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Let the Church be the Church Amidst a National Crisis of Trust

A Call for the Spirit-filled Church to be Proactive, Prodigious, and Prophetic: Let the Church be the Church Amidst a National Calamity, Echoing Once Again – Baltimore this Time!

 

The collective heart of a grieving nation continues to shatter as protesters shout in vain over the exploding crises between local citizens and law enforcement. When will this end? How will it end? Where are the civic leaders who will coalesce efforts to address this national pandemic?

A society needs the important work of its dedicated police officers. Yet, another young black man has suffered death at the hands of a white policeman. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray. What a heart-wrenching blow to a loved one’s heart to learn that a son, brother, or friend died in the custody of the very officers who have sworn to protect him.

Even deeper, people – our communities – are restless. Their feelings are real and must be affirmed. How can young black men continue to die from the bullets of police officers’ weapons? In each of these murders, the young man was unarmed. Common sense dictates that a systemic problem is at play. We must not grow numb to the odious realities that plague our communities.

As I listen to the news, I hear the cry of a nation. I hear the mothers and I hear the fathers. I hear the urgency of the moment. White people, Black people, more people must be willing to participate in a national movement for positive change. While I condemn the protestors’ destructive behavior, I cannot ignore the underlying tension that fuels the frustration. Violence destroys more than it heals, and history teaches that violence does not solve problems. If we want to see change, we must face the ugly truths about racism, classism, and sexism, and seek conciliatory approaches not only for justice, but also for healing.

While we need everyone to participate in change, I extend a special appeal to the Church. The Spirit of Jesus Christ calls the Church to “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). A Spirit-filled Church, moreover, must proclaim a liberation that emancipates the entire community, which includes police and civilians, from the hostility inherent in systems of dehumanization. The Spirit sends the Church to clarify the ambiguity that fear and hatred inflict upon people. The Spirit of Christ compels the Church to fight for the rights of the oppressed, to bring healing and reconciliation among people, and to lead those who are astray back to God.

I applaud religious leaders in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and other cities for their relentless efforts to communicate the broader community’s anger and frustration and to encourage a level of civility in this time of national crisis. Now is the time for the Church to rise with a voice of moral consciousness to jolt a nation that is far from just. The Church must work with city, state and federal officials to bring order to this disarray. The Church’s prophetic voice must establish an unrelenting commitment to be the Church in the face of crooked, perverse and often competing evils. If there is going to be a change, the Church must play a role that is proactive, prodigious, and prophetic.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2015

About the Author: Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), was appointed as the founding dean of the Urban Renewal Center in Norfolk, Virginia in the Spring of 2017. He is the Criminal Justice System Director for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), president of the Global Institute for Empowerment & Leadership Development, known as GIELD, and he serves as the Director of TheUrbanCircle.Net, a relational network of urban ministries and churches. He has additional experience as an educator, academic lecturer, itinerant preacher, pastor, youth director, motivational speaker, and Christian musician. He is the author of Holy Spirit, Holy Living: A Practical Theology of Holiness for Twenty-first Century Churches (Wipf & Stock, 2013) and Unstoppable Success: 7 Ways to Flourish in Your Boundless Potential (High Bridge Books, 2014). AntipasHarris.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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