Feature

Race, Justice, and the Church

Alliance leaders reflect on how racial violence and ethnic targeting have impacted them personally and how the Church should respond.

By

Charles Galbreath
New York, New York

I’ve been here in Brooklyn on the ground for the last three days and three nights, on the streets, hearing and being present and offering prayer and peace during what has been a very difficult and challenging moment. People are upset and angry. People are frustrated.

The Church needs to hear this. And I say it with due respect and due deference and honor; but unfortunately, we have gotten to a place where we’ve been reactive.

I believe the Church has always been called to be proactive not reactive. I had the privilege of going to Nyack College and seeing the original pictures of those within the first graduating classes. [The racial diversity] was unheard of then. We were proactive. We were leading the pack concerning this. But now, when moments like this take place and we react—when we have not done the proper work of understanding this theologically and how it’s deeply connected to our spiritual formation and development—then we’ve missed something.


Ron Morrison
Maple Heights, Ohio

I am old enough to have seen the Jet Magazine pictures of Emmett Till when I was a little boy. I am old enough to have seen the riots literally from my front porch in the Glenville area. I’ve been in the south in the 50s and 60s and seen segregation and heard it from my parents. I’ve lived to see a Black president and Black mayors and Black senators and police chiefs and in every level of leadership that seemed impossible when I was a child; and to look around and say, “Has anything changed at all?” In spite of all the progress, innocent lives are being taken weekly, in spite of who the leaders are. It can be very frustrating and discouraging.

The thing that does encourage my heart is to see the Church stepping it up—the Church that has been slow to respond; the Church that has been slow to champion change.

I’ve been revisiting Micah 6:8: “. . . do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” We’ve often taken “do justice” to mean holding someone accountable after they have wronged someone else. That’s really not what [the prophet] was saying. The Church is supposed to teach and model how justice should be demonstrated in daily life. If we would do that, we wouldn’t have to fight so hard for justice to be served after a life has been taken.


Stephen Ko
New York, New York

This has been an incredibly difficult time for Asian Americans who have experienced COVID-19 hate-related crimes and discriminatory acts in an unprecedented way. It’s challenged Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, all ethnic Asian Americans. Personally, it’s been a unique time of introspection. This has led to repentance and confession, really reconciliation. This takes three succinct forms: reconciliation upwards, reconciliation inwards, and reconciliation outwards.

I believe, for maybe one of the first times in history, we’re beginning to stand in unity in a way that we have not before. I don’t think it’s easy. We tend to always hide in the shadows, secondary to a culture of honor and shame. But I’ve been encouraged to see some Asian American brothers and sisters, pastors and leaders, unite. I believe that God is calling us—this generation— to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, no matter what our race, color, or ethnicity may be.


Terry Smith
Colorado Springs, Colorado

After so many cases of African Americans having died at the hands of law enforcement officers, we need to drop all our pretexts, excuses, and caveats and simply say it is wrong—horrifically wrong. Let’s admit that there is something in our human nature that is fearful of people not like us, which perceives ourselves as “better than they are.” This reveals itself when we largely separate ourselves from those of other races, not respecting them and underestimating their talents and abilities. Sometimes this spills out in anger and rage, as we’ve seen all too often in the last few years as white police officers and citizens have brought physical abuse and death to black citizens. Racism and even lynching, albeit in a slightly different mode from the past, are not relics of history but current realities. We should grieve this deeply.


Anita Morrison
Maple Heights, Ohio

I am grieved to my soul. My parents took me to civil rights movement demonstrations in Columbus, Ohio, in the 60s. And we are going through the same thing over and over and over.

I am on social media with brilliant people—people with whom I was reared: doctors, attorneys, scientists. Black people who have succeeded, but who have an angst, have a chip on their shoulder against the Church, against the Lord Jesus. They believe he’s the white man’s God. They are antagonistic, and hostile. They are closed to the true gospel because of the lies they have heard again and again. They are angry and don’t believe that the Church has a voice for them. They don’t believe that the Lord Jesus, who was beaten and brutalized and murdered by law enforcement, has anything to say to them. We can’t even get to that conversation, because they are so angry.

We need our white brothers and sisters to speak up. It is past time to speak truth and to love people. Love them with the love of God.


Kevin Walker
New York, New York

These past days have been some of the most painful days I have had in I can’t tell you how long. A friend sent me a clip of some of the demonstrations and riots that were going on in Los Angeles. And I sat there just in shock, because it was 30 years ago that I sat holding my infant son, watching the riots going on after the Rodney King verdict was announced. We can’t possibly be here again. We can’t be.

And this didn’t just start with [the killing of George Floyd]; it was back with COVID-19 and the injustices committed against the Asian community. I’ve got to care for the leaders shepherding their people through these issues while trying to find the space is to care for my own soul.

So my emotions have been all over the place. From I’m going to soldier through this, to crying in the middle of the day and just not being able to explain why but knowing why. This is painful. And at the same time, I’m thankful for the ways in which I’ve heard some of the voices of the Church rise up in ways that I haven’t heard before. But also, quite honestly, going, okay, where’s the voice of the Church even more? The Church is the only answer.


Jonathan Schaeffer
Middleburg Heights, Ohio

America began with the wonderful premise that “all men are created equal”; but from the very birth of our country we have treated people of color as less-than-equal. That inequity continues today in economics, education, the “justice” system, health care, and more. What can we do?

I’m on a journey and have a long way to go. Here are a few ways I’m seeking to lead our church in this time of brokenness.

  • Lament:  As you hear the stories of others, grieve with them.
  • Listen:  Develop relationships with people who don’t look like you. Listen to the painful discrimination they’ve faced (James 1:19).
  • Learn:  Read Just Mercy or Divided by Faith or Third Option; there are tons of resources. Be open to ideas that challenge you.
  • Love:  Ask God to let you see and love people as He does. Love enough to speak up for others (Proverbs 31:8-9). We aren’t going to say everything perfectly, but in a season like this, silence is agreement.

Let’s be clear. This is a gospel issue. Jesus died to tear down walls (Ephesians 2). We cannot love God without loving others. Racial injustice is a horrible offense to the holy God who created all of us in his image.

2 responses to Race, Justice, and the Church

  1. Ms. Harbauer,

    Thank you for the urgent concern you express here. I fully validate your passion in standing against the atrocity of on-demand abortion. I feel confident this issue is of no less urgency to Alliance leaders and the greater Alliance family than the heartbreaking realities of racial injustice we’ve been grieving in recent days.

    It may encourage you to read the following excerpt on abortion from the Alliance Statement on the Sanctity of Life:

    “At the 1981 General Council in Anaheim, California, the members of The Christian and Missionary Alliance adopted a Statement on Abortion. That Statement, representing the consensus of the denomination, affirmed the historic Christian conviction that life begins at conception. It expressed opposition to abortion-on-demand as a violation of human dignity and the moral law of God. An exception was made only when the life of the mother was threatened. The Statement on Abortion grounded opposition to abortion-on-demand upon the Bible 1.

    The Word of God teaches that each individual is known by God from before the foundation of the world (Jeremiah 1:4–5, Psalm 139:13–17). Our Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God has pronounced His blessing upon the life of a child, according to Psalm 127:3–5. Since all life exists for God’s purposes and all human lives are equally sacred, it is our belief that the life of the unborn child is blessed of God and must be preserved and nurtured. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, therefore, is opposed to induced abortion.”

    The entire Statement can be found here: https://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/sanctity-of-life

  2. Where is the CMA leadership, pastors, lay people on abortion? Where is the outrage against babies being slain in the womb up to the day of birth?

    Extermination of mostly black babies. Have people forgotten Margaret Sanger? She wanted to exterminate people of color.

    Now Planned Parenthood sells the idea of abortion as not convenient or the unborn child is not formed perfectly. And on and on reasons for why a woman should have an abortion. Do you know how many babies are killed every hour? Every day? Every year?

    Don’t you think of it as racial injustice? Extermination of the human race.

    Who will stand up against this injustice? Where is the outcry? Where are the advocates for the unborn? Where is the Church? Where is the justice for the unborn?

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