Ferguson and Southminster

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
choward@glpby.org


On August 9, 2014 Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. This horrific incident created a line of separation in our community and nation. The city of St. Louis is now viewed through the racialized lens created when a white policeman killed a black man. Sides have been taken.

During the riots that followed after Michael Brown’s shooting, Southminster Presbyterian church took a bold step and held a prayer vigil for their neighbor who happened to be Darren Wilson, the policeman who killed Brown. The national media seized on this division of North side Ferguson churches praying for Michael Brown while white suburban Southminster prayed for Darren Wilson. It was an ugly and dishonest comparison creating a false dichotomy: Ferguson versus Southminster.

Earlier this year, Dr. Mark Laberton, president of Fuller Seminary, gave a powerful and moving presentation to a meeting of evangelical leader at Wheaton College in Chicago. I encourage you to read the entire speech. You can read it here. If you substitute the word “Presbyterianism” for “evangelicalism” the text rings familiar.

Laberton said, “Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves.”

Are we as Presbyterians guilty of this same alignment and complicity with power and the dominant culture?

The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy is attempting to push back against the dominant culture and the unjust emphasis that create racialized realities. This is why we are having anti-racism training. We are determined not to be defined by a cultural lens that pits us against one another because of the color of our skin. As a presbytery and as Christians, we are committed to a faith that goes deeper than the nightly news, neighborhoods, high school of origin, or any other form of racialization we are exposed to.

These first steps will happen at Ferguson and Southminster.

On Friday night, the presbytery will meet in Ferguson. Crossroads will provide training for leaders who want to be in front of our presbytery wide conversations on race. On Saturday Crossroads will provide training during our Presbytery Gathering at Southminster. This is for everyone who desires to confront, acknowledge, and take steps to move beyond the racial chasm in our city and communities.

I applaud First Ferguson and Southminster for stepping forward to host these conversations. They are symbolic places that have decided to be part of the solution, and not continue to widen the wound in St. Louis, and our Presbytery.

Now it is your turn. Change starts with each of us. Change starts when we come together to pray, fellowship, worship, and have communion as God’s people. Here is where you register. I look forward to seeing you this weekend.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

4 Responses to “Ferguson and Southminster”

  1. Charles Pfeifer on

    “Right On!” Craig. We people of faith need to lead the way with love, compassion and wisdom to counter the dimensions of our culture that are violent, hate filled and fear filled.

    Reply
  2. Eldon on

    Thanks, Craig. My 15 years experience working in city of St. Louis, and my close connection to 3 former St L police officers leads me to say St L police dept has had deeply racist structures and practices. (These officers lamented what they experienced.) Perhaps StLPD is changing. Info from Ferguson in 2014f indicates the same. Hope it too is changing. Change must begin with the center of power making changes and building trust. We need to continue calling for it. Let’s pray that Crossroads can lead us to more love, humility, commitment to justice and skills for culture change.

    Reply
  3. Sheila Mapes on

    Thank you for your blog. By including Dr. Laberton’s speech, you remind us that working toward racial justice is not just a PC(USA) mission. The issues surrounding racism are much bigger than we, and we will not truly address them unless all faith groups are involved in the solutions. Listening to and including evangelical Christians is a good start.

    Reply
  4. Hu Weikart on

    Hate and the associated racism is older than the “Good Samaritan”.
    My father and mother had college friends and family who went to China, Brazil, Panama and Singapore to bring the word of peace and love. My parents at the same time 1920s worked as Master’s in Social Work to help the European emigrants join their new community in Youngstown, Ohio. This was during the time of the resurgence of 4 million KKK members in the USA after WW I. (You didn’t know?) Fortunately, early in the Great Depression this despicable organization had peaked at about 60,000 in northeastern Ohio and now is very small today. Not to worry following that came the Steel Industry introducing the Southern African Americans, I believe to try to stop labor organization and higher wages. My father an erudite Social reformer and devout Methodist, worked with each group as they entered the homes near the mills where they could walk to work.
    In the 1939 my father developed one of the earliest section 8 Settlements, unfortunately segregated, but strong in neighborhood committees and supportive of the young men going off to WW II. Alas my father died in 1947 at just 45 but his legacy lasted into the early 2000s with the development of a new Section 8 housing development.
    The poor may be with us always; but we must be sensitive and prevail in our commission and work together to overcome hate. Hu Weikart DPC

    Reply

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