Kevin Kompelien is president of the Evangelical Free Church of America, serving in this role since June 2015. He previously served more than 20 years as a local pastor in the EFCA and then nine years as international leader of the Africa division with EFCA ReachGlobal. He and his wife, Becky, are members of Hillside EFC in San Jose, California.
Once Again, Racism Necessitates a Response
Encouraging the American church to address racism and injustice
For nearly two months, we’ve all had to learn a new normal as we live with the significant effects of COVID-19. This global pandemic has taken a toll on everyone. From unemployment and financial strain to loneliness and separation, life as we know it will be different for the foreseeable future.
While, in many ways, this COVID-19 pandemic is new and unprecedented, underneath the surface, another pandemic continues to wreak havoc in our country. From the very foundation of our nation, racism has plagued and unjustly affected minority populations in the United States. Statistics also show that African, Hispanic and Asian Americans have faced greater challenges due to COVID-19 as well as increasing levels of racism.
The EFCA cannot lose sight of racism and injustice in America. This week, I’ve been thinking a great deal about these issues as I reflected on the death of Ahmaud Arbery. This news has deeply grieved me, and I mourn with the family of this young man.
Sadly, this tragedy seems all too familiar. It is not acceptable that unjust killings of this nature continue to happen in America. We need to acknowledge what’s true: something is wrong. What happened in Georgia once again highlights a deeper issue of racial injustice in our country. Asian Americans have increasingly experienced racist behavior related to COVID-19. Immigrants fear long-term repercussions from limitations regarding legal immigration. Racism has not ended in our nation. It is here and now.
It is right for us to refocus attention on racism and injustice, even as we navigate the battle against COVID-19. If we want to see the disease of racism eradicated, we must be dedicated, persistent and focused.
This isn’t the first time the EFCA has spoken on racism, and we will continue to pursue righteousness and justice for the oppressed. It is our responsibility and is commanded by Scripture (Isa 1:17). We’ve communicated this message before, and we will continue to call out racism in all of its forms. Here are a few examples of how we’ve spoken out on the topic of racial justice:
- A series of blog articles on EFCA leaders' visit to Montgomery AL: Two Days in Montgomery, Surprise, Astonishment and Pain, and Are We Uncomfortable Being Uncomfortable
- The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the EFCA, and Racism by Greg Strand
- The Church, the Hope for a Better World by Alex Mandes
- Reference The Gospel, Racism and the EFCA: Resolution (1992) and Resolve
Yet, words alone will not suffice in the battle against racism. We must be willing to take action. The EFCA has dedicated time, energy and financial resources to lead on matters of racism and injustice (Immigrant Hope, 2018 Theology Conference, All People Initiative).
Friends, amid COVID-19 and other distractions, we cannot overlook trials faced by our brothers and sisters of color. Racism has no place in Christianity or the EFCA. In fact, we fall short on our mission—to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people—if we don’t work toward reconciliation.
Racism is a sin that roots itself deep within the brokenness of humanity. Ending it in our country won’t happen by putting out a carefully crafted message or simply creating ministries and initiatives. To see racism end, we must all take the small and difficult steps in the Spirit’s power to address it in our relationships and our churches, and perhaps even in our own lives.
Here’s the key point: we all have a part to play in addressing racism in our country. There are no excuses. Racism and injustice must be met by the righteousness of Christ as seen in and through the Church. So, EFCA, I implore you to stand up to racism through the power of the gospel.