As protests around the death of George Floyd take place across the United States, messages of transformation and racial justice have never been more necessary or more relevant. Many who have been reticent to speak out on issues of racial inequality in the past now find themselves motivated to take action. In the midst of the national fight for racial justice, preaching about the importance of black lives is necessary.
“Preaching Black Lives (Matter)” edited by the Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher-Stewart an Episcopal priest and interim rector at St Luke’s Episcopal Church, Washington, DC., is an anthology of sermons, essays, and reflections that ask, “What does it mean to be a church where Black lives matter?” It explains why preaching about race is important in the elimination of racism in the church and in society, and how preaching has the ability to transform hearts. Essays are contributed by many leading Christian thinkers and pastors.
The Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher-Stewart is an Episcopal priest and interim rector at St Luke’s Episcopal Church, Washington, DC., Washington, DC. She has been involved in the valuing of diversity and black lives for over forty years. She has taught and preached nationally, both in and out of the church. She is a Christian educator and activist; her most recent work was published by Anglican Theological Review. Mark Dazzo, SVP, and Publisher of Church Publishing Incorporated said:
Those who have been involved in the fight for racial justice will find that this book provides new and inspiring language to affirm their continued efforts. For those who are ready to begin the conversation, it offers invaluable insights and talking points.
Black lives matter. This is an obvious truth in light of God’s love for all his children. But this has not been the experience for many in the U.S. In recent years, young black males were 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts. Black women in crisis are often met with deadly force. Transgender people of color face greatly elevated negative outcomes in every area of life. When Black lives are systemically devalued by society, our outrage justifiably insists that attention be focused on Black lives.
When a church claims boldly “Black Lives Matter” at this moment, it chooses to show up intentionally against all given societal values of supremacy and superiority or common-sense complacency. By insisting on the intrinsic worth of all human beings, Jesus models for us how God loves justly, and how his disciples can love publicly in a world of inequality. We live out the love of God justly by publicly saying #BlackLivesMatter.
For some Christians, support for the Black Lives Matter movement is a no-brainer. After all, Jesus opposed violence, opposed the taking of life, and opposed racial distinctions. As the apostle Paul taught in his letter to the Galatians, there is neither slave nor free, for “you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Many Christian groups have become active in Black Lives Matter as the movement has progressed. The website of the United Church of Christ, for example, offers “Black Lives Matter” buttons. A campaign by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “affirms the Black Lives Matter movement.” And the American Baptist Churches alluded to the movement in its resolution, passed last March, celebrating its denomination’s role in civil rights. “We affirm today that black lives matter,” the statement read. “Every life matters.”
But those denominations tend to be liberal in their thinking. The path is trickier for conservative evangelical groups. They would all agree that black lives, like other lives, matter. But evangelicals, especially those who support Republican candidates, are uncomfortable with the movement because of its embrace of liberal politics, associated with Democrats.
While programs, protests, conferences, and laws are all important and necessary, less frequently discussed is the role of the church, specifically the Anglican and the Episcopal Church, in ending systems of racial injustice. The ability to preach from the pulpit is mandatory for every person, clergy or lay, regardless of race, who has the responsibility to spread the gospel.
“Preaching Black Lives (Matter)” is an important resource for this moment, as churches everywhere consider how to gather and preach during the COVID-19 pandemic—which disproportionately affects African-Americans—and in response to current and historical violence against people of color. A vital look at the role of preaching in the elimination of racism, this collection is a much-needed call to action for all people of conscience at a critical moment in our nation’s history.
“Preaching Black Lives (Matter)” can be pre-ordered through Church Publishing Incorporated at any Episcopal, religious, or secular bookstore, or through any online bookseller.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Church Publishing Incorporated: Preaching Black Lives (Matter) Book
Contributor: Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher-Stewart
United Church of Christ: Why “Black Lives Matter”
Top Image Courtesy of Bruce Emmerling’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License
Inside Image Courtesy of Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher-Stewart – Used With Permission
Featured Image Courtesy of K. Kliche’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License