When it comes to the church and race in the United States, we are ashamed of our sins and failures, grateful beyond measure for forgiveness, and eager to see afresh the glory of God and to embody conformity to his Son. Join us in that prayerful pursuit of a counter-cultural church for the common good.
When we founded The Gospel Coalition in 2005, the members of the Council sought to address a major weakness in many past efforts to unite evangelicals—we resolved to cross more than denominational and geographical lines: we aimed also to transcend our ethnic divisions.
The Gospel Coalition is committed to God’s multi-ethnic vision for the church. We are aiming to do a number of things during the next several months to bring this important conversation to the forefront. On Tuesday, we are grateful to sponsor this week’s “A Time to Speak” event live-streamed from the historic Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Several of our Council members and other contributors will be participating, including Darrin Patrick, John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Voddie Baucham. We hope you’ll tune in on Tuesday, December 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. CST at live.kainos.is.
In addition, we are dedicating the plenary panel discussion at our national conference in April to the topic of race. We are planning other special events during those three days where we can talk openly and honestly about the difficult next steps toward understanding, reconciliation, and justice. We will continue to convene the debate on our website with various perspectives offered through articles, blogs, videos, audio, and book reviews. Behind the scenes there have been countless hours of discussion as we confess that not all of us read these issues the same way, even as all of us seek to bring our perspectives to the test of Scripture.
In some clear ways the challenges posed by ethnic differences have improved since the end of Jim Crow in the United States. But in other ways the race question in America has grown far more complex. The recent deaths of unarmed black men in confrontations with white police officers have reopened old wounds that many mistakenly thought had already healed.
Worldwide we have known for some time that global trends call for evangelicals to devote resources toward building multi-ethnic urban churches. The events of recent days underscore that need. More importantly, Scripture itself compels us toward the vision of Revelation, when rich and poor, highly educated and less educated, men and women, old and young, married and single, and all races and languages, will join their voices in one song of praise to the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-10).
We must harbor no illusions about the difficulties facing us this side of the new heavens and new earth. Neither should we underestimate the power of the gospel to enable power-sharing and relationship-building among races, classes, and generations that are alienated. The hope for New York and Ferguson and any other grieving community can be found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. As our Theological Vision of Ministry at TGC states:
The gospel replaces superiority toward the poor with mercy and compassion. Christian churches must work for justice and peace in their neighborhoods through service even as they call individuals to conversion and the new birth. We must work for the eternal and common good and show our neighbors we love them sacrificially whether they believe as we do or not. Indifference to the poor and disadvantaged means there has not been a true grasp of our salvation by sheer grace.
At our best, confessing Christians have not been content to trail behind the culture on such matters. Drawing on the power of the gospel, God’s people have led the conversation and followed up on the Word with deeds. We may not always agree on the best courses of action, but we must never be content with a status quo that so many of our minority brothers and sisters insist assaults their dignity as made in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Don Carson and Tim Keller
The Gospel Coalition