"One young man said, 'We don't have a PhD in racial harmony. We're just trying to play the card that's been dealt to us. We don't know why a movement is springing up here. We don't know why it didn't happen [with] Trayvon Martin or some other incident. We don't know why it wasn't Jordan Davis, all we know is that this thing has dropped into our laps and we feel as if this is our civil rights movement that was left undone by you,'" McNeil added.
Her words arrested the audience who would soon begin nodding, clapping and shouting amens of approval. Movement Day officials said there were some 1,235 registered attendees this year.
"Unlike the Civil Rights movement of my day and many of our experience, this is not a movement growing out of the Church. This is not a movement being led by faith leaders who have a theological input on what people are saying and doing. No, no, no. So I wanted to understand why don't they want our input, why aren't they concerned about what the Church thinks. And what I came to understand is they believe that we don't have relevance," said McNeil.
"They said, 'We don't like your hypocrisy. We don't like your misogyny ...' ouch, ' ... we don't like your sexism, we don't like the way your inactivity keeps you silent, we don't like the way you seem to keep the LGBT community out. It seems as if you work harder to keep people out than to let them in. My Lord, we had on clergy collars, we looked all official and everything and they didn't care. It didn't bother them," she continued.
"And so as we left we were a little shell-shocked. I'm promising you, we kinda walked out and I knew the game had just changed. As we left that meeting we were convinced that we had to bridge the gap between our young people who no longer believe in the relevance of the Church, amen," she said more as an affirmation than a question.
"My brothers and sisters, I believe that we are standing on a Kairos moment, a strategic moment in history. An opportunity, amen, for the church to repent. The ways we have not shown up for these young people who see us as inactive and lacking innovation. You see in every generation, there are seismic cultural shifts that wake us up to the reality that what's going on in the world around us must be paid attention to. Such is the case with the Black Lives Matter movement," said McNeil.
"Regardless of where we stand on any side of the political aisle, I want to say to you that I think this might just indeed be a wake-up call to the Church. I believe that this is what we might call a catalytic event. Some might see it as a catastrophe or it could be a catalyst that is spurring us and forcing us and shaking us up out of our slumber into action and into engagement. Could it be that this is our wakeup call that we cannot do business as usual?" she said. "I'm here to tell you that the cities around this country are speaking to us. They are shaking us, perhaps even prophesying to us, and that's what I think Jesus meant by these new wine skins."
Using the story of Peter and Cornelius from Chapter 10 of the book of Acts to show how God brought Gentiles into the Church through reconciliation in a new process that went against Jewish tradition, McNeil argued that a similar approach was needed for the Church in order to build bridges toward racial reconciliation.
"It wasn't Peter who decided reconciliation was a good idea or Cornelius. God intervened in human affairs and stepped into a situation with supernatural visions, which suggests that the spirit of God is at work calling us and calling us to take a journey toward reconciliation," said McNeil.
"Just like Peter and just like Cornelius, God is the unseen spiritual force who enters our story and begins to motivate us and convict and push us and meld us and strengthen us to embark on a journey that leads us toward reconciliation. That's how we begin to bridge the racial divide in cities," she said.
Through this Scripture, McNeil said God is basically saying, "The things that you use, the political positions, the denominational divides, the geographical issues, the racial and cultural divides that have kept you separated, they are no longer relevant and I now want you to understand that I am setting you up and getting you ready to walk a journey toward reconciliation."
Pointing to Peter's experience in deciding to minister to Cornelius and his household, McNeil said, "My guess is that had he not had that vision from God first, when the people unlike him came to him, he would have dismissed them out of hand."
McNeil said God had been priming her for the Black Lives Matter encounter through the Mark 2 Scripture.
"That's exactly how I felt when I came out of Ferguson, Missouri. I left with the same realization, God's talking to these young people. And these young folks have something to say and we might not like how it's packaged, but I believe God is breaking in and saying something," she said.
The pastor explained that after examining the issue further, she concluded that young people today are looking for community, they want to have real conversations where they are heard.
"They want to see a new expression of Church. They want something that is authentically present and generous, inside and out. They want everybody to be able to participate. And they want a church that shows that we are socially active. Can I say this? We can no longer preach Jesus without justice. It is non-negotiable. We have got to do more than we say," she said.
LISTEN TO PROFESSOR McNeil's PRESENTATION BELOW: