Three Ways Your Church Can Embrace the Lessons of Ferguson
by Austin Channing Brown
Many of us sat before our screens unable to look away. A body was lying in the middle of the street as police officers paced by. A growing crowd gathered at the place where bloodstains soaked into the ground. Protest signs waved against a background of tank units. Gas filled the screens. As the events in Ferguson continued to unfold, we peeled back the layers of injustice. Our understanding of criminality, causality, and culpability hung in the balance.
Moved by the strength and determination of Ferguson’s community, many have asked, “What would God have me do?” It’s a noble question, though far too often it’s asked solely on an individual level. I would like to submit to you three ways the Church — even your church — might consider answering that question as a body of believers.
This is not an exhaustive list. Sadly, there is much work to be done, but I pray that this list serves as a good starting place, a match that the Holy Spirit might strike.
1. Confess the racial history of your church.
Admit it if your church body has always been largely white. Admit that it ignored racial tensions of the [insert decade here]. Admit when whiteness failed and how that effected communities of color.
That second part is really important. It’s not enough to pretend that your choices as a church existed in a vacuum. Your choices as a church affected people. Families of color didn’t feel safe coming to you. Multiracial families were isolated in your church. Your church members didn’t allow a shelter to be built. You were so busy running the food pantry that you didn’t vote for wage increases that could have helped every family who comes. Your members moved when people of color started to arrive. People of color are regularly pulled over on the way to your church because it’s so racially isolated, and your church has done nothing about it.
I don’t know your story as a church, but you should. Confess the ways your church has promoted whiteness and then move to confessing how that impacted the rest of God’s Church.
2. Discover the systems of racism that perpetuate the needs your church is meeting.
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