The Kingdom of God Confronts Racism
The Love of God Excludes Even a Speck of Hate 

Dear Parish Family, 

A few days ago, we sent to you an informal pastoral video message from my heart. It was inspired by my own urgent prayers over the national and international pain, heartbreak, and outrage arising from the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd, as a rogue policeman’s knee horrifically pressed against his neck. My eyes could not believe what I was seeing. We all have been in shock and mourning since, on many levels. May almighty God receive George into His loving arms of mercy, give him everlasting life with Jesus, and comfort and bless the Floyd Family and everyone everywhere who hurts by this unspeakable death and violence.

All of our hearts are heavy. Accordingly, the message here is quite lengthy, but I want everyone to have as much as possible in one place. If you choose not to read it all, have no fear. Our Clergy and ministry team will be writing and speaking about these points in smaller bites in the several days to come. This urgency is because no one should live in fear or oppression in God’s Kingdom. No one should be a victim of violence. Yet, we find that our beloved African American brothers and sisters, with whom we are One in Christ, are regularly fearful to:

  • Walk the streets, wondering if there will be safety.
  • Experience a routine traffic stop, wondering if there will be undue suspicion.
  • See their loved ones leave the house, wondering if they will return.
  • See their children going off to school, wondering if they will be hurt.
  • Apply for employment, wondering if there will be fair consideration.  
  • Appear in courts, wondering if there will be prejudicial judgments.
  • Attend social functions, wondering if people are being genuinely accepting. 
  • Turn on the news, wondering what racial nightmare might be reported next.
  • Imagine what the future will be like, wondering if their children will live in peace.

These are urgent Gospel matters and have been for centuries. I genuinely believe that God did not cause our current pandemic, but that He redeems and uses it to change us. By slowing down and living with less, we grow more humble and become more like Jesus in many ways. Likewise, our Lord did not cause the death of Mr. Floyd or the many who have died like him, but He is redeeming these tragedies to change us and to make us more like Jesus in many ways. I lived in New Jersey amidst some of the grief and violent aftermath of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy in the late 60’s, just as many others have lived in like circumstances throughout history. Surely some positive changes were made at each point along the way. However, we have never seen an opportunity like the current one where it seems the entire world is in laser focus and at attention and ready for major transformation. As people of the Holy Spirit, we have the means to effect enduring transformation of eternal consequences. And we must take up our calling from the Lord. 

My video message talked about how All Saints, like every church, is called to a Kingdom of God approach to love others as Jesus loves us and to bring us all together in Christ so that such despicable violence and oppression might be obliterated and never happen again. The message was intended to bring a calming word of hope at a time of our common agony, confusion, and disbelief. A further intention was to give us a possible vision of a meaningful way of the Holy Spirit by which we could act and respond in the Gospel. I want everyone reading these words to know that you have my love, heart, and prayers. That I long to hear from you in your individual concerns and worries. That we as a Parish walk together in spirit and in daily life. It would bless me to talk with anyone by phone, video chat, email, or text. Here’s my cell number: 301-395-8839. My email address is  Ed.Kelaher@allsaintschurch.net.

Our new Parish Strategic Plan has been created intentionally and purposefully to serve as the foundation for a signature All Saints’ ministry and mission by which we shall serve, sacrifice, love, and act to rally to the call to racial reconciliation. This ministry is already at least a couple of years in the making. All Saints Church has a powerful voice and we have a vital and urgent part in this work of the Kingdom. It is clear in hindsight that the Holy Spirit has been preparing us for racial reconciliation ministry long before this day. God requires us to stand up and speak up for Him as ambassadors of His Kingdom and as a people who are One in Christ together. And we will.

Our leadership is actively determining the way ahead for us. Our prayer is that we might be used to make a great impact for the Lord. Of necessity, it needs to include our own sharpening and discipleship training internally – an educational and relational basic training or boot camp – as we evermore strengthen ourselves for the spiritual warfare before us. It needs to include a powerful and relational way for All  Saints as a Body of Christ to walk with African American brothers and sisters within and beyond our walls, again being truly and genuinely One in Christ all together. It also needs to include speaking constantly to our children and teaching them the ways of Jesus how to overcome and address the problems of the world. This will plant seeds of faith to help ensure the generations to come will do even better than we might do. 

We also make an emphatic recognition that, although the circumstances at hand focus primarily on the experiences of African Americans and all groups of African descent, people of many walks of life also suffer from differences of treatment – Asians, Jews, Middle Easterners, Hispanics, those with disabilities, and more. By the love of Jesus, our hearts, and especially my own as I pray and write, are wounded by all oppression, violence, prejudice, and hatred against anyone of any group of God’s children. 

Some loving and helpful parishioners responded to the video message asking me to make a more direct, incisive, and in-depth statement of our parish’s heart and beliefs about the Sin and Evil of racism – capitalizations added intentionally. Without equivocating, every human being without exception is made in the holy image of God and when we hate or attack one another, we hate and attack God Himself.  Our Lord has a very stern and pointed emphasis about the wickedness of racism and hatred, woven throughout the entirety of the Bible. As All Saints Church’s Rector, let me offer at a minimum, these truths of Holy Scripture proclaiming racism as an abomination to God and His children everywhere.    

And God made from one man every nation of mankind
to live on all the face of the earth . . .    Acts 17:26

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,
there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28  

The Apostle Paul teaches us in Galatians that we are one as the children of His entire creation. It is sin and evil to hate, oppress, or diminish any of God’s people merely because they are different from one another, and that is exactly what is being committed in many places in America and around the world. It is undeniable that African Americans have suffered from the evils of hate, oppression, enslavement, and diminishment in our history. It is undeniable that such evils continue today in our country and internationally. It is undeniable that we are called as the Body of Christ to love others, to confront these evils, to act to end them, and to call upon the Holy Spirit to create a new day and a holy relationship among God’s children. All Saints is privileged in the Lord to pick up our cross and follow Jesus in this Kingdom ministry. We are not merely to seek understanding and acquaintance with all God’s children, but to be One in Christ spiritually and in relationship with everyone, making their joys and sufferings our joys and sufferings.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.  Acts 10:34-35

For God shows no partiality Romans 2:11

God shows no partiality among us all. He declares that we are all dear and precious in His holy image. When we show bad faith partiality in any manner, we are against God and those we sin against. When we do anything that subjects people to wrongful partiality, we say that God is a liar. All Saints truly seeks to honor and fear the Lord actively in our love, sacrifice, and care of others. 

. . . a lawyer asked Jesus a question, to test him.    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 22:35-40

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: 
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.   John 13:34

In the first verses above, an interrogating lawyer asks Jesus: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” The question is about “the Law” of the Old Testament.  Jesus answers the question He is asked with reference to a Deuteronomy quote. The greatest commandment of the Law is to love God. He then adds something not asked, unrequested dicta requiring us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That alone obliterates any justification for racism and hatred.
 
But hang on, because at the Last Supper, Jesus establishes the Christian faith within His New Covenant by giving His new Commandment, His mandate or Maundatum. It is so supreme and paramount that the day before Good Friday bears its name as Maundy Thursday.  We are now, above any notion of loving others as ourselves, to love others as He loved us! Simply put, the standard is no longer merely equal love, but the overarching and elevated standard of Christ’s sacrificial love for us, even unto death on the Cross. We are not called to treat others merely equally, but rather preciously, as God Himself does. If the lower standard of loving our neighbors as ourselves rules out any justification for racism and hatred, the new higher Commandment that we love others as Jesus loves us evermore renders illegitimate any attempt to justify or rationalize racism. 
 
Racism brings social, economic, cultural, political, psychological, and physical destruction. There is no question of these truths. Yet, we recognize that at its essence, foundation, and root, racism is a SPIRITUAL evil, under which all the other forms of destruction lie. Our calling in Christ is to change hearts. Jesus’ way is to love, serve, and sacrifice for one another. Until the spiritual fractures are healed, the worldly ramifications cannot be remedied.
 
The difference between a Kingdom Church and worldly approaches to end racism is that Jesus commands His own method - transformation by the Holy Spirit leading to the changing of His people’s hearts. It is only by changing hearts that we can change the world with eternal and enduring consequences. It is only by changing hearts that social, economic, cultural, political, psychological, and physical evils can be meaningfully and lastingly changed – if not ended. To take any other approach is to temporarily treat the symptoms rather than the true disease – spiritual evil and sin. The changing of hearts is manifested and grown in relationships, not in a vacuum or as an intellectual matter. Our relationships going forward are essential to our call in Christ.
 
And recognizing the overwhelming and daunting mission ahead, we take comfort in this. None of us likely will live long enough to see the fruition of all our works of faith. Yet, we carry on in joy and confidence that our Lord who began these good works in us will bring it all to the fullness of completion in the day of Jesus’ Coming!  Philippians 1:6

The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.   1 Samuel 16:7

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.   Ephesians 4:32

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother
is still in darkness.   1 John 2:9

In Christ,
Ed Kelaher, Rector
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