Faith Leaders Call Out Segregation of American Church on Reformation's 500th Anniversary
In the spirit of the legendary 95 theses of German priest and scholar Martin Luther addressing widespread abuse in the Church in his day, the Mosaix Global Network led by Mark DeYmaz, presented 95 theses from an international group of church leaders calling out the segregation of the American Church on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
"Systemic inequities and racialization within the American Church have unintentionally undermined the very Gospel we love and for which we live. An increasingly diverse and cynical society is no longer finding credible the message of God's love for all people as proclaimed from segregated pulpits and pews," DeYmaz, who is also founding pastor of Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, wrote in his thesis.
"Jesus both commands and expects believers — individually and collectively — to love God and our neighbors; biblically speaking, those very different than us. Indeed, the Apostle Paul's entire life and ministry was devoted to advancing a Gospel of Gentile inclusion in opposition to an otherwise all Jewish understanding of the Gospel, local church, and coming Kingdom of God. For nearly 20 years, then, I have been asking myself and seeking to address one simple question: If the Kingdom of Heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the local church?" he asked.
Luther's 95 theses, which he posted on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1517, sparked reformation in the Church by questioning widespread abuses in the Catholic Church, such as the corrupt practice of selling "indulgences" to absolve sin.
The document led to the division of the Catholic Church and gave rise to Protestantism which was shaped by Luther's ideas.
The modern day leaders who contributed to the collection of 95 theses on the enduring systemic segregation of the American Church by race, class and culture say it is time for true reformation on race relations.
"If you cannot imagine yourself in a multiethnic church, how in the world can you imagine yourself in the multiethnic Kingdom of Heaven? Pursuit of the vision is not easy, but it's a vision worth pursuing; and more than that, worth the preparation for Heaven, now," Ed Stetzer who is Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, said in his thesis.
Miles McPherson, founding and senior pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego, California, added: "The multiethnic church is God's most powerful and equipped tool to reach our multiethnic world. But as long as believers and ministry leaders remain more informed by fears and biases than by faith and beliefs, the local church will fail to reflect the wonderful diversity of the Kingdom of God and thus be handicapped in its ability to live out the Gospel of love, a Gospel designed to make us one in Christ and in the Church and, in so doing, erase the very fears and biases that once and to this day keep us apart."
Other leaders such as the Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil, teaching pastor at Quest Church and professor of Reconciliation Studies at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington, said the credibility of Christians to "address the issue of reconciliation has been called into question."
"We must directly respond to our distinct relationship to injustice by repairing the structures that mediate our relationships and harm our racial lives to become racially transformed communities," she wrote.
Mathew Kuruvila, founding and senior pastor of Parkside Church in Sydney, Australia, noted that: "If we want to eradicate racism and segregation in the Church we need to see the face of Jesus Christ in the eyes of others who are not like us. When we reject others on the basis of their ethnicity, race, or color, we are not welcoming Jesus in our midst. In a multiethnic church, we have the opportunity to entertain 'strangers' every week knowing that they are sent by God to be loved and cared for by us. We are called to build bridges of reconciliation, integration, and inclusiveness, not walls of racism, segregation and hostility."
All 95 theses concerning unity and diversity in the local church can be read here.