Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Most have heard the story of the rally-turned-protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12-13. For those unfamiliar, officials in the city were planning to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. The Alt-Right scheduled a rally in opposition to these plans to move the statue. With protests and counter-protests, the rally turned into chaos and violence, with one person dead and 19 injured in its wake.
If people were unfamiliar with the Alt-Right before this rally, most now know. The Alt-Right consists of white nationalists, white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other racists. Over the course of the couple of days associated with the rally, marchers carried Tiki torches, a Nazi flag and some gave KKK hand gestures. It is critical to say: the Alt-Right is anti-God and anti-gospel.
After so much has been said and written, is it even necessary or worthwhile to add something more? I believe so, which is why I respond.
First, it is important for me to speak as part of our EFCA family. This is not a global or universal statement, even though I bear that in mind. Rather, it is a statement made by one family member to another. However, the EFCA did make an official statement and resolution against racism.
Second, I speak as a white majority in the EFCA. When we address issues from a biblical and theological perspective, any and all have something to say. We are all seeking to understand and apply the truth of the Scriptures. And yet, depending on the issue we are addressing, or to which we are responding, there are some who may need to initiate by speaking out first.
Over the past decade, Alejandro Mandes, executive director of All People Ministry at the EFCA, and I have learned this (and continue to learn!) and attempt to live it out in practice. Although we are in agreement on the biblical, theological and even pastoral responses to an issue, on most All People matters he needs to be the lead voice, and I need to affirm and support his voice, as he articulates that biblical response pastorally. It also works the other way. There are some things in which I may need to be the lead voice, and he affirms and supports my voice, as we together stand on God’s Word. Therefore, I also recommend you read his "Open Letter to Those Who are Struggling."
This is one of those instances where I believe it is imperative that I, as a white believer, who is in the majority, needs to speak to this issue. The gospel creates “one new humanity” (Eph. 2:14-16), a family that manifests a new community, a community created by God that exists to bring glory to God. That is what we believe, that is what we proclaim, that is what we live.
As we think about this, I will contrast some Missteps with some Must-Steps.
Often when addressing or responding to racial issues, the response, or lack of response, is marked by numerous Missteps:
Tragically, these Missteps avoid or side-step the main issue of hate, racism, and racial superiority, namely sin. At times they are perpetuated intentionally by the majority voice. At other times, they may be perpetuated unintentionally by virtue of being the majority voice, with limited eyes to see from the perspective of the minority voice. These statements are not to deny the minority voice has no sins. They, too, have sins. The statements are made with a specific focus on what transpired with the Alt-Right. Sin is a universal reality and problem (Rom. 3:23). The heart is desperately and deceptively wicked (Jer. 19:9). Sin and its effects are a majority and minority voice problem, but sin will manifest in different ways.
For believers, there are also some Must-Steps:
These ten must-steps means the EFCA stands firmly on the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirming both its centrality in doctrine, and also its centrality in function, i.e., the outworking of the gospel. We are committed to uphold the truth of the gospel, both in proclamation and life, and we are committed to speak and work against that which compromises or contradicts the gospel, or is another gospel.
It means we proclaim and live the gospel, and we renounce and condemn racism, in principle and in practice. As the new community created by God, and indwelt by his Spirit, living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we reflect an outpost of heaven: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
Finally, because our EFCA family is predominately a white denomination, it means it is incumbent for the white majority to reach out and initiate with the other, the soon-to-come majority minority – African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American, and others. After we initiate, we then take a humble posture of listening. We initiate with a spirit of humility and we listen with a posture of love. This is a glorious way to live, to manifest the gospel in the EFCA, and to reflect the new heavens and new earth here and now.
There are many who could be referenced and their statements included. I list a few, some whose names will be familiar. These statements are strong and with conviction. I have included the pertinent statement, some which are longer than a sound-bite. Please take the time to read all of them. This is a gospel issue.
This movement is antithetical to the gospel. It is an abomination to all that we stand for, and it must be condemned on every level of leadership in the Church. There is no room for waffling. We cannot sit in silence hoping this will pass. . . . Condemn bigotry, hate, and discrimination from the pulpit and through each ministry in the Church. Because as we pray, we speak up. Our voice is necessary to remind those under our care and those listening from outside that when there is wrong in the world, we fight for what is right. Call this what it is and then call it wrong. . . . RFor us, this is not about politics or free speech. It is about evil and the gospel that defeats it. The time to stand up—and speak up—is now.
Bruce Riley Ashford, White Christian conservatives should oppose protests by white supremacists
White conservatives – especially white Christian conservatives – should speak out openly against white nationalism and white supremacy. This is racism pure and simple, and it represents a frontal assault on the Christian gospel, a denial of human dignity and a subversion of our democracy.
The racist doctrine claiming that whites are superior to all others is diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity. The Bible teaches that God created the world as a dazzlingly beautiful unity-in-diversity (Genesis 1). God values that diversity and makes clear that every human being – regardless of race – is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27-28).
God sent his son – a brown Middle Eastern man – to save the whole world, including sinners of every race and ethnicity (John 3:16). Genuine Christianity overcomes social, ethnic, and gender barriers (Galatians 3:26, 28).
That is why we should fight white nationalism and other forms of racism tooth-and-nail, not only from the voting booth, but in our neighborhoods, at our churches, and on our social media. We should fight it when it takes the form of personal prejudice; when a person of one ethnic heritage intentionally denigrates or harms a person of another ethnic heritage.
And we should fight racism when it takes the form of corrupted cultural institutions; when our society’s racial sins coalesce to warp certain social and cultural institutions so that they give preference to one race or ethnicity over another.
Mohler identifies racial superiority as a heresy, a term he uses intentionally, a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But Christians must see much more than the lessons of history, though we dare not miss them. We must see claims of racial superiority–and mainly that means claims of white superiority–as heresy.
That is not a word we use casually. Heresy leads to a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the eclipse of the living God as revealed in the Bible. A claim of white superiority is not merely wrong, and not merely deadly. It is a denial of the glory of God in creating humanity—every single human being–in his own image. It is a rejection of God’s glory in creating a humanity of different skin pigmentation. It is a misconstrual of God’s judgment and glory in creating different ethnicities.
Most urgently, it is a rejection of the gospel of Christ–the great good news of God’s saving purpose in the atonement accomplished by Christ. A claim of racial superiority denies our common humanity, our common sinfulness, our common salvation through faith in Christ, and God’s purpose to create a common new humanity in Christ.
You cannot preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and hold to any notion of racial superiority. It is impossible.
Mohler addresses our American history and the lessons we have been slow to learn, and even slower to implement the necessary changes, changes which the gospel of Jesus Christ makes in our own personal lives through new birth, which also has entailments in our lives and how we love and live with others.
America has yet to deal with the lessons of our own history. We have never been utterly conquered so that we had to. The lessons of slavery and Jim Crow segregation–all predicated on claims of white supremacy–have yet to be fully learned or even fully acknowledged. Our walls are not made of concrete and barbed wire, but they remain walls. Our churches have sometimes defended those walls, to our everlasting shame.
American Christians are fully accountable to the lessons of history, and we have our own hard reckoning to do. But we are far more accountable to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2:13-15, Paul tells us: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.”
Paul does not merely admit this to be true–that God is creating “one new man” as a new humanity in Christ–he celebrates this truth as central to Christ’s gospel. If we do not celebrate this truth, we have not tasted the salvation accomplished by Christ.
Seen from Berlin, the news from Charlottesville is alarming. Seen as a Christian, the images are heartbreaking. The ideology of racial superiority is an evil anti-gospel that leads to eternal death.
The lessons of history are warning enough. The lessons of heresy are even more pressing. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we dare not miss the lessons of history and heresy. God will judge us. This we know.
I also include Collin Hansen’s interview with Mika Edmondson (35 minutes), White Supremacy Is Spiritual Bondage. Edmondson responds to the following questions:
In 1992, the EFCA Conference adopted a Resolution on “The New Racism.” The reference to the new racism served as a way to identify a “recent resurgence” in racial incidents in a number of settings, which “at the present time appears to have found renewed energy.” For some history, on March 3, 1991 after Rodney King, an African-American was pulled over after a high-speed chase, four white LAPD police officers beat him, which was videoed and made public. On April 29, 1992, three of the four officers were acquitted, and the fourth was acquitted of assault with a deadly weapon, but the court could not reach a verdict on the use of excessive force. What followed in the aftermath were the LA riots.
I include excerpts of the Resolution, along with the exhortation to respond, both individually and corporately as the church. Read the EFCA's official statement for the entire resolution. Although written and adopted prior to our 2008 Statement of Faith, this Resolution, like all we do, is tethered to the inerrant and authoritative text of Scripture and grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is given expression in our Statement of Faith.
As Christians, we deplore racism as sin against fellow human beings who are created in the image of God. . . Even though our society benefits from progress made in the area of racial harmony during and following the Civil Rights movement, we believe that racism continues to exist and, at the present time, appears to have found renewed energy.
Racism is an irrational belief in the superiority of one's ethnic or racial group causing the hatred of those of another group. . . In America, this unhealthy attitude of racial and ethnic superiority has resulted in discrimination predominately by whites against people of color such as Asians, African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics. It also has provoked a racist response against the dominate culture and often heightened tensions between minority groups as well. God's ideal is that humans exist in harmonious relationships regardless of racial and ethnic differences (Acts 13:1, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, Gal. 3:28, Rev. 5:9-10), but racism militates against the formation of these harmonious relationships.
Realizing that even as Christians we are not immune to the sin of racism, we resolve first of all to search our own hearts and repent of any racist attitudes we may have no matter how subtle. We further resolve to work toward eliminating racism in our local churches, educational institutions and throughout the EFCA family as a whole (particularly in light of our commitment to plant and nurture many new ethnic churches). Some ways in which we can work are:
- Speaking out against racism in whatever setting we find ourselves.
- Teaching in our homes and in our churches against racism and noting God's desire for reconciliation between races (Eph. 2:14).
- Developing relationships of mutual education and submission (Eph. 5:21) with people of different races on both an individual and congregational level.
Historically, when this Resolution was adopted by the Conference in 1992, the business session in which it was approved was preceded by a Sacred Assembly, led by President Paul Cedar. As he recounted this evening of prayer, one of his highlights addressed the presentation of the Resolution, with a time of repentance for the sin of racism. Cedar recounts the time of confession (The Evangelical Beacon 65/9 [August 1992], 2):
We then moved into confession of specific sins of the church – particularly those in our Evangelical Free Churches. Pastor Leroy Scheumann, chairman of our Committee on Social Concerns, led us in the reading of a resolution on repentance from racism (which was passed unanimously at our business session the next day). He then led us in a corporate prayer of confession of the sins of racism. That prayer was followed by person after person offering prayers of confession at microphones throughout the auditorium. The Lord moved as we humbled ourselves, prayed, repented, and sought His face. Prayer was followed by a time of offering personal prayers of confession. Some 2000 of us fell on our faces before God to confess any hidden or realized sins in our lives. The prayers of confession lasted for more than an hour as the Holy Spirit moved in our midst.
May the Lord, in His grace and mercy, and for His glory, do it again!
Now is not the time to despair, or to become pessimistic. That is the response of the atheist.
As believers, we respond as believers.
Now is the time to repent. Now is the time to lament. Now is the time to recommit to the task of being ambassadors of reconciliation, vertically and horizontally. Now is the time to embrace and live out orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Now is the time to keep or maintain the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace. Now is the time to hope in God for new things. Now is the time to pray.
Dear God, we repent and turn back, that our sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from your presence (Acts 3:19-20). “We do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” (Dan. 9:18-19).
Isaac Tucker: “Amen Brother, Well written.”
Greg Strand: “Thank you, Isaac. I pray it was both faithful to Scripture, and edifying to God’s people. Might we, by God’s grace and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, live it. I am grateful for the privilege of seeking to live this out faithfully with you, such that the gospel of Jesus Christ we affirm, we live out and manifest in our lives.”
Bill Taylor, Evangelical Free Church of Canada: “Well articulated Greg! As a Christian family member from north of the border, we watched with horror as these events transpired. We all have our prejudices to address. May the gospel message continue to remind us that our Lord has broken down the walls between all peoples and move us to build bridges accordingly.”
Greg Strand: “Amen, Bill, may it be so, by God's grace and for God's glory!”