Two weeks ago, George Floyd was brutally murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis, USA. His tragic death was sadly the latest in a long line of incidents of police brutality against black people and yet another example of the suffering that continues because of racism.
This isn’t just a problem in the USA. Here in the UK, we have an equally tragic history of systemic racism and injustice. (The cultural amnesia that causes us to celebrate the Abolition movement but forget the hundreds of years of state-sponsored slavery that preceded it, and the ongoing exploitation that has continued covertly afterwards, being the first example.)
Similarly, this isn’t just an external problem that the church needs to reach out into to try and fix. Racism is an insidious spirit – one of the powers and principalities Paul talks of in Ephesians 6:12 – and we too have been part of the problem in a variety of ways.
Jesus makes it clear in his prayer in John 17 that his desire for us is unity – that we would be one with each other in the same way that he is one with the Father. This, in fact, is how the world is going to see Him and know Him. The cold, hard reality is that we as the Church have fallen short of this, and especially when it comes to unity across divides of race, class, and privilege.
We don’t profess to have the answers, but are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to better equip students, leaders and churches in representing Jesus faithfully on campus. Within that, we recognise that many of the leaders and students we connect with are white or non-black people-of-colour, and we especially want to encourage those of us in any kind of position of privilege to consider what it looks like to be proactive moving forward.
So how can we begin to make change in ourselves, and our churches? A good place to start would be to repent. To listen. To respond…. and then repent again. Here’s what that could look like…
Jesus warned us pretty clearly about removing any planks in our own eyes before we go further-afield trying to problem solve. We must resist the pull to quickly point fingers at the problem “out there” and first take a look within our own hearts. We must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal evil roots of racial prejudice in our own hearts and give us the humility to be aware of our own faults. Only then can we move towards enacting change.
Repentance among other things will look like acknowledging that we ourselves have been ignorant and passive. It will look like seeking education on issues affecting the black community in the UK today (google is a great place to start). It will look like digging deeper into the ongoing racial division in our churches. It will look like pursuing compassion rather than giving in to society’s propensity towards judgement. It will look collaboratively creating spaces where black people belong, not assimilate.
‘Check Your Blind Spot’ by Joshua Luke Smith
Guvna B in Conversation with Nicky Gumble at HTB
“We Need To Talk About Race: Black Experience in White Majority Churches (2019)”
You can also click here for a list of relevant funds, resources, articles, books, and social media accounts.
Acknowledge the fact that black voices have been dismissed and overlooked in majority white spaces. There will be friends, family, and members church communities, that are hurting now. And it’s not a new pain. Don’t pretend to know, begin to listen. All black voices are individual, and deserve to be heard, and amplified. Amplify these voices in your community, and your friendship groups.
Remember, opinions must come second to listening. It is not a time to be defensive, but a time to understand the pain and discomfort, to bear one another’s burdens, until prejudice towards black people becomes injustice that is no longer tolerated.
As leaders, we must seek to create safe spaces for black voices to be heard, and to continue to be heard moving forward – whether that be digitally, or in the future in physical gatherings. Then we must act upon what we hear.
Where we have privilege, we must not remain silent. Our Father’s heart is for justice, so we must hold each other to account, and be willing to be held accountable! We have to make room for mutual accountability, being able to have difficult conversations, being able to challenge and change.
As leaders, in this season we must also use our platform to protect those we’re connected to. There are still those who harbour negative sentiment towards the statement that ‘Black Lives Matter’, and many students in your community may have faced negative responses for their own decisions to speak out. Leaders have a responsibility to be a protecting force in this time, standing alongside. Don’t be afraid to seek whatever help you need in doing so!
Then there are many more active ways to continue to respond, through petitions, charities, writing to MP’s, writing to your church leaders, social engagement and more. In this way we, as the church, can hold our community and our national leaders to account.
Listen to this talk one of our friends in Manchester, Pastor Joe Reeser of Ramp Church: ‘4 Urgent Responses to Racism’
Our responses will not be perfect, but compassionate action is more important than perfection. When we stumble, we must repent. Then listen. And then respond again. We must do more. We must continue until black lives truly matter in our churches, and our society.
Even in the midst of pain we are expectant to see how God will use this moment, knowing that he can work any situation for good and believing that he will bring out something beautiful from it. We’re trusting with all of our hearts that Jesus really is the hope of the nations and that his kingdom is at hand. Come, Lord!
“Lord search us and know our hearts, reveal if there is any way of unrighteousness in us. Let us not use our spirituality as cover for our inactivity. Guide us in our response, and mould us into the mature sons of daughters that your creation is waiting in anguish for. Help us to celebrate and protect diversity. Help us act to influence the world around us. Let your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth, as in heaven.”
“Is this not the fast that I choose;
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?”