Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
On August 9, 2014 Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. This horrific incident created a line of separation in our community and nation. The city of St. Louis is now viewed through the racialized lens created when a white policeman killed a black man. Sides have been taken.
During the riots that followed after Michael Brown’s shooting, Southminster Presbyterian church took a bold step and held a prayer vigil for their neighbor who happened to be Darren Wilson, the policeman who killed Brown. The national media seized on this division of North side Ferguson churches praying for Michael Brown while white suburban Southminster prayed for Darren Wilson. It was an ugly and dishonest comparison creating a false dichotomy: Ferguson versus Southminster.
Earlier this year, Dr. Mark Laberton, president of Fuller Seminary, gave a powerful and moving presentation to a meeting of evangelical leader at Wheaton College in Chicago. I encourage you to read the entire speech. You can read it here. If you substitute the word “Presbyterianism” for “evangelicalism” the text rings familiar.
Laberton said, “Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves.”
Are we as Presbyterians guilty of this same alignment and complicity with power and the dominant culture?
The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy is attempting to push back against the dominant culture and the unjust emphasis that create racialized realities. This is why we are having anti-racism training. We are determined not to be defined by a cultural lens that pits us against one another because of the color of our skin. As a presbytery and as Christians, we are committed to a faith that goes deeper than the nightly news, neighborhoods, high school of origin, or any other form of racialization we are exposed to.
These first steps will happen at Ferguson and Southminster.
On Friday night, the presbytery will meet in Ferguson. Crossroads will provide training for leaders who want to be in front of our presbytery wide conversations on race. On Saturday Crossroads will provide training during our Presbytery Gathering at Southminster. This is for everyone who desires to confront, acknowledge, and take steps to move beyond the racial chasm in our city and communities.
I applaud First Ferguson and Southminster for stepping forward to host these conversations. They are symbolic places that have decided to be part of the solution, and not continue to widen the wound in St. Louis, and our Presbytery.
Now it is your turn. Change starts with each of us. Change starts when we come together to pray, fellowship, worship, and have communion as God’s people. Here is where you register. I look forward to seeing you this weekend.
Rev. Craig M. Howard