ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 22 — At the 10th annual convocation of Christian Churches Together, member churches and organizations deepened their work on racism and other issues of common concern.
Well-known anti-apartheid leader Allan Boesak gave an insider’s critique of the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa, and applied that to the struggle for racial reconciliation in the US. He drew a sharp distinction between political reconciliation, which he said has proven to be short-lived, and the Christ-centered reconciliation that is at the heart of Christianity.
“If we say ‘justice’ we must say ‘Jesus.’ If we say ‘Jesus’ we must say ‘justice,’” Boesak insisted. Describing reconciliation as “holy ground,” he said it must be “real, radical, and revolutionary.”
St. Louis pastor and activist Michelle Higgins brought a Christian view of Black Lives Matter, which she described as a “pro-life” movement. Lamenting the dehumanizing practices facing people of color, she urged churches “to tell the truth about their own history so that they might be a united front to tell God’s story in the world.” This should come naturally for Christians, she pointed out: “As a body of believers, we already participate in an alternative history. Sunday school is an alternative institution.”
Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., opened the event with a description of global poverty. There are currently 52 active wars and insurgencies, he noted, which has led to more than 60 million refugees and internally displaced people.
On the topic of immigration reform, two speakers acknowledged the current political impasse and the shift toward fear of outsiders. It’s essential for the churches to embrace the biblical call to welcome refugees, said Jenny Yang of World Relief. Added Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union: “Because of the political climate, we are engaged in a battle for the soul of America.” Nevertheless, expressing a sense of hope for the long term, the speakers noted that legislative change takes years.
Other speakers at the Feb. 17-19 convocation were Linda Plitt Donaldson of Catholic University, David Beckmann of Bread for the World, Roslyn M. Brock of the NAACP, Timothy B. Cremeens of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral, Cheryl Sanders of Howard University School of Divinity, and about a dozen more.
At this anniversary meeting of CCT, participants reviewed their history and furthered understanding of the themes that have been examined over the past decade. In addition to poverty and race, these have included evangelism, mass incarceration, immigration, and the effect of immigrants on the church in the US. A panel of presenters discussed the latest thinking on Christian witness in a multi-religious world.
Organized in 2006, Christian Churches Together is composed of 38 churches and national organizations and represents the broadest range of Christians in the country. The members are committed to meeting together for fellowship, worship, and joint efforts on issues crucial to Christian witness in the USA.