In Ferguson and Across US, Pastors Play Important Part in National Discussion on Racial Divide

'Unfortunately, We are Still, in Many Ways, Divided in the Church as Well,' Says Pastor Tony Evans

Demonstration in Los Angeles, California
People hold hands while praying during a demonstration in Los Angeles, California, following the grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, November 24, 2014. The grand jury found there was no probable cause to charge Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson with any crime for the shooting of 18-year-old Brown. |

Christian leaders and pastors continue to play an integral part in the national discussion about the country's racial divide surfacing as the result of events that began in Ferguson, Missouri, one week ago, when violence erupted after a St. Louis grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

"It is important that the leaders in the body of Christ today be held accountable to speak to this matter because its continuance is affecting all of us as we bear the burdens of the systemic effects of racial division throughout our land," wrote Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. "We must come together as leaders to repent and forgive one another and strategize together how we can best impact our communities and our nation for Christ and His kingdom."

From coast to coast, church services on Sunday included prayers for Ferguson and the nation. In prayers and commentary, many pastors pointed out that the Church itself still has a ways to go when it comes to racial division.

"You may not live in Ferguson and the outcome of this case may only exist as a discussion around the water coolers of your life, but each of us in our nation is impacted in some way through the disunity and inequity that continues to smolder underneath the collective conscience of our land," Evans, who also serves as the founder and president of The Urban Alternative, continued. "We are still, in many ways, a nation divided. Unfortunately, we are still, in many ways, divided in the church as well."

He wrote that it was especially critical during these days of tension and uncertainty that "we in the body of Christ intentionally seek to bridge that gap."

"God calls us to unity, choosing to fully express Himself in an environment of unity. Thus, we need to pursue unity in an atmosphere of peace and not in violent retaliation."

On Thanksgiving, at the Wellspring Church in Ferguson, black families and white families prayed and sang worship songs together with lyrics such as, "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord," the New York Times reported. The church's pastor, F. Willis Johnson Jr., discussed the Book of Job during his sermon, "and spoke of faithfulness amid uncertainty and turmoil."

On Sunday, the Rev. Russell Morrow, pastor at Forest Heights United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, joined a group of people from different parts of the country who began a seven-day "Journey for Justice" march from Ferguson to Jefferson City.

"I think it's very important that there is reform in terms of how young African-American youth and other youth ... are targeted," said Morrow, The Jackson Sun reported. "And we're just doing this for justice and reform.

Other pastors, such as Mark DeYmaz, founder of the Little Rock, Arkansas-based Mosaic Church and of the Mosaix Global Network were still looking for more perspective in the aftermath of the shooting, non-indictment from the jury, and protest violence. He wrote to his followers on Facebook Sunday that he just returned "from two days of personal exploration and low profile listening/learning on the ground in Ferguson."

"Time with/in the community has provided me with so much more of an informed perspective than can otherwise be obtained from a distance; via national and social media; or from the polarized, often self-serving, rhetoric coming from those on the extremes of the debate following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson," DeYmaz wrote. "Indeed the issues, all around, are complex; who would dare to suggest they fully understand the problems or have the answers?! Certainly not me; it's just not that simple. My desire, then? To be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) ... Where there is injury, to extend pardon; where despair, hope; where darkness, light; where hatred, love ... as did Francis of Assisi; as did Teresa of Calcutta; as do the people of Mosaic Church; as does our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

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