I'm so thankful for the invitation, Brother Klaus, and for this opportunity
to come to AGTS and speak in this room. Especially in this room. Do you
know what this room is called? Good thing this isn't a pop quiz! This is the William
J. Seymour Chapel. This chapel is named in honor of the African-American leader
of the revival that began in 1906 on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. What is honored
here? I suggest two things: 1) Our Pentecostal heritage, and 2) Our commitment to
reconciliation. That's the topic of my message this morning.
What happened 2,000 miles west of here on April 9, 1906 is the opposite
of what happened 2 miles west of here just 5 days later, on April 14, 1906. I'll tell
you about that this morning.
I propose that the Church, especially the Pentecostal Church, is GOD'S
ANTIDOTE FOR RACISM in America and in the world. There's an old saying, "If it ain't
broke, don't fix it." That's the question: Are race relations broken or fixed in America?
Many people continue to think they are still broken. During the Atlanta Olympics,
sports commentator Bob Costas said, "Racism is America's original sin, and current
national dilemma." I never thought of Costas as a theologian, but that's
biblically true: Racism is a sin and a current problem for our nation.
In 1988 I became pastor of Englewood Assembly of God, about ten miles from Times
Square in that great New York metropolitan area. During the 10 years I was there the
demographics of the church changed as the community changed. The demographics of all
our communities are changing, and unless the demographics of your church changes with
it, your church will decline.
When I began we were 50% Anglo-Saxon, 25% African-American, 22% Latino,
and 3% Asian-American. Ten years later, we had more white members than at the
beginningbut the demographics had changed. Today Englewood Assembly of God is
about 50% African American, 25% Anglo Saxon, 22% Latino, and 3% Asian American.
I like to say we had Great Black Growth, No White Flight, a Steady Latin Beat
with an Oriental Flavor. Should be a rap song!
Five years ago I moved to Springfield, Missouri and became pastor of Park
Crest Assembly of God. When we visited, my three teenagers said they didn't like it
because, "It's too white!" Well, my kids' genes come from Scandinavia and Great Britain,
so they're pretty white, too, but I knew what they meant. My first month here I learned
why Springfield is so white by reading a book, Many a Thousand Gone: The Lost Black
Heritage of Springfield, Missouri. The book was written by Southwest Missouri
State University's Professor of English Dr. Katherine Lederer.
I learned about our city's past and its influence on our present. I learned that
100 years ago Springfield was a one of America's most diverse cities. Springfield's
largest supermarket was run by two black businessmen. A black inventor was racing
Henry Ford to produce the 1st automobile. 1/3rd of all registered
voters were African-American. Yet, earlier this year Springfield was listed as one
of America's ten "whitest" cities. What happened?
Five days after the Holy Spirit was poured out on flesh at Azusa Street, racial hatred
was poured out on the streets of Springfield. On Easter weekend three innocent black
men were lynched on city square, in sight of our own Assemblies of God headquarters.
Two months ago I attended a ceremony at city square as our Mayor dedicated a plaque
"On April 14, 1906, three black men, Horace B. Duncan, Fred Coker, and
Will Allen were lynched without a trial."
They were lynched on the outstretched arms of a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Then Horace, Fred and Will were cut down, their bodies burned and dismembered by a
mob of about 5,000.
Within days the vast majority of African-Americans fled Springfield. Today less than
3% of the population is considered ethnic. That includes Hispanics and Asian-Americans
in addition to African-Americans. Less than 3%. Just last week a 27 year old black
man was found hanging two blocks from the city square. Apparently it was a suicide,
but for many it added to the sense that the sin of racism is still alive. This community,
and your community, desperately needs the ministry of reconciliation.
General Colin Powell, in addressing the Republican National Convention
six years ago, said, "Where discrimination still exists, or where the scars of past
discrimination still contaminate and disfigure the present, we must not close our
eyes to it, declare a level playing field, and hope it will go away by itself. It
did not in the past. It will not in the future."
I am under conviction that the church, and especially the Assemblies of God who calls
this city home, must repent for being part of the problem and become part of the solution.
God has given us the tool, "the word of reconciliation" and the power, "the ministry
of reconciliation" so that we can be the antidote to racism in Springfield or anywhere
else. (2 Corinthians 5)
Colossians 1:19-22"For it pleased the Father that in Him all the
fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether
things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now
He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and
blameless, and above reproach in His sight."
What is reconciliation? It's much bigger than racial issues. Creation is reconciled,
people are reconciled. Noah Webster, a born again author, wrote a dictionary in 1828.
Webster defined reconcile: "To call into union and friendship those who
have been in opposition." After being reconciled with God, Webster wrote:
"No cloud of anger shall remain, but peace assured."
Reconciliation is when two who were alienated are now associated. Reconciliation
happens when a peaceful solution heals a broken relation. Jesus Christ came to earth
and reconciled all creation to God. Sin separated all creation from God, but Christ's
work on the cross is so powerful that it bridged that awful gulf and reconciled God
with His creation. We don't pursue reconciliation so much as we proclaim the finished
work of reconciliation. It's a done deal - Jesus has reconciled us to God. Now
we must pursue opportunities to implement the reconciliation already fully provided
God has given us the word and the ministry of reconciliation so we can be His antidote
for racism, for polarization and separation and segregation.
from Bergen Record about Englewood AG, "Local Church Model of Integration"