While drafting a statement against racism is praiseworthy, we must push on past rhetoric and achieve progress.
Over the past several months, a group of black and white Christians has been trying to address the problem of racism in American evangelicalism (CT, March 5, 1990, p. 35). Representatives from the largely white National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the all-black National Black Evangelical Association (NBEA) finally hammered out a statement calling for the white church to “repent of its sin of racism,” and for the black church to “commit itself to constructive protest of racism.”
The statement, including the process that led up to it, is unprecedented, and it deserves praise from Christians of any color. For all our talk about this nation’s tragic failure to live up to the ideal of “liberty and justice for all,” much still needs to be done. While deliberately meeting face to face may seem as if it is an awfully small step, it is movement. We applaud that and praise the social-action commissions of both groups for providing the kind of visionary leadership not always seen in evangelical circles.
At the same time, we must raise a few questions, and the first has to do with the absence of key NAE leaders at the joint session that formally approved the statement. For once, black and white evangelicals were making progress on a very delicate and complex issue. While we recognize the problem of busy schedules, it seems to us an occasion of this importance should have compelled everyone involved to set aside other plans and join in a symbolic display of unity and cooperation.
Another question revolves around the very nature of publicly issued statements. Does the statement actually bring black and white Christians ...1
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