We in the EFCA are grieved by the events last week in Charlottesville, Virginia. Any individual, group or movement that elevates self over others is contrary to God’s creation of all as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26-28), and His work of redemption in recreating, by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, “one new humanity” (Eph. 2:14-16) . The alt-right, consisting of white nationalists, white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other racists, is anti-God and anti-gospel.
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. Because of these two commitments, and in the wake of Charlottesville, we respond.
In 1992, the EFCA Conference adopted a Resolution on The New Racism. The entire document, included below, highlights four key statements that are relevant at this moment.
- Although this Resolution is dated, since it is historically situated, it could have been written this past Sunday, because it is grounded in biblical truth. In replacing “new racism” with “alt-right,” what is written mostly fits this historical moment.
- The new racism of 1992, and the alt-right of 2017, is the old racism caused by sin against God (Gen. 3), which resulted in sin against one another (Gen. 4). This sin of elevating self or identity over God’s creative design for humanity led to the sin of Babel (Gen. 11), of seeking to make a name for oneself, which is the work of the Devil (Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8). The sin of Babel has been reversed and transformed by Pentecost (Acts 2).
- This Resolution is grounded in biblical truth, affirming God’s design for humanity (“God’s ideal is that humans exist in harmonious relationships regardless of racial and ethnic differences”) and denouncing the sin that compromises God’s good purposes (“we deplore racism as sin against fellow human beings who are created in the image of God. . . . racism militates against the formation of these harmonious relationships”).
- Grounded in the truth (orthodoxy), the Resolution also emphasizes the entailments of the gospel being lived out in practice (orthopraxy). It begins with a call to examine our own lives, “to search our own hearts and repent of any racist attitudes we have no matter how subtle.” And then the Resolution appropriately concludes with some practical ways we can personally and corporately speak for and live consistently with the gospel as we respond to racism and racists.
Upon reading this Resolution, we are grateful to be reminded of a strong statement made against the sin of “the new racism.” We also acknowledge it is important today to make a strong statement against the sin of the alt-right. We also confess grief that it does not appear much has been accomplished in the realm of racial reconciliation in the last 25 years (and think of those who have lived with racism for 250 years). We have made progress, for which we are thankful, and we will not despise the day of small beginnings (Zech. 4:10). And yet, we also need to be eager to maintain, to make every effort, to be diligent to keep or maintain the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).
Now is the time to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, the true and only hope for reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:18-21) and reconciliation with one another (Eph. 2:14-16), and to live out the truth of the gospel in life and relationships. Racial reconciliation among believers in the church of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest manifestations of the gospel today, one of the greatest apologetic arguments for (or against) the work of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
One final application point for the EFCA as we proclaim and live out the gospel. Because we are predominately a white denomination, 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.
Dear God, “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).
Greg Strand, executive director of theology and credentialing, and Alejandro Mandes, executive director of All People Ministry, each wrote blogs on the EFCA's response against racism. Read "The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the EFCA, and Racism" and "An Open Letter to Those Who are Struggling."
The New Racism
Resolution adopted at General Conference, 1992
The Evangelical Free Church of America
As Christians, we deplore racism as sin against fellow human beings who are created in the image of God. Racism has undergone a recent resurgence with an increase in violence evidenced by racial confrontations on college campuses, numerous racially biased crimes, the increased visibility and boldness of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, and various other separatist movements. Racism is also present in more subtle and passive forms in institutional settings where systems of discrimination prevent the upward mobility of gifted and qualified individuals. It is also present in racially discriminatory housing patterns, in the neglect and avoidance of people who are racially different, in the use of racially offensive language and humor, and at the level of individual prejudices and biases which heighten tension and perpetuate misunderstanding between racially different people. 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. Inequalities of economic and political resources and competition for economic and political advantage often causes this irrational belief to surface. 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.
Preparing spiritually for the inevitable tensions and conflicts which will threaten the unity of the Body as the Free Church family becomes multi-ethnic and multi-racial in composition.
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.
Celebrating the presence and participation of our brothers and sisters in Christ from all ethnic and racial backgrounds in our local churches, our districts and national ministry efforts.
This Resolution on The New Racism is an important affirmation of the truth of the Bible, as articulated in the EFCA Statement of Faith.