Disciples News Service

Reconciliation Ministry offers reflection on church burnings

Disciples Continue a Witness of Hope – “…And the Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail . . .”

July 1, 2015

Dear Disciples,
Since the tragic murder of nine parishioners during a Wednesday night Bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, several historically African American churches have been incinerated by unknown perpetrators. We may not be able to name the responsible persons or groups who inflicted destruction on these buildings, but we are well-acquainted with sin of racism and its destructive power on the soul of humanity. Racism seeks to ‘kill, steal and destroy.’ It functions to misshape our humanity.

Like the burning of a faith community’s house of worship, racism gives a false sense of strength to the bully and evokes a feeling powerlessness in the psyche of the victim. It whispers the lie of separate but equal into our ears which seeps into our heads and our hearts. It even sneaks into our places of worship and gathering assuming that it is a welcomed guest, promoting silence as appropriate and polite Christian witness.

Thanks be to God, racism does not have the last word. “We refuse to let hate keep us from worship and studying God’s Word.” Those are the words of Rev. Sotello Long, Regional Minister and Executive of South Carolina describing his conversation with the office of the Presiding Elder this week. There has not been one Bible Study cancelled following the tragedy there. Although some members may be a bit anxious in light of the evil that visited upon their church, their love of Christ and one another prevails. When they gather tonight for Bible Study, Rev. Long will be in attendance. During the service, he will deliver a check from the Christian Church in South Carolina, to demonstrate our unity and our witness to Christ. In solidarity with the AME Church and the South Carolina region, Week of Compassion and Reconciliation Ministry provided matching funds as a result of your giving.

We continue to solicit your generous gifts to overcome intolerance. Your gift will help Reconciliation Ministry promote courageous conversations in our communities to build relationships across the false divides of race. Your gift, working against the continued displays of harm and hatred, will help Disciples stand boldly against racial intolerance that effects harm and hatred in the body of Christ. You may give to Reconciliation Ministry’s ongoing work for racial justice by clicking here.

You may also designate a gift directed specifically to help the churches that have been burned by clicking here then click the radio dial for the Racial Justice Response Fund.

We are the Church whose foundation is Jesus Christ. God has given to us every good and perfect gift to heal the brokenness in our world. Reminded of who we are in Christ, we stand strong and courageous, refusing to allow hate to mute our witness. Today and in the days to follow we urge you to heed the words of Christ found in the gospel of Matthew: “Jesus said, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!. . . And I tell you, you are Peter,[d] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

In Christ,

Rev. April Johnson, Minister of Reconciliation
Rev. Dr. Huberto Pimentel, National Pastor, Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries
Rev. Jinsuk Chun, Executive Pastor, North American Pacific/Asian Disciples
Rev. Dr. Timothy James, Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation