By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST and the ASSIST News Service
DALLAS, TX – A racially, denominationally, geographically and generationally diverse representation of nearly 100 pastors, civic and faith-leaders from across the country gathered for an unprecedented summit on racial reconciliation at The Potter’s House in Dallas on January 15.
Convened by Bishops Harry Jackson and T.D. Jakes and Pastor James Robison, “The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide” summit focused on Seven Bridges to Peace and included four panel discussions in which the participants shared practical solutions that they have successfully implemented in their respective communities. They also strategized other initiatives that can be scaled for national roll out.
According to a news release from A. Larry Ross Communications, host Bishop Jakes welcomed attendees, saying, “The Church should lead the way; we can’t complain about Congress and community if we don’t communicate with one another. We all love our children; let’s talk about how we can make our country better for subsequent generations.
“We have one brief shining moment to say, ‘not on my watch,'” Jakes continued. “We cannot remain silent on this issue, because our silence is costing lives. I’m praying that we would care enough to do better with the resources and influence that we have.
“We can’t fix the problem today, that’s not even the goal,” Jakes added. “This is a forum for discussion and debate, but we need to focus on what we will work on, including education and the criminal justice system. We can do better regarding civic engagement in our churches.”
Bishop Jackson shared his vision for the summit, to encourage the Church to come together to address the three-fold problem of class, race and poverty. “Church leaders need to go up into the gap and be courageous and catalytic to make a difference,” he said. “We want to leave here with a declaration, a challenge and a prescription for our nation.
“The Church is divided black and white, and not as connected as we should be,” Jackson continued. “The first thing we can do is come together united as the Church. A group like this can shake the foundations of the nation – for God and for good.”
“With all my heart I believe the purpose of this meeting is to bring together the Body of Christ without all of the dissension, strife and division that keeps us apart and from fulfilling the will of God,” James Robison said.
Other key participants included Dr. Bernice King, CEO of The King Center in Atlanta and daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.; legendary civil rights leader; Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. King, and a civil rights activist and Christian minister; former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young; Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/CONELA; and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, among others.
Several participants admonished the Church for not taking action. “Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s complicity,” Rodriguez said. “There is no such thing as a silent Christianity.”
This theme was echoed by Pastor Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. “There are a lot of good people in our churches who are sinfully silent,” he said. “It is our responsibility to engage them on what matters most.”
The timing of the summit was propitious, occurring on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, actual birthday, which was referenced by his daughter. Reminding attendees that her father was a pastor and that the Civil Rights movement originated in the Church, she thought it a fitting tribute to his legacy that faith leaders were once again taking the lead in the area of racial reconciliation.
“The Church was one of the institutions (my father) criticized in his letter from the Birmingham jail,” King reflected. “He was deeply disappointed that there was not more engagement by the Church in the issue of segregation in the South at that time. Unfortunately, we have had a stand-off posture since then, and 11 a.m. on Sunday is still the most segregated hour in America.”
“Today we had four ‘Cs’ of Christ, conversation and collaboration that will lead to change,” said African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Vashti McKenzie. “The Body of Christ came together in unprecedented conversation. We must be role models for people who look to us for leadership.”
The day’s events concluded with a worship and communion service at The Potter’s House, which was attended by more than 6,000 individuals.