Baltimore on Hearts and Minds at Reconciled Church Summit in Orlando

By Al Perrotta Published on April 30, 2015

The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide Summit took place Wednesday in Orlando, Fl. with the flames and fury of the Baltimore riots fresh on the minds of participants. Pastors from across racial, ethnic and denominational lines gathered to wrestle with how the church can, and must, pursue reconciliation and address the challenges of struggling urban communities.

“The silence of the church is killing us,” thundered Bishop TD Jakes. “We need the church to get out the message and not depend on the media.”

The Reconciled Church Summit had been scheduled to coincide with the Jake’s massive International Pastors & Leadership Conference, which kicks off Thursday. However, with the events in Baltimore, the timing seems almost prescient.

Jakes served as de facto host, along with Bishop Harry Jackson of Washington, DC, who initiated the Reconciled Church movement, and The Stream founder and publisher James Robison, who worked with Jackson and Jakes to turn the idea into action. Panelists for the morning’s session on Criminal Justice also included Bishop Angel Nunez of Baltimore, Prison Fellowship president Jim Liske and Benjamin Lloyd, an attorney for Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Mo.

Bishop Jakes outlined many of the issues facing our society and exhorted the church to rise up and “be the church.”

He shared how his father bootstrapped his way up in life from lowly janitor to where he had 52 people working for him. And though Jakes grew up “country poor,” he never had to step over needles when he went out the door or hear gunshots in his neighborhood.

Self-reliance and responsibility were key, Jakes said, and that, when knocked down, a confident person will get back up and keep going. However, many can’t get up these days because there are things in the system that keep their hands and feet tied. The church must play a much more active role in making those things work right, he said.

“It’s time for the church to take over,” he said, “I’m not sure people have seen the Gospel. The Gospel is only made visible when works are added to faith.”

He then issued a challenge for the church to renounce making assumptions about other people. “We are building walls around our houses, gated communities … I am not sure who the incarcerated ones are. Do not allow the media to tell you who your own brothers and sisters are. They look different, but you know who they are.”

As he would put it later during the panel discussion, “We love to talk about unity, but it is hard to do it.”

Bishop Jakes called for wise, fatherly leadership by people with wisdom in this country to make the difference.

Robison, who is also the president of Life Outreach International, picked up on Jake’s theme of fatherhood. “We have a Father,” he said, “and he can do this!”

He continued: “We need to see the Father. The only way to reveal him is for his family to come together … The greatest source of what happens in this nation should be the church … Sammy Rodriguez says the government may be our Uncle Sam but will never be our father.”

Robison also discussed the need for human fathers and strong families, especially in distressed neighborhoods. He referenced with admiration the “Baltimore Mom” who has become famous after being captured on camera pulling her son out of Monday’s rioting mob. But, he added, “The mother in Baltimore, I wanted to ask a question — I wonder where dad was? I hope he was working, but I fear not.”

“The church is not a kingmaker,” he added. “We already have a king.” He reiterated that it was up to the church to take its place and to aid those being trampled — the “precious ones.”

“Tell me the precious are not being trampled under the feet of man,” he said, “Now we’re also seeing God’s first institution, marriage, being trampled.”

All the panelists agreed that the church is being heard less and less while a more secularized voice is getting stronger. The challenge for the church, Robison said, is to resist discouragement, apathy and inaction. “We were put here to win, not to hang in there and hold the fort.”

 

 

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