  questions for each session:

  • Session 1:  What are your expectations for this endeavor?  Are you optimistic or pessimistic in your assessment of the potential for true Christian reconciliation?
  • Session 2:  How will admitting the facts of racism help us to overcome racism?  What usually hinders us from admitting the truth wherever we find it? 
  • Session 3:  What are the risks inherent in submitting to another person?  What is the world’s/church’s stance toward submission?
  • Session 4:  Why do people fear commitment?  What are your fears about committing to one another in this setting?
  • Session 5:  There is no real discussion in session 5.  The participants will be actively engaging one another.

Wrap-Up

We will conclude each session with the following thoughts:

  • Session 1:  As you think about what you’ve heard tonight, and looking forward to next session, consider areas you may need to admit personal racism.
  • Session 2:  As you’ve heard various people admit personal beliefs tonight, consider how you feel about submitting to one another when we come back for the next session.
  • Session 3:  Now that you’ve chosen to submit to one another, we want you to think about the level of commitment you are willing to make to each other.
  • Session 4:  Having committed to a process of reconciliation, consider carefully your assignment to plan a life of reconciliation.
  • Session 5:  Now that we have fully engaged one another in this process of reconciliation, take this with you and glorify God through the unity the church has long needed.

Evaluation and Follow-Up

Ideas for reinforcement of the commitment for future growth by the participants:

  • Share your “Personal Plan for Reconciliation” with your spouse or closest friend and elicit their commitment to work with you toward being a reconciler.
  • Make the commitment to develop relationship with at least one of the participants from the other church with whom you can partner in being reconcilers in your community.
  • Seek to communicate with members of your church who were not able to attend what you have learned and how you have grown as a result of these meetings.
  • Keep a journal of your progress and share this with someone significant to you.
  • Take the initiative in leading a program similar to the one you have just been through, either with new members of the same churches or in another context, such as youth in the church or for your community at large.

Implications

The success of this program is vital for the health of any church in any community.  Because the church has for so long ignored this issue, society around us does not see us as a reconciling community.  Therefore, when we speak of reconciliation between God and man, they do not understand this as an important issue because they don’t see human reconciliation in action around them.  Once we demonstrate reconciliation between races, people will see its possibility and perhaps even, the power of God in seemingly impossible human divisions. Not only would this demonstrate God’s ability to reconcile, but it would show the church’s relevance to modern society.  Our failure to be reconcilers makes us look impotent in the face of the greatest crisis facing our culture.

 If young people, parents, teachers, youth leaders and pastors could utilize a program like this, we will see far greater success in bringing the churches in our communities to unity.

Various groups in our community (ministries, educational institutions and helping professionals) could adapt such a program to their particular context.  Other churches in the community might also host this program for their organizations using those who have already been through it. Through the process, they would produce the best-suited working model for reconciliation in their situation.   

Scott Braithwaite
© 2017 CYS

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