From Pastor Olivia
I am still smiling as I think about our time together at District Assembly a few weeks ago! What a joy to be together. We learned a lot as Dr. Gustavo Crocker opened the Scriptures and led us in a workshop. We celebrated the ordination of Reverend Carey Dunlop and Reverend Sandra Hanson. What a testament to the God who calls and leads and equips those among us for ministry as pastors! We celebrated our diversity by singing together and hearing prayers in Spanish, and hearing Scripture read in Swahili. I am grateful for how our district gives us a foretaste of heaven–every tribe, every nation, every tongue around the throne of God (Rev. 7:9). It was a glorious time to celebrate all that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do through Christ’s Church. But that foretaste of the heavenly vision often runs straight into the brokenness of our world, doesn’t it?
A great tragedy has happened on our district. The city of Buffalo has been rocked by the horrific news of a race-based mass shooting this past weekend. My heart has been heavy as I have read articles and wrestled with the reality of sin. The fear and terror of White Supremacy has impacted the families of the murdered and injured, those who were witnesses to the violence, and all of our sisters and brothers of color who have to wonder if they will be harmed based solely on their skin color. And it isn’t just in Buffalo. The shooter is from another community on our district. His family and friends are certainly reeling from the reality of what hate and racism have led him to do. The shooter is not alone in his hate. Driving across the many miles of Central New York I’ve seen signs, flags, and bumper stickers that reveal there are others.
We celebrated our diversity at assembly… and yet, we live in a world that is broken in such a way by sin that it wants to destroy that heavenly vision we shared. Friends, White Supremacy is sin. It has no place in the Kingdom of God. Any theory that suggests that we have to fear the other because they are going to "replace" us is anti-Gospel. In God’s economy there is enough room, resources, and power for all of us to be who we were created to be. We do not need to be people who are afraid of what we might lose in the Kingdom of God! The reality of diversity, sharing in power and position, and giving of our own resources is that we gain so much more when we stand shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with people of every race and nation.
Let’s be reminded of what our global denomination states on this issue in Manual paragraph 915:
Therefore, we renounce any form of racial and ethnic indifference, exclusion, subjugation, or oppression as a grave sin against God and our fellow human beings. We lament the legacy of every form of racism throughout the world, and we seek to confront that legacy through repentance, reconciliation, and biblical justice. We seek to repent of every behavior in which we have been overtly or covertly complicit with the sin of racism, both past and present; and in confession and lament we seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
Further, we acknowledge that there is no reconciliation apart from human struggle to stand against and to overcome all personal, institutional and structural prejudice responsible for racial and ethnic humiliation and oppression. We call upon Nazarenes everywhere to identify and seek to remove acts and structures of prejudice, to facilitate occasions for seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, and to take action toward empowering those who have been marginalized.
Jesus has called us to be a light to the world. In the midst of the darkness of violence, racism, and hate we must be bearers of peace, community, and love. We also must be people of action. Can I invite you to do a few things with me as we process this tragedy?
First, pray. Let’s ask the Lord to reveal any prejudice within us. Invite the Holy Spirit to “search me… and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts” (Ps 139:23). Let’s ask Jesus to bring His peace into any fears we may have, particularly as they relate to those who are different from us. And for our churches in the Buffalo area-- Amherst, Buffalo First, Buffalo Message of Life, Buffalo Temple of God in Christ, and Sanborn Faith Community-- may God empower them to be his outposts of justice, mercy and humility (Micah 6:8).
Second, learn. We will be adding resources to our district web page to help with this. No resources are perfect, but the more we learn and listen to others the better we will be at loving one another. Until that page is up and running, here are some places to start:
Third, listen. Those who are oppressed among us are not voiceless. They are often silenced. Let’s take time to listen to the stories of people we work with, go to church with, or who are in our communities. Hear their pain. And as you and I do this, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to convict, empower, and strengthen us to be against racism in all of its many forms.
Fourth, speak up. We all have the power of our voice. When you hear a racist comment you have the ability to speak up. When you see a verbally violent post you have the ability to speak up. God has given us a voice to use. May we use our voices to advocate for those who often have their voices silenced.
Friends, let’s be reminded that God is “entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” We are to be ambassadors for Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:16-21). Our society–so clearly malformed by sin– needs the Church to be bearers of this Good News. It needs to see that in God’s new society (the Church) we don’t have to be people of hate, fear, violence or death, but we can be people who “become the righteousness of God” in this world. We have Godly work to do!