Some have been finding in this cultural moment the emergence of a new civil rights movement in our city streets. The transformation of society we pray for and sow for, however, will become real only as God’s love for justice (Psalm 11:7) becomes embodied in our personal friendships. That’s what we saw before us on the New Room Conference platform in 2018. You may remember this panel discussion with Keith Cowart, Derrick Shields, and James Swanson. Keith is Bishop of the Free Methodist Church serving the eastern seaboard of the United States as well as Free Methodist Church ministries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Derrick is lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Columbus, Georgia, of which Keith was the founding pastor. And James is the United Methodist Bishop of Mississippi. Three authentic voices all giving witness to the glorious hopes and worthy costs of racial unity.
Derrick and Keith recounted for us their decades-long pilgrimage into great depths of understanding and trust across the line of race, both in their brotherly relationship and eventually their leadership transition from white to black lead pastor in an intentionally multi-racial church. Bishop Swanson shared with us so very candidly from his growing-up years and early ministry experiences how privilege can be wielded both to wound and heal. He drew an unsettling contrast between the Spirit-given unity so evident at the Church’s birth at Pentecost with the splintered, ethno-centricity of churches that populate our communities today. The conversation shared by these three leaders served as a bold, searching call to confront and repent of racial sin—and to replace it with holy love. We were left with practical ideas for what to do next, steps that are perhaps all the more useful and crucial now.
Facing injustice is a part of the humble posture that prepares the way for awakening. Reversing injustice in our churches and communities is a time-tested outworking of awakening. We hope this memorable treasure from the New Room archive can be a seed for both in us once again.