IN CONCLUSION

Again, though, I am convinced that racial reconciliation is coming for one very important reason: men and women and the organizations that they represent are falling down on their knees and asking God to give them strength to change. Faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ–more than any other single factor–will bring peace. This outspoken subservience to the Lordship of Christ, the open admission that peace will not come in any other way, makes the present moves to reconciliation to be more hopeful. Nothing quite like this happened in earlier reconciliation attempts.

Whole denominations that were formally almost completely white are gratefully becoming multiracial. For example, the almost completely white Mennonite Church is quickly becoming racially mixed. Total Mennonite Church membership grew from 99,719 members in 980 congregations in 1985 to 111,672 members in 1,099 congregations at the end of 1995. The even better news for the Mennonite Church is that 69 percent of new Mennonite Church congregations started in urban areas. Most of these new congregations are interracial and multicultural. This reflects the demographic trends in America where 47% of the U.S. population will be “minority” groups by 2050. The largest church in the Virginia Conference of the Mennonite Church is Calvary Community Church–an interracial church in Hampton Roads, Virginia. In 1997 the Mennonite Church elected an interracially married moderator for the first time in world history! Among the non-Pentecostal churches, the Mennonite Church is making the most progress towards racial integration but other denominations–particularly Evangelical ones–are sure to follow.

In William Faulkner’s The Unvanquished a white boy named Bayard is reflecting about his black friend Ringo: “. . . Ringo and I has been born in the same month and has both fed at the same breast and has slept together and eaten together for so long that Ringo called Granny ‘Granny’ just like I do, until maybe he isn’t a nigger anymore or maybe I isn’t a white boy anymore, the two of us neither, not even people any more: the two supreme undefeated like two moths, two feathers riding above a hurricane.”

The Church is called–somehow–to ride above a hurricane. To be that peculiar people about whom we read in Scripture. To find a unity that transcends the substantial barrier race represents. This is no small feat, but one that the Church must undertake. And soon. By showing American society–especially the urban society–the way out of racism the Church of Jesus Christ has a unique opportunity to reclaim Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “center of the city.” Using Augustine’s City of God as a standard, the Church is called to be an efficacious model of reconciliation to a fragmented and broken community. We are all on a journey–white, black, yellow, and red.

Christians are called by God to serve our culture even though our ultimate loyalty and hope is in the city of God. I believe, with all my heart, that the road to Christian revival must pass through the school of racial reconciliation. There are several examples of racial reconciliation in our country today and I am truly encouraged. But there is much work that remains. As I have intimated before, until the Church finds a way to bring racial reconciliation in a widespread way into its own camp, American society at large has no hope of doing the same. As we begin the 21st Century this reclamation project will be America’s most valuable gift to the world.

The whole world waits with bated breath . . .

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