This weekend was a sobering reminder that the work of a church leader doesn’t exist in the isolation of a Sunday morning service or even the context of the local community. In the light of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, pastors should speak clearly and wisely with their parishes. Obviously, rhetoric alone is not enough—Christian communities will declare what they believe by their actions in the wake of this moment—but we have the pastoral responsibility to speak the truth in love and help those we serve to know how best to respond.
It’s a challenging moment and a moment that no pastor ought to face alone. Fortunately, there are helpful resources and responses from across the church. We will continue to update this throughout the week and encourage you to share your own response—tweet @KolbyKerr or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background and Context:
- The Gospel Coalition provides an FAQ for Christians trying to identify and understand the “Alt-Right.”
- Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition created a list of Ten Reasons Racism is Offensive to God (from June 2015).
- The Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley (PCA) wrote a theologically and biblically thorough letter on racism and the gospel for its churches last year. A deep dive with lots of action steps and resources.
- Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, wrote a guide for pastors in responding to Charlottesville for Christianity Today.
- ACNA Archbishop The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic John Guernsey, and the Anglican Multiethnic Network all give their statements.
- Greg Goebel of Anglican Pastor shares his thoughts.
- A stirring response written by Christine Hoover, from Charlottesville, VA.
- Drawing from Spurgeon, a call to mourn and lament a domestic sorrow and national woe, from Abdu Murray of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
- Russell Moore writes for the Washington Post on what angers Jesus and what should anger his church.
- Relevant magazine collects tweeted responses from Christian leaders.
- UPDATE: Rev. David Trautman of Trinity Anglican Church in Thomasville, Georgia, reflects on two 20th century saints who provide perspective for our days.
- Rich Villodas of Missio Alliance created a congregational prayer for churches in response to Charlottesville, with a beautiful refrain: Oh Lord, only you can make all things new.
As for me, I did not re-write my sermon on Matthew 14:22-33, but I did take a moment at the beginning to address the events. Here are my words for Restoration Anglican Church:
“After spending the past couple of days being bombarded with images from Charlottesville, I just want to speak plainly for a moment.
And really, it’s just a call for all of us to speak plainly. Because we shouldn’t be silent and hope that somehow everyone knows how we stand. We don’t have to delve into Twitter battles, and we don’t have to puff ourselves up with moral superiority, but we must bear witness to the way of Jesus in the face of evil.
We’ve witnessed evil. This isn’t just sin, isn’t just institutional sin, these are the powers and principalities that Paul speaks of. The idolatry of nationalism, the idolatry of racial identity—these things are not merely un-Christian, these are enemies of the mission of the gospel in the world. I hope that you are able to make that clear to your your non-believing friends. Because we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and in him there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free.
As we are reading this passage this morning and allowing it to speak to our hearts and speak to where we are in our own lives, I pray that we wouldn’t divorce those lessons from their political and communal implications. Because we are called to respond to evil when we see it loose in the world, just as we must respond to it when we see it loose in our own hearts.”