It probably comes as no surprise that I’m not particularly pleased with the “Christian leaders” who get most of the media attention. In fact I’m usually either appalled or embarrassed by the sorts of things that get said by those who are most often trotted out in front of TV cameras to represent a faith perspective. Rarely do they say things that sound anything like Jesus. Sometimes they say things that seem to entirely discount Jesus, as when a Texas preacher last year said, “I want the meanest, the toughest SOB” to be elected as President.
So it was a delight to be able to be at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) last week and hear some Christian leaders who actually did sound like Jesus. They voiced themes and priorities we find in the Gospels: unity, peace, care for the poor and marginalized, all to the glory of God. They gave no support to the fear-mongers around us. Instead they called us to practice humble service and embody courageous faith.
I was thrilled that I was able to hear on two different occasions one of the few Christian leaders I deeply respect who has gotten attention from the news media, the Rev. Dr. William Barber ll. I heard him speak during a demonstration on the steps of the Indiana Capital Building and then again on Sunday morning in worship at Central Christian Church. Both times he was powerful, insightful, and prophetic, lifting his voice on behalf of the weakest and least advantaged among us as he called for justice. I recommend that you read his books which can be found here and here.
I’m also thrilled that the General Assembly supported a resolution to call churches to support the new Poor Peoples’ Campaign lead by Rev. Dr. Barber. It is a continuation of the campaign started by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shortly before he was assassinated. More information about it can be found here.
Other exciting things happened at the General Assembly. But without a question the high point was the election of a new General Minister and President of the church. That person is Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens. She has been serving as Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Divinity School as well as being pastor of a local congregation in the Chicago area. Teresa is the first African-American woman to head a mainline denomination. She is widely respected and has both a pastoral heart and a scholarly mind. Her credentials are beyond question. It is a joy to stand with her.
I am proud that Disciples have elected a strong, intelligent, spiritual black woman to offer leadership to the church in a time such as ours. Tragically, racists seem to be emboldened today. White supremacists have come out of the closet in the form of the alt right, thinking they have a friend in high places. They want to push back whatever gains have been made toward racial equality. The election of Rev. Dr. Owens is a witness that we as Disciples of Christ reject the direction that others in our nation seem to be taking. In Christ we are one!
Grace and Peace,