The Wichita Eagle | Faith leaders speak against ‘evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism’

On Sunday, Vintage Faith Wichita’s pastor Tom Brown continued to preach through the Book of Acts.

In Acts, the early Christian church was unified, a unity that “cuts across all artificial barriers: socioeconomic, race, nationality,” Brown said.

On Sunday, Brown also brought up the violence in Charlottesville, tying it to the message of Acts.

“Anyone who wants to assert supremacy of their ethnicity over others is opposed to the message of the Bible and has nothing to do with biblical Christianity,” Brown said. “The Christian church must denounce the work of the white nationalists in Charlottesville and proclaim loudly and clearly the Christian doctrine of God given human equality.”

In the past few days, faith groups and individuals have spoken out about white supremacy and alt-right groups, although others have stayed silent.

One woman was killed and 19 others were injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. A 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields, was charged in connection with the death.

Charley Edgar said that if his pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church had not discussed Charlottesville, he would have been “both very shocked and very disappointed.”

His pastor said that Christians are called not to be silent in times of violence and hatred, Edgar said.

“I understand people not wanting their preachers to be overly political, but to me this tragedy isn’t so much about politics as about right and wrong,” Edgar said. “I think that people of all faith, and especially their spiritual leaders, have a divine obligation to speak out in the strongest terms possible against the sort of hateful rhetoric and criminal action that we saw in Charlottesville.”

A public voice

However, not all Protestant pastors make a habit of addressing events like Charlottesville on Sunday mornings.

In March, evangelical polling group Lifeway Research released results of a study finding that only 20 percent of senior Protestant pastors had “led a public lament over racial unrest or injustice” in the preceding three months. More pastors (45 percent) had preached on racial reconciliation in the preceding three months.

The survey also found that most pastors (about 73 percent) said church leaders had not urged them to preach about racial reconciliation, although their church would welcome such a sermon (90 percent).

Wednesday morning, leaders of the Beyond Tolerance Movement in Wichita planned to discuss the events in Charlottesville and how to bring change, said Bishop Wade Moore, senior pastor of the Christian Faith Centre. Beyond Tolerance is a group that encourages different cultures and religions to build relationships.

Christians must be a voice against hatred, Moore said.

“We should not just accept things like that,” Moore said. “I don’t believe in a black church, white church. I believe in a church. I believe in reaching all kinds of people.”

National response

Some of President Donald Trump’s faith advisers have also condemned white supremacists and alt-right groups, including Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and Johnnie Moore, a former senior vice president at Liberty University.

Other religious groups that have issued statements include the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, United Methodist Women, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the American Humanist Association and International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement Sunday urging prayer for the people of Charlottesville.

“We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism,” the statement read. “We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured. “

On Monday, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted that, “The so-called Alt-Right white supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core. We should say so.”

In addition to condemning recent actions, faith leaders are also demanding future change. A letter from Faith in Public Life was signed by more than 1,500 faith leaders calling on Trump to condemn white supremacy, including by removing Steve Bannon from his role as Trump’s chief strategist. Prior to joining the Trump campaign, Bannon ran the news service Breitbart, which he once called “the platform for the alt-right.”

Some of those signing the petition were from Kansas, ranging from Haysville to Concordia to Lawrence.

“We are reminded of God’s call in the Hebrew Scriptures: ‘Choose this day whom you will serve,’” the statement read. “One cannot serve God and embrace hate and inequality. One cannot be American and be silent when others would tear our values asunder.”

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