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Below is the letter: After Charleston: A Commitment to Solidarity and a Call to Action Among Christian Leaders, in it's entirety. It represents a public witness to the collective commitment expressed by Christian leaders on June 25, 2015. 

 

During his impassioned eulogy at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston last week, President Obama warned that, “It would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual.”

We will not betray all that Reverend Pinckney stood for, we will not ignore the words of our President, and we will not go back to business as usual. Though we live in a time of incredibly fast news cycles and short attention spans, we commit ourselves to a long-term journey. The incidence of arson in several black churches in just the last few days indi- cate the seriousness of the ongoing malady of racism in our society.

In the aftermath of unspeakable evil and the ongoing experience of immeasurable pain, as sisters and brothers in the American Church we present this statement as a public witness to the commitments made by Christian leaders listed below who have endorsed and signed this statement.

As we mourn the loss of each of the nine sisters and brothers slain in Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC, we believe that we can move in the love of God that enables us to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. What if we, the white majority, could say, “After Charleston, we own the pain of our family?” What if we could say, “After Charleston that we did everything we could to ensure something like this nev- er happens again?” In the next 5, 10 or 15, years, what if we can look back and say with certainty, “After Charleston we decided to make a change?”

As Christian leaders in the majority culture, we accept the invitation from our African American brothers and sisters, to enter into their lives, own our part in the national dia- logue on race, and promote efforts, along with our Asian American, Latino American, and Native American sisters and brothers, that bring about lasting change.

Recently, in dialogue with some of the nation’s prominent African American Christian leaders, we have already begun our journey toward reconciliation, historical reckoning, listening, learning and cooperative action. As we move forward, we commit ourselves to the following nine points:

  1. We accept the scriptural idea of bearing responsibility and repenting for our on- going complicity in the sins of our ancestors. “We will have to repent in this genera- tion not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the ap- palling silence of the good people” (Letter from Birmingham Jail). In line with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, as true today as in 1963, we repent for our silence and commit ourselves to understanding and practicing in our churches the biblical call to corporate repentance. We call upon others to join us in making a visit to an African American church in our community in the next six months to repent, to build friend- ships and to identify ways we can build relationships of trust between our churches.

  2. We face our nation’s historical and contemporary realities with honesty and hu- mility. In this moment, we believe that it is past time to figure out what it means to live with our deepest differences and sorrows, together as sisters and brothers. We trust the wisdom of African American leaders who state this dialogue cannot be led by African Americans alone. We believe that as white Christian leaders we can and should own our part in this nationwide dialogue that focuses on what it means to be reconciled first unto ourselves, and to recognize and confess the latent biases that we carried throughout society. We commit ourselves to strengthening and expanding the “Overcoming Evil with Good” dialogue that was begun in the days immediately after Charleston.

  3. We commit to learning more about the history and experiences of our sisters and brothers and teaching our communities the full history of our common story in the light of God. There is a history that speaks even when no one wills to listen. There is a common story into which we must enter into with sobriety and integrity. We must study the past in order to reckon with our common history and work toward a brighter future as Americans.

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  4. We look to our brothers and sisters in the African American church who are will- ing to help us understand our implicit biases and how they impact and harm us all as Americans. We must enter into their pain; there are paths we need to walk. Our hearts need to be broken by the realities of racism, what it does and what it does not do. We cannot afford to be impatient, rushing past a solemn and collective reckoning of the magnitude of this massacre.

  5. We must raise and address genuine questions in fellowship with one another. Will we rise up and call this what it is? Will we call this sin? Will we recognize the nature and consequences of America’s original sin? Will the church rise to the occasion and call Americans to repentance? Will we study to understand why some children grow up without a racist bone in their bodies, while others are raised with racist hatred? In- difference to these and other questions is not acceptable. Nor is inaction and silence.

  6. We commit ourselves to working hard in the pursuit of conversations and con- crete solutions for the common good and the flourishing of all communities in America. This is a calling for the courage to overcome fear and enter into spaces of discomfort, misunderstanding, and struggle. This process is part of the hard work needed to develop and strengthen alternatives to violence and strife so pervasive in our society.

  7. We will seek God’s redemptive purpose in this tragedy while relinquishing our own grandiosity and notions of privilege. With strength and wisdom from the Lord, we commit to working together with our African American sisters and brothers to deal with the broader malady of racism in our country, a condition that cannot be separated from the deformed state of our own souls and the dysfunctions in our churches. We will rightfully embed racial reconciliation into the systemic life and work of the church, so that leaders who grow large churches without contributing to racial recon- ciliation will not be counted as “successful.”

  8. We must never forget our slain sisters and brothers and the responses of their families and the wider church family. They are examples of Christian faith, fidelity and forgiveness that we must esteem and emulate in our private and public interactions. We remember their examples as we ourselves work to model long-term relation- ships of solidarity marked by genuine hospitality that flows beyond the four walls of the church into our communities, cities, and nation at large. We commit ourselves to making a pilgrimage to Charleston to visit Emanuel AME Church simply to repent and pray. We invite others we lead to do the same.

  9. We commit ourselves to finding and sharing stories of hope and using these testimonies to help the Church in America fulfill her potential to be a great force today for good, human flourishing, and lasting change in the world. As Christians whose deepest hope is grounded in the atoning work of the One who alone can cleanse us from all unrighteousness, we look to the lives of so many who have shared in his suffering. These testimonies strengthen us during this time and shape our identity as citizens of heaven. These testimonies can inspire our collective actions for good as citizens of this nation in the here and now. 

SIGNATORIES

These are the Christian leaders signing the After Charleston Commitment, listed in alphabetical order.

Roberta Ahmanson – Writer and Philanthropist
Katherine Alsdorf – Founder, Redeemer Center for Faith & Work
Katelyn Beaty – Managing Editor of Christianity Today
Doug Birdsall – President, The Civilitas Group
Barry Corey – President, Biola University
Andy Crouch – Executive Editor, Christianity Today
Jim Daly – President, Focus on the Family
Leanne Van Dyk – President, Columbia Theological Seminary
Wayne Gordon – President, Christian Community Development Association Cherie Harder – CEO, The Trinity Forum
Tim Keller – Author, Founding Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Jo Anne Lyon – General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church
Russell Moore – President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Rich Mouw – President Emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary
Shirley Mullen – President, Houghton College
John Ortberg – Author, Senior Minister, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church Rick Warren – Author, Founding Pastor, Saddleback Church

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RESPONSE FROM AFRICAN AMERICAN CHRISTIAN LEADERS

We are grateful for this thoughtful expression of commitment and the call to action. Our reasons are threefold. First, we have been able to review to our satisfaction the letter that our friends have produced and endorsed. Second, and relatedly, dialogue has already be- gun. Shortly after the Charleston massacre we joined our brothers and sisters on a lengthy web conference, during which time we all sensed the beginnings of what we hope will be a long-term process marked by humility, patience, candid and common sense talk about race, and creative efforts to improve the lives of all Americans. Indeed, this statement it- self is a product of dialogue, prayer, and collaboration with African American leaders. This is a start, but we need and desire more. Which leads to our final reason for gratitude: concrete plans are now in place for further dialogue and shared work in the days ahead. For these reasons and more, we are grateful to our friends for this letter and we affirm it in its entirety.

SIGNATORIES

Bishop Claude Alexander – Pastor, The Park Church, Charlotte
Bishop Charles Blake – Senior Pastor, West Angeles Church of God in Christ
Bishop John Bryant – Presiding Prelate, Fourth Episcopal District, A.M.E. Church Joshua Dubois – CEO, Values Partnerships
Robert Franklin – President Emeritus, Morehouse College
C. Jeffrey Wright – CEO and President, Urban Ministries Inc. Dale Jones – CEO, Diversified Search
Otis Moss, Jr. – Pastor Emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Barbara Williams-Skinner – President and Co-Founder,The Skinner Leadership Institute

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