“As long as God is continuing to reconcile men to himself, he’s going to be continuing to reconcile men and women to one another.”
During The Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference, Kristie Anyabwile, Courtney Doctor, Elicia Horton, Irene Sun, and Shar Walker participated in a panel discussion titled “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation.” They addressed a number of sensitive, yet incredibly important, topics—from why conversations about racial reconciliation are still necessary, to biblical passages that deal with division, to how Christians should engage in these ongoing conversations, to helpful resources for racially tense discussions.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Shar Walker: My name is Shar Walker, and I serve on staff in Lynchburg, Virginia with a college ministry called Campus Outreach. I have been on staff for seven years now and have really loved giving my life away to college students, and I am very excited to introduce our panel here in a second. I feel like I’m on a stage of rock stars personally. I’m excited to share a little bit about our panelists, but before we do, I just want to frame our time to say we’ve talked offline before we got here and have been praying for this room. We definitely recognize the topic of race and race relations as it pertains to the US. I think maybe this is probably potentially the most sensitive panel, and maybe even one of the most timely that’s here.
Shar Walker: We really want to commit our time to the Lord and address it in such a way that is helpful, that is honest, and that really is encouraging and spurs you guys on wherever you are in the conversation. I want to hang in front of us this verse, and I’m going to pray this verse for us. After that, I’m going to introduce our panelists and we’re going to jump in because I feel like times like this, we get to the end and it feels like there’s never really enough time. The verse I want to hang in front of us is Colossians 3:12 through 14, Colossians 3:12 through 14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another.
Shar Walker: Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” I’ll pray for us and then we’ll dive in. Father, I thank you so, so much. We can only approach your throne of grace because of the blood of Christ, Lord and the blood of Christ and your church is beautiful. She is multi-ethnic. She is a people like everyone in this room who in our own ways, we are in process and being sanctified Lord. I pray over our conversation, pray for the power of your spirit for our panelists here.
Shar Walker: Lord, I plead that the words of their mouth and the meditations of their heart would be acceptable in your sight, and I pray that each of us would put on compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness as we begin to discuss a topic that is important to you and a topic that is weighty in our nation’s history, and maybe even has gone long and dealt with for some time now. God, pray for your grace and your mercy in our time. We pray these things in Jesus name, amen.
Shar Walker: Okay. To my left, I have Courtney Doctor. She is joining us from St. Louis Missouri. Yeah, St. Louis. She’s a Bible teacher and a conference and retreat speaker, an author, a wife, a mother, a mother-in-law, a grandmother to an amazing grandson. I don’t know him personally, but she says he’s amazing. She received an MDiv from covenant seminary, and she serves on the advisory board of Covenant College, author of From Garden to Glory, a Bible study of God’s Bible story, which is an amazing Bible study. I highly recommend it. She loves Jesus, her family, coffee, me too, riding horses, and is deeply honored to serve on this panel day. Elicia Horton is joining us from Long Beach, California.
Shar Walker: I’m going out of order, I’m sorry. Okay, Elicia Horton is joining us from Long Beach, California, but she is a Midwest native to her hometown in Kansas City. She’s married to her best friend, D.A. Horton, and will be celebrating 15 years of marriage in June, so this month. That’s exciting. She is a mother of three, a homeschool mom, an author, a basketball coach, a Bible teacher, conference speaker, and writer. She has received both her MS in religious studies and an organizational development from Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary. She recently co-authored a book with her husband titled Enter the Ring, which was released this past January.
Shar Walker: She is looking to do a book and music tour with her husband this coming fall. Irene Sun, two to my left, has been an Asian-American for a grand total of two years when she became an American citizen, and she’s been an immigrant living in the US for 18 years. She was born in Malaysia, a Muslim country that is also racially diverse. She has also lived in Indonesia and Tahiti for some time with her parents who were missionaries. She is married to Hans, a preacher in the Chicago area. She homeschools four boys. She has a degree in Old Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an MA in liturgy and literature from Yale University. She’s super smart, that’s basically what that means.
Shar Walker: She’s super smart and I’m sure you guys know our final panelist to the far left, Kristie Anyabwile is the wife of the Thabiti Anyabwile, who serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington DC. She is the joyful mother of two daughters and one son. She’s a wife, a mother, a homemaker who loves leading Bible studies, discipling women, cooking, hospitality, and reading. These are our panelists. We will dive right in. First question is it’s been 155 years since the emancipation of slaves, 73 years since the Japanese internment camps and 50 years since Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination. Why would you say we’re still here? Yeah. Why is a panel like this necessary after the time that has passed in our nation given the racial tension? I’m opening it up to any of you guys.
Audience: I was thinking about that earlier today and I thought if my body had received some type of trauma or injury, if I had a broken bone and that wound, that injury had never been dealt with, or it hadn’t been dealt with properly, I would not stop seeking healing until the bone was set, until the healing was complete because that’s my body. I am going to pursue it until it’s healed correctly and fully. We are the body of Christ, and we have wounds, and we have traumas, and we have injuries that have not been dealt with, or not been dealt with properly. We need to stay here, and we need to work on this until the body of Christ is healed.
Irene Sun: When even the question itself assumes as though time can wash away sin and time does not wash away sin, only the blood of Jesus can wash away sin. We’re talking about it because we need the gospel. We need to help one another, see our blind spots. We need to help one another. We need to admonish one another. We need to see the sin and hate the wickedness in ourselves, and you were going down the American history, but I grew up in different countries and to be honest, we’re all racist. There are racists all over the world. I was telling my sister just today how Chinese, we in the Hakka dialect, everyone else is a ghost or demon, but only Chinese people are people.
Irene Sun: My friend Marta from Spain, she gave me permission to share this, but when she was here in the united states, she saw the segregation and she thought it was a horrible thing. When she went back to Spain, she saw the segregation between the Spaniards and the gypsies. It’s not an American history. It’s a human history and racism is part of our fallen nature.
Kristie Anyabwile: I’m not really adding anything into the conversation, but I was just thinking about just pinpointing what you ladies are saying that as long as God is continuing to reconcile men to himself, he’s going to be continuing to reconcile men and women to one another. That just is a challenge to us to not be complacent in the work of reconciliation because as long as Jesus is still saving, he still has work for us to do in this call to racial reconciliation.
Elicia Horton: Just briefly adding because I think everybody has said it really great. I feel like because we’re looking at it as a their problem and not our problem, I feel like then we’re still hanging on to our preferences. I feel like God has to start with the church to help us understand what are the racisms and the preferences that are in our own heart. Just like what my sister is saying, it’s not just necessarily American history. We’re feeling the effects of it because we live here in America, but racism is the sinfulness of our human hearts. I feel like once we realize that it is a our problem, then we begin to look at it differently and take different posture to it and a different perspective on how we can now move forward, not just continuing the conversation, but being about it.
Shar Walker: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that’s a good segue. I’m going to add a question. Where in God’s word have we seen there be division among groups of people and/or tensions that might not have been racial, but might be ethnic, and then where in God’s word has there been precedence for a conversation like ethnic unity to happen? Both are centered on God’s word, but where do we see historical division, and then where do we see a precedence for there actually should be unity within God’s church and among his people? Anyone.
Courtney Doctor: Well, I would just say that the entire thrust of the biblical narrative is that God is saving and redeeming a people for himself, and he goes out of his way to let us know that it is people from every tribe tongue language and nation. We can go back as far as Genesis 12:3 and Abraham is blessed so that the families of the earth would be blessed, and just it continues on through the Old Testament, but man when you hit the New Testament, I mean it is front and center. The last words on our savior’s lips before the crucifixion in John 17, “Our father make them one,” because he knows what he’s about to do. The last words on his lips before the ascension Matthew 28 and Acts 1 are go into all nations, making disciples, baptizing, go.
Courtney Doctor: The first act of the holy spirit when he’s poured out is to bring men from every nation, and everybody heard it in their own tongue. The entire New Testament deals with over and over and over again. Our biblical authors are saying you need to move towards each other across lines of ethnic division. Acts, the forming of the church, the first problem in the church is Acts 6, right? You have probably the establishment of the diaconate at that point, because there was conflict between the Greek and the Hebrew widows. It was ethnic division, and they come in and they say, “This should not be.”
Courtney Doctor: You go to Acts 10 and you have Peter, and he has to have a vision three times just to get the idea that he’s supposed to go visit with Cornelius. Because Cornelius, there’s socioeconomic division and there’s ethnic division, and what does Peter say to him? He says, “Truly now I understand that God shows no partiality.” Then you move all the way through, but man when we get to the end of the story, I mean Revelation 5 and 7, it’s all about… There’s so much unity there, right? There’s one throne, there is one king, there is one voice, there is one song. We are worshiping one God, but we are doing it… God goes out of his way to say that there will be people of every shade and tone of skin. It’s throughout the entire biblical narrative that this is God’s heart for his people.
Shar Walker: Amen. I don’t know if we can say much more, there we go. I think one thing I’ve loved about Revelation also is in John’s vision, he actually sees the ethnic distinctions there, every tribe nation in tongue. Everyone’s not like washed to be the same ethnicity, and that doesn’t necessarily go away when we get to eternity, but he takes note. Like you said, makes a point to mention some of those realities. A follow-up question, so it seems like a lot of people outside of the context of the church, so maybe non-Christians in the world, especially in America are having this conversation. How is the way Christians have it? How should that be different, or what distinction should there be in the way that we’re having this conversation?
Irene Sun: Equality is not the solution because I think everywhere else we go, everyone’s saying equal rights, equal rights, equal rights, but in Philippians, it says no, count others better than yourself, count others more important, more significant, more special than yourself, love… and this is a new commandment I’m giving to you and why is it new? Because you should love one another as I have loved you. I mean that blows my mind because it’s no longer love your neighbor as you love yourself as in the Old Covenant, but in a New Covenant it’s, we are to love one another the way that Christ loves us, and that means suffering for one another and dying for one another.
Elicia Horton: That’s good. I think I would add obviously, there’s a lot of talk about the race issue still, and I feel like it’s always good to remember that all mankind are made in the image of God. That’s what we are supposed to remind ourselves as believers to look at each individual in the Imago Dei, in the image of God. When we do that, then like what my sister is saying, there is no equality of that in the realm of yes, we are equal, but in the sense of let me serve you, let me sacrifice for you, let me consider your narrative, your needs, your experience above my own, that puts it in a different playing field.
Elicia Horton: I feel like when we take that advantage, or we take that perspective and that vantage point, then we are allowing God, the holy spirit who governs us to really work on our own hearts, so that we can truly understand and not just empathize with people, but help those who have a narrative that is different than ours and help them gain clarity, and to bring back dignity to a people that has been stripping away from them. I feel like it moves us to a position of really understanding our brothers and sisters, and really focusing on what is their needs above our own. It puts a whole different twist on how we move forward and how we engage people, how we minister to people.
Elicia Horton: I feel like as Christians, again the world is watching, and what are we doing to show them the one and others as it relates to this type of topic?
Kristie Anyabwile: Yeah. Yeah, I think also Christians need to recapture biblical words and terms, and I think we need to really caution ourselves against using the world’s definitions for God’s words. When you’re talking about equality insist in the world, equality means sameness. Nowhere in the Bible does equality mean everyone is the same. A lot of tensions that we see now are just rooted in we’re using the world’s definitions for what God has clearly defined for us in his word, and we just need to recapture those things. Another way that I think Christians should be different in how we engage this topic is God has been so gracious to call us, yeah, to love him, to love one another, and that love looks like empathy as Christ has loved us, but again it’s one of those terms.
Kristie Anyabwile: When someone says, “Oh, yeah, it’s loving,” we’re quick to say, “Is loving to tell someone a harsh thing?” We want to do that, but when love looks like laying down our lives and when love looks like empathizing with someone, when love looks like entering into their world and not trying to change them or fix them or just to listen and learn, we have a really hard time with loving in that way, in a sacrificial, self-debasing for lack of a better word way. Again, it’s just one of those words that we give over to the culture and in how we use them, and we just need to recapture them as believers.
Shar Walker: Irene, Kristie, and Elicia, describe the first time you were aware that you were an ethnic minority, or maybe if not the first time, maybe a time you were consciously aware I at least look different than those around me?
Kristie Anyabwile: Well, I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, eastern North Carolina, tobacco country like the whole nine. The one incident that stands out to me when I was… I wasn’t quite a teenager, but my sister worked in a fast food restaurant. It’s a small town, everybody hangs out in fast food restaurant. I was there hanging out and a little white girl comes in with her grandpa. They come in and order food and then the grandpa left. I think he went to get a drink, or maybe he went to the restaurant. I’m not sure, but somehow me and the little girl were left by ourselves for a few minutes. I’m being nice, “Hi, little girl. How are you?” She’s just, “You know hi, you know,” just how just trying to communicate with her and she says, “I can’t talk to you.”
Kristie Anyabwile: I said, “Oh you know, I’m thinking stranger danger, right?” She said, “I can’t talk to you because I’m white and you’re black.” It was just a moment as a kid hearing this from another, she might have been… If I was 11 or 12, she might have been four or five. I’m seeing in this young girl, her being discipled taught, trained by someone to separate herself because of how she looks, or because of how they look, so many others.
Elicia Horton: Yeah, the experience I had was I had just graduated high school early. I started working full time at Target 1 Hour Photo, yey! That was my first real job. I remember my sister picking me up after work and saying, “Hey, let’s go to the mall.” We’re like, “All right, cool.” We go to the mall and I’ll leave the name, but I’m pretty sure after I described you were like okay, I think I know that store, but basically it’s a store full of accessories for tweens and teens, and you can find about anything in there from glasses to barrettes to everything. We went in there hoping just to kill time, and I remember walking in there and trying on glasses.
Elicia Horton: The little mirror that’s above there, let’s be real like I want to see the whole picture, right? Because I want to see like what it looks like from top to bottom with these glasses, right? I take them and I take them to the back of the store because that’s where the full mirror was. I look at them and just like everybody else shamelessly, we don’t put them back, right? We just stick them to the side if we don’t like them. I just stuck them to the side because I wasn’t going to buy them, and I just kept it moving. I remember we were starting to look a little bit more, but my sister was like, “Hey, let’s go ahead and try to grab something to eat.”
Elicia Horton: We’re heading out the store and the lady goes, “Hey, you, bring those back here,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” She’s like, “You know what I’m talking about,” and I’m like, “Ma’am, I really don’t know what you’re talking about.” She said, “Those glasses you stole.” Anybody that knows my sister by that time, she’s a big sister a.k.a mama bear. She stopped popping her earrings off and was like, “First of all, like don’t you talk to my sister that way,” and I was beginning to explain to her like, “No ma’am, I put the glasses back,” and she says, “No, you didn’t” Her and my sister had exchange of words.
Elicia Horton: I’ll leave out those, but long story short, this statement that she said forever sticks to my mind because my sister says, “Well, why would you think that she stole those? She’s clearly telling you they’re back at the back of the store.” She said, “Well, you guys look guilty before you first walked in here. You look suspicious,” and I was just like, “Yikes, I mean I had my Target red shirt on with my khakis,” right? I’m like, “That’s suspicious?” Maybe I guess, right? I guess what stood out to me was the fact at that moment, I realized she wasn’t judging me based off of what I was wearing. She was judging me based off my skin color and that stung, and it was.
Elicia Horton: It was a white woman, and so actually long story short, my brother-in-law who’s African-American, those types of situations really eat at him. We actually took them to court and settled out of court because they were wrongfully racial profiling us and discriminating us and all those things, but it just really stunk to me. To this day, I still remember that story vividly of being different.
Irene Sun: Wow. As Shar said, Malaysia is a multicultural country. We’re very used to being different from everyone else, because there are Muslims and Malays and indigenous people and Indians and Chinese, but it wasn’t until I came to the United States for the first time when I was 10 when I felt small. I remember just generally, I remember my parents were asked whether it was the first time we wore clothes, whether we ran around naked in the jungle like in the national geographic of course. I remember being in fourth grade and being made fun of for my nose. I mean I understand that it’s weird because if you take a pen, I can touch both my eyes at the same time. You’re supposed to laugh. It’s not like it’s funny.
Irene Sun: It’s okay to laugh at my nose, but I just remember one specific incident was I had to ask my dad for the details of the story, but we were in the Dallas airport. My dad had four little girls at the time, and he went to KFC to get food for us. Because you have to hold the tray with both hands, he set down his briefcase containing all of our documents. I remember he said that it was about an hour when we lost all of those documents, where he said he doesn’t think our passports were in there, but everything else that prove that we were not criminals was in that briefcase. I just remember my mom holding all of our hands and while my dad’s running around the airport telling us we need to pray, we need to pray hard because we have to board the airplane soon and we don’t know where this briefcase is.
Irene Sun: It has a happy ending because a cleaning lady saved our lives and return my dad’s briefcase to the information desk, but it just made me that feeling of being defined by ink and paper, that immigrants have. You mentioned the word visa, passport, USCIS, US embassy, these words might not mean a lot to you, but to an immigrant, that sets butterflies in my stomach. Because as immigrants, we are guilty until we are proven that we’re innocent like you said. We are worthless until we show that we have money. We are incompetent until we speak English. We are uncivilized until we act like Americans. It was a lifetime and I did not realize that until preparing for this panel that a lot of the times, I’m just trying to prove who I am.
Irene Sun: I’m proving my worth and I’m proving that it is right for me to be here. Then I realized that not everybody else have this same pressure to the need to prove myself all the time and in the case of my parents, I mean they were innocent, but they lost those papers because we needed to eat KFC, and my dad needed to hold the tray with both hands. Stories are just so much more complicated than I think what the media wants to make them out to be. That’s one story that I remember when I felt small and powerless.
Kristie Anyabwile: Can I just hear one other quick thing? I feel like I want to share something that is more every day. When my husband and I were younger, we used to go to shopping malls a lot more often. Early on, he had jobs where he had to dress up, he had to wear suits and stuff like that. I cannot even count how many times we’ve gone in stores and literally gotten zero service from anyone in the store, but other people around us are getting service. “How can I help you? Do you need anything? Can I get someone to help you try this o, or find this for you?” We’re standing there like, “Are we invisible? What happened?” Then we realized that when we went shopping together, we had to dress up.
Kristie Anyabwile: If we wore like jeans and sneakers and just regular clothes like everybody does when they go to the mall, we get nothing, but if we really dressed up and he wore a suit or he wore a shirt and tie, and he dressed a particular way, then he would get serviced sometimes in the stores. That’s the kind of stuff that’s more every day, and I think I don’t know if you all are… I’m sorry, I’m going off a little bit, but I don’t know if you’ve heard of the term microaggressions, but it’s the dailiness of people asking where questions or people want to touch your hair, or people talking about your skin tone, or people assuming you’re having chicken for dinner, or just all kinds of stuff that’s just a daily little… It’s just a little oh, just a little thing, but the dailiness of it adds up over time.
Kristie Anyabwile: I think we’re in a time now where I think a lot of people of color are turning to professional council to deal with what they consider to be racial trauma due to the dailiness of these kinds of things.
Shar Walker: No, that’s great. Yeah, I think one thing I appreciate for all three of you of sharing your heart is because you actually shared how you felt in the midst of those moments, and part of the reason we put the question on there was to show that like whoever we consider to be “the other” or like different than us, those are fellow image bearers with stories, with emotions. I love what you said. I think you said there’s so much more to many stories than what maybe the news gets credit for, or what we really think. I think that’s a good principle to keep in mind I may not have all the answers to a lot of these things, or maybe even all the details to them, to some people’s stories and what’s going on.
Shar Walker: Thank you for sharing that guys. Courtney, I know this is a broad room of people, and I would say on the scale of where people are at in this conversation, it can be anywhere. Speaking specifically to majority culture women in the room, who may be feeling like a conversation like this brings some sort of anxiety or angst or fear or maybe more negative type emotions, what would you say to them, or maybe a word of encouragement, or advice would you give them?
Courtney Doctor: Well, I’d like to start by thanking my white sisters in the room that are here. I’m glad you’re here. Most of you self-selected to come into this workshop, and so that shows a willingness at least, if not a desire to learn and to enter the conversation. I’m really glad that you’re here. I would like to offer three words, and I’ll flush those out a little bit, but the first one is as white women, it is pastime that we listen. That is the first word, listen. It is way pastime that we stop and listen to our brothers and sisters of color telling us what the gift you just received by these women, sharing their hearts, it is a gift. I am praying desperately that we will receive it.
Courtney Doctor: Two things about listening. Listen with humility, listen with a posture to learn. Pay attention as you’re doing that. You mentioned Shar several feelings that might rise up as you hear things, and some of those are good. Sadness is a very appropriate response, anger, defensiveness anxiousness. If you feel that, write it down and take it to the Lord later. Ask him to show you why you’re feeling that in this conversation, and I would also encourage you to listen to a variety of voices. Listen to people that voted differently than you did, that live differently than you do, that think differently than you do because if you live in a world where all of your friends voted like you and everybody repost the same Facebook post, what happens is we form these little tribes, right?
Courtney Doctor: As I picture it like we’re sitting in campfires facing each other, and we just keep repeating the same thing. We say it and they say it back to us, and we say and they say it back to us, and nobody learns anything new that way. Mix it up a little bit, go sit around somebody else’s campfire, and listen, listen with a posture of humility, and listen to learn. You don’t need to defend, you don’t need to freak out. Just listen and when you do, you and I might actually learn something. That’s my second word is listen and then learn. Two things about learning. Learning can be uncomfortable and that is okay. My comfort is not the primary goal in life. Okay. It’s okay to be uncomfortable and of course, I’m uncomfortable.
Courtney Doctor: I’ve stepped on a thousand landmines in this conversation, and I will continue to do. It is uncomfortable, it is painful to see the sin in my own heart and my own life. It is brutally painful and uncomfortable to realize the pain of the experiences of my brothers and sisters of color. Be willing to be uncomfortable, so be willing to learn, be willing to be uncomfortable. The second thing is learning is your responsibility. Okay. The burden of our education does not fall on our brothers and sisters of color. Two, constantly, you are receiving a gift. Okay, you are receiving a gift of people testifying to their experiences, but the resources are abundant and the resources are plentiful.
Courtney Doctor: At the end of this conversation, we’re going to recommend some resources. My challenge to all of my white sisters in the room is pick a minimum of two of those resources. Okay. Read them, watch them, listen and learn as you do. Learning is our responsibility. The last word I want to leave is love. The end goal of this conversation is not simply learning. I want to say this one loud and clear. The compelling factor in this conversation is not guilt. The compelling factor in this conversation is love and as believers, we are called to love what God loves and God loves his church, his beautiful diverse church. He loves his family, and he wants brothers and sisters to love each other deeply.
Courtney Doctor: If you lack empathy for this conversation, or if you are apathetic towards this conversation, please beg the Lord to give you a heart that cares, that loves what he loves. Beg the Lord to align your heart with his heart. Listen to your brothers and sisters of color, learn from them, submit yourselves to their authority on this conversation, and enter into this conversation with a heart of love. I really want to open up this question to my sisters on the panel to say, what would you say to the white women in the room who are specifically new to this conversation?
Shar Walker: I love that you called what their testimonies or their stories a gift, because I would just say something to be aware of, is if you go to a friend of color and you ask them to maybe share an experience, or you ask them what is it like to be a minority, even sometimes retelling the stories can be a bit traumatic, and it can be challenging. I would just say go into the conversation with that sensitivity of like it actually takes a lot to do what they just did, which is to be vulnerable in a room full of strangers. That’s very bold, but just in general, to share with even a close friend like these are some of my experiences. That takes a lot, so just I would say be mindful of some of those realities. I don’t know if you guys would add.
Kristie Anyabwile: I think I would say to my white sisters in the room that just because we’re hurting, doesn’t mean we don’t love you, we do. I think I just want you to know that, that sometimes people share stories and they’re and they share pain and it’s real and it’s raw. It can feel personal to you or maybe have a sense of def… Well, this wasn’t my fault, right? I think the posture is just to remember that sometimes, we just hurt him and it doesn’t have anything to do with you per se. Just trust that your sisters love you, your brothers love you even in the midst of our pain at times.
Elicia Horton: I would also add just even the challenge for our minority sisters as well is that just as much as we want people to listen to us, let’s make sure we’re giving them a listening ear too, because I feel like it’s important for me to understand my white sisters as well, just as much as I want them to understand me. I feel like again, there’s that unity, there’s that commonality that we can start with being the same in Christ and let the gospel be our commonality and showing the differences and the beauty of the gospel by our differences that we have.
Elicia Horton: Just as much as I’m wanting to share my experiences with you, even though they bring up hurt and they do bring up trauma, because that’s just one of many that we have encountered, I still want to understand your sufferings and your pains, and the things that you’ve gone through, maybe from receiving it from the opposite side. I feel like we also need to have the both and when we’re approaching the conversation.
Shar Walker: This next question is open to anyone on the panel, but in what ways do you think the recent election actually affected this conversation? Bringing it up just because I don’t know if there would be any argument in the room that it was a very polarizing and maybe even divisive election, and I’m sure one that would probably go down in history in a unique way, but how would you guys say that the recent election affected this conversation, especially maybe in the church specifically? I know it’s a hard question. [Crosstalk 00:38:06]. That’s a heavy one, I do admit.
Irene Sun: I’ll start as always feeling like an outsider because the thing is it’s really easy to be a not black and not white person and just hide. Before needing to prepare for this panel, so God is sanctifying me through this panel. I thought I was excused from thinking about race because I feel like, “Well, I’m not from this country. English is not my first language.” I have a thousand of excuses because I feel like I’m not part of this, but I’m called out by this recent election because I had to vote for the first time, and I am forced to pray to look at my own heart. Why am I indifferent, because it’s even indifference which is it’s a sin, it’s a wickedness, it’s like the priest passing by the wounded man on the road and the Levi passing by the wounded man on the road.
Irene Sun: That’s a difference and that’s wickedness. It was really hard for me to face that indifference within myself and remembering that when I was mute, when I did not speak English, when my nose was called gross, no one spoke up for me, and that hurt. It hurt when people were just watching and was okay with it. That’s what this recent election did for me as a non-white, non-black person. It called out the wickedness in my own heart.
Kristie Anyabwile: The effect that I think the election had on race relations in America is this. I think it brought out something that people had been saying here and there, but I think it just came into full frontal view that we have so intertwined politics and religion that when someone votes for a particular candidate, not only do we question their political affiliation, we question their religious fidelity. Are they really Christians? Do they really love the Lord I think the polarizing effect that it had is that it not only had people disagreeing over politics, but the foundation of relationships. I can tell you stories about conversations I’ve had with people who I consider to be friends, but who distrust me now as a friend because of this decision or that decision.
Kristie Anyabwile: Do you know what I mean? That’s what I think. I think it just brought into crystal clear view for us that we need to do work in making sure that the church has clear distinctions, so that our politics isn’t equated with our Christian faith.
Shar Walker: That’s good.
Courtney Doctor: I would just I know that the minute you asked that question, that probably to a person in this room, everybody had like a surge of different emotions, right?
Shar Walker: That was me.
Courtney Doctor: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Shar Walker: It’s telling.
Courtney Doctor: I mean it is telling even just naming it saying this election was divisive. I mean just like I know people have visceral reactions to that statement. Part of it is self-awareness and being aware of what you’re feeling and navigating that, managing that just a little bit to say, “Okay, wait a minute. Did we hear what Kristie just said?” We’ve got to pull apart our political affiliations, or our political leanings with our faith. We are the body of Christ. We are the church. We are not American or affiliated with a political party. We are the church, and there is room in the church to agree and disagree on a variety of things.
Courtney Doctor: Again, if all of your friends are saying the exact same thing that you already believe, I say switch it up a little bit, turn on a different news channel, read a different newspaper, right? Find somebody who voted differently than you, and just enjoy their friendship and talk to them about it. I mean it is okay. It will all be all right if you talk to somebody who does not agree with you politically.
Shar Walker: Thank you.
Elicia Horton: Wow, I think for me personally, it really like what my sister was saying, it really brought up some things in my own heart that I had been feeling and wrestling with, especially as it relates to where I’m currently at and where our church is currently at, and where I’m currently serving at. I live in California and you talk about immigration, those are people that I know. You talk about deportation, those are faces that I see. It creates a whole different perspective to say, “Okay, that’s their problem. As a church, it’s our problem. What are we going to do?” When I have stories and I hear stories of people that I know personally fearing deportation, it makes me feel some type of way.
Elicia Horton: I’m thinking okay, God, as the church, if we all think about it, we’re all immigrants. This is not our home. Our citizenship is not here, it is in heaven. We should have a heart for those things that are pressing our nation right now, versus turning a blind eye. I feel like it is like what my sister’s saying too, educate ourselves. We shouldn’t be having these echo chambers of people just saying the same things and not anybody… We’re all repeating the same things and, “Oh, that sounds good. Okay, your perspective… Okay because it’s the same thing,” versus having other people that’s outside of that speak into those things, so we can actually say, “Wow, like you disagree with me, but I’m okay with that because as long as we can remain brothers and sisters at the end of the day, that’s okay.”
Elicia Horton: I feel like again, we’ve majored on the minors and minored on the majors. I feel like we need to do a better job of having a balanced perspective on that, and seeing how does this pertain to us individually, and what can we do about it moving forward.
Shar Walker: Yeah, Elicia I love that you said we’re all immigrants. I think that’s a great quote because our citizenship is in heaven and with that in mind, I wonder if the immigrant believers in the US, the actual immigrants in the US, I think they have a lot to teach us about that reality of living in a context that may not feel like our own, because as believers, we probably should feel a little bit like that, like we’re exiles as first Peter says. Moving on, Irene I’ve heard some expressed concern that not just Asian, American, but maybe non-black minorities in this country feeling maybe a sense of left out of the conversation, or not included. I’d love to hear your sentiments on that, and if you agree and disagree and anything you’d have to say.
Irene Sun: Yeah. Like I said, I’ve only been Asian-American for two years. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that’s the point. The point is to not be reductionistic because Asian-Americans come in all colors of… I mean all colors because there are Japanese, Asian is different from a Korean, Asian is different from a Chinese, different from a Filipino. It’s different if they grew up here or like me growing up mostly in Malaysia. We need to not be reductionistic about this and know whom we are speaking to, but also in terms of being left out of this conversation, so it depends on which conversation we’re having. If it’s a conversation about discrimination, yes, my husband grew up during the time of the Vietnam war.
Irene Sun: He grew up in agriculture communities where stones were hurled at him every day as he’s walking to school. Names were called and fights were made because he looked a certain way, even though he has nothing to do with the war in Vietnam. It just depends whether that person lived in the city or in the rural town and when was this person growing up, but if this conversation is speaking about the conversation between black American and white American, then I think that takes a whole different meaning because slavery happened and that was 400 years of hurt and pain, and continues to be painful and hurtful till this day. I think as Asian-American, we are not part of that conversation.
Irene Sun: We’re part of the discrimination conversation, but we’re not part of that particular hurt because most Asians came to this country by choice, but slavery when that happened, that did not happen by choice. Human beings were stolen and captured and owned. That is a whole different trauma than what I experienced. I think in this case, I would take the posture of the person who’s learning. Because that we homeschool our children, I’ve been learning about the civil war, and I’ve been learning about Frederick Douglass. I stand in awe actually of the 400 years of hurt and pain, and I’m so humbled that that you’re still here. I mean you are still here, and that we are trying to talk about it.
Irene Sun: I don’t think as Asian-American, we should be thinking about what about me because we should be fighting for unity and not recognition. I think that’s where I stand with this, and I know that it’s a different take than other Asian-Americans. I’ve been searching my heart about it as well why that is, but if two of my sons are fighting and trying to reconcile and trying to repent, I don’t think my third son should come in and say, “What about me? You’re not thinking about me.” Instead, I think that the other son should be helping the two reconcile, and I think that’s where Asian-Americans should be in this particular conversation about the historical relationship between the black and the white.
Irene Sun: I think we should be the one perhaps admonishing because sometimes if my son is disrespecting me, it is better for my husband to call him out, rather than I be the person who call him out. Perhaps my role as a sister of Asian descent is to help my black sister and my wife sister have this conversation and admonish and listen, because I am not in directly that historical pain and hurt.
Shar Walker: That’s a great answer. Yeah, go ahead and clap for that. I’ve heard that question asked on a lot of panels, and I think that was the best answer I’ve ever heard so good job. We have time for one more question, and then we’ll move into a time where they’re going to give some resources, but what would you guys say is a major barrier to the church moving forward in this area, and then also where have you seen progress in the church, especially in when I say the church, the church in America moving forward? Where have you seen barriers, and then where have you seen progress?
Courtney Doctor: I’ll take it quickly. I see a lot of barriers in apathy and in ignorance, but also in personal preference. We’re all too ready to say that we want our churches to be more ethnically diverse, but what we mean is join us while we worship in the same way that we’ve always worshiped, so personal preference. How do we actually lay those personal preferences down? I think I’ve already talked a little bit about apathy and ignorance, and take those to the Lord and take it upon yourself to do away with those, but the encouraging thing, so I would love to leave with that. The encouraging thing is that I actually think the spirit of God is moving in the hearts of his people to open eyes and open hearts.
Courtney Doctor: There are good conversations going on. MLK50 is an example. I think a lot of what TGC is doing. There are good healthy conversations going on even in a lot of our churches. There are good resources, and we’re going to recommend some of those in just a minute. I’m also incredibly encouraged by millennials in generation Z. We’re handing the church off, and we’re putting it in good hands. I’m grateful for the work of my younger sisters and my younger brothers in this conversation. You guys are doing good work, and that encourages me. Then my last thing is my own heart. If the Lord can take someone like me and start opening my eyes and changing my heart, there is hope so I just be encouraged. He is not finished with us.
Elicia Horton: I think like adding to my sister is that there are conversations happening. I’m grateful that there are conferences that are happening, and this conversation is just not stopping there because me and my husband are one. I’ll take it from him, but he talks about diversifying your dinner table. I would say diversify your dinner table, as well as diversify your bookshelf. For our white sisters, find out the books that have been written by African-American sisters and vice versa. I feel like when we can do that, again it takes it to say, “Okay God, deal with my own heart first,” because it’s not going to be helpful. It’s going to be hurtful if we’re not willing to deal with our own self first.
Elicia Horton: I feel like those are some of the things I feel like these conferences, these conversations, the conversations I’ve been and the conversations I’ve heard, it puts the burden of responsibility back on us as the believers, because we know what we should do and we talk about theology all day, but it’s a praxis. Meaning, the practice of our theology is where we say, “Nope God, that’s okay, because I’m just still hang on to my preferences.” I think God is really wanting to change that in the hearts of his people. If it can start here, it’s going to keep goin if we allow it to.
Kristie Anyabwile: I’m not sure the right word, I want to say zeal. I want to say something like complacency in terms of barriers because look, I don’t know how many of y’all do CrossFit, but I know you’re diligent and it’s a commitment. You pay a lot of money and you hurt a lot, but you do it regularly, and you make the commitment. You make the time. You get up at 5:00 in the morning, and you do the AMRAPS or whatever they call them, and all the stuff. You Netflix on the weekend, right? You go to the beach. You live life, you hang out with friends, you go to the mall, you go to the movies, you handle business. There’s a want to, an action and I think if it’s a desire, you will make time for the things that you really value, right?
Kristie Anyabwile: Nobody came in here with unbrushed teeth today, right? We all did that, it’s a habit. Well, I mean I’m assuming, but certain things are important, certain things are habits, certain things you just make time for because you know you need to make time for them. I think with the barrier, I don’t know the word, but it’s that. It’s the acton, it’s the want to, it’s the zeal, it’s the not being complacent and actually being actively engaged, and learning and loving and all the things that these ladies have talked about, encouragements.
Kristie Anyabwile: I mean I just echo what everyone… I do feel a wind blowing in a new direction in this conversation, and it’s really encouraging when I get a random inbox message from my white brother who asked me, “Hey, we heard that Divided by Faith is a good book to read. Can you recommend a couple other ones for us? We’re going to read them in my church with my elders,” or when I get a text from when something happens in the media that’s racially charged. I get a text from my white sister who just says, “I’m praying for you and I love you, and how can I serve you?” Those are the things that encourage me, those are the things that put wind in my cell, and keep me engaged when I’m weary and just fatigued and like I just can’t. I think those are things that are encouraging to me. Yeah.
Shar Walker: Well, what do you like rapid fire resources? Kristie, can we start with you and then… Sorry.
Kristie Anyabwile: One? Yes.
Shar Walker: You can do more than one.
Kristie Anyabwile: Well, I…
Shar Walker: Get your pens ready.
Kristie Anyabwile: I mentioned Divided by Faith, that’s just must read for everyone. I think too I just love books that have the human element and really tell stories, and help you enter into the lives of people. I would also recommend a book called… and if you just like good stories and memoir type reading that help you, I really love this book called The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
Shar Walker: It’s so good.
Kristie Anyabwile: It’s so good, and it gives you the whole history… Oh, I’m sorry, you said quick. Great migration and just how from reconstruction on the movements of African Americans across the US, so that’s a good book.
Elicia Horton: Mine is The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. Basically it’s a forgotten history of how our government segregated America and talking about the housing. It just gives a really good historical narrative of how it started and even in San Francisco which was booming back in the day when world war II was happening and they needed people to move upward to work in the force field to create jeeps and stuff for our war.
Elicia Horton: Because our white brothers were going to be deported to go to fight in the war, they then start allowing African Americans women and women of color, but their housing that they only provided was for the white people and not… It starts there and gives such a great description of how that is and because if people don’t believe that racism was systemic, I challenge you to read that book.
Irene Sun: The one that helped me a lot was Hillbilly Elegy by Vance because as an immigrant, I did not know any of that and it was riveting because I got to learn about a population. I’ve never really thought about white people that way before, and I remember reading it and putting it down and telling my husband, “I feel some compassion in my heart that I’ve never known before.” I love it when books do that, but also I think what really, really helped was just going through American history with my sons. It was crazy. I was like learning about the civil war and reading Frederick Douglass. He says, “I was born,” and that means he was a human being and at that time being a slave, he was not treated like a human being.
Irene Sun: I was like, “Oh, I get it now.” History and Google. Whenever you meet someone new from a different country like Malaysia, don’t ask me whether Malaysia is in China because it’s not. It’s a different kind…
Courtney Doctor: Google it later. That’s what she just said. I’ll just real quick. I’m not even going to tell you what they’re about. The first one is Heal Us, Emmanuel. [Crosstalk 01:00:45]. Sorry. Heal Us, Emmanuel. It’s a collection of essays, it’s very good. The second one I actually just added this week because I just read it and I can’t put it down. It’s called I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown, and then the last one, if you just get on the TGC website and you go to MLK50, you can listen to every plenary session and every workshop. I have just been plugging those in and walking. It’s just a way of using that time to learn. MLK 50 on the website, just listen to all of the sessions. Whether you agree with them or disagree with them, that is okay, make it through, you guys can do it.
Shar Walker: Mine would be it’s in the bookstore, it’s called White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White. Honestly, I think someone said it, you might have said it Irene, it created a different element of empathy and compassion in my heart for my white brothers and sisters in the US. Excellent book on what does it mean to be white in America, and I’m going to ask Courtney to pray for us because Courtney, you have like a motherly grandmother spirit. Seriously, I love it. She just has this air about her.
Courtney Doctor: She meant I’m young and hip is what she-
Shar Walker: That’s true…
Courtney Doctor: … really meant.
Kristie Anyabwile: That’s what I heard.
Courtney Doctor: That just got recorded too.
Shar Walker: It did. I’m sorry. We could edit that out, but yeah, I would love for you to pray over us at any time.
Courtney Doctor: I would love to. Father, thank you that you do not leave your people alone. Thank you that your spirit is moving. Lord, please minister to us through your word and through your spirit and through your people Father. We desperately need each other, and we need the healing that only you can bring Father, and we pray that you would make the church exactly what you want the church to be Father, where we would love one another in a way that the watching world finds just desirable, and that they would want what we have because we love each other so well, because we have been so loved. Lord, we pray all of this in the name of your son, amen.
Shar Walker: Thank you ladies.
This episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast is brought to you by Operation Christmas Child. You can build a shoebox online and OCC will pack for you based on your selections. These shoeboxes are delivered into hard-to-reach areas in and effort to share the gospel. To start building, visit Samaritanspurse.org/occ.