...a rule of life for allies
-Rev. Jeremy Hall
If we wish to learn to live peaceably with one another (Rom. 12:18), we must move past the racial divides separating us and begin to see the diversity of our communities as a strength designed and implemented by the hand of God.
In David P. Gushee’s Kingdom Ethics, Gushee introduces the reader to the concept of character ethics. “Character ethics moves the focus from rules and acts to agents and their contexts.” Most people interact with their world based on ethical structures that are informed less by rules imposed on them by outside others, and more by who they have come to understand themselves to be in relation to their personhood and immediate context. There are three dimensions to an individual’s internal ethic: how one reasons, one's central convictions, and one's passions, loyalties, and cultural perceptions.
How we reason is based on the kinds of principles and virtues we have internalized, this is greatly influenced by our heroes and the stories we are told as children. Our way of reasoning informs our base convictions about the world, what and how we think about God and ourselves; this is tied very closely to our cultural perceptions of power, authority, and our community/ethnic group. Finally, our loyalties, interests, and trusts are based on who our mentors are, how our communities understand loyalty, and which groups and communities we identity with. When we, as diverse peoples, can start to build relationships with each other and understand how we, as people of different racial groups, form these four dimensions of our personal ethic, we are able to understand each other as complex individuals in the context of our race, rather than manufacturing social expectations about the other based on their color. We must get to a place where our understanding of how we interact flows from a mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation of each other’s cultures, without trying to whitewash or homogenize them.
I have made a personal commitment to invest time and energy consistently throughout my life in learning to practice this kind of respect, understanding, and appreciation for other racial cultures in my community. Part of this commitment involves intentionally cultivating deep friendships with persons of color and giving my intellectual energy and time to reading Black Literature and studying the Church in its various racial forms. Some of the books which I am already reading as part of this commitment include: DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk, Marable’s expository historical text Living Black History, Paris’ Black Leaders In Conflict, and Douglas’ Sexuality and the Black Church. Reading texts such as these and exposing their content to the communities I live in and congregations that I serve has become an important aspect of my ministry. In a similar way, I am making it a point to mention the black leaders and scholars who have influenced me, my thinking, and my ministry, such as Howard Thurman, Bayard Rustin, Allan Boesak, and John Perkins (this is an ever-increasing list).
Another personal commitment in my new rule of life is to be a thorn in the side of injustice. I have set myself up to participate in the Christian prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power, specifically on the subject of race and reconciliation. I have made equality and reconciliation two of my most cherished values and seek to ally myself with the oppressed in all situations, celebrating in collective victories, and mourning with the subjugated over the systemic injustices of our world (Rom. 12:15), remaining hungry and thirsty for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). Though as a minister with a calling to serve the Church, it is not enough that I do these things on my own, I have also committed to leading the people God has called me to in their own engagement of the prophetic tradition as well (James 3:1). In my current youth ministry position (2015) I have crafted the following vision statement,
We are a community that produces thoughtful and proactive Christian men and women whose faith is characterized by longevity and maturity; whose understanding of the Kingdom of God compels them to change the world.
Part of our commitment to produce disciples that proactively participate in the Kingdom of God involves educating them in the grand narrative arch of the Bible, and in God’s plan for the world as one of aperture and expansion, focused around a Jesus who is constantly reaching across barriers of all kinds to draw people to himself, everyone having the same access and ability to connect with the Triune God (Acts 10:34). The mission statement which accompanies this vision claims that as a community,
We are equipping students and families with the tools, knowledge, and experiences they need to develop a vibrant Christian faith, theology, ethic, and worldview, through study, prayer, and fellowship.
This equipping of students involves exposing them to diverse voices on faith, hearing stories and experiences from people of different races and generations on issues of life, faith, and justice. This past Wednesday night (Dec 2, 2015), we participated in our commitment to equip students with tools to change the world, teaching them how to produce “Kairos documents.” Inspired by the Barmen Declaration and the work of peacemakers in post Apartheid South Africa, we trained our students in the art of calling out social injustices in our world, naming the victims and the beneficiaries, and seeking God’s voice in scripture to provide us with a way to respond and move forward.
It is essential to leading congregations that are made up of more than one demographic to make sure that the needs, desires, and worship styles of all groups are represented in the life of the church. As a congregational leader I believe that one of my roles is to be an advocate for the weakest (for whatever reason) voices in the community; and to make sure that all demographics of the church are represented in the leadership, either through lay leadership programs or through clergy/staff hires. As a preacher I want to use the authority of the pulpit and my social status in my community to bring my neighbors’ and congregation’s attention to issues of race and reconciliation. I commit to name the evils of racism in its various forms boldly, and to standing with those who suffer and those who are cut down because of their race, in the tradition of Rizpah (2Sam 21), remembering the words of Rev. King that “a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In the past year we have had various and terrible opportunities to practice this. With so many race-related deaths, and the fear of more to come, it is the job of the white church to stand by the bodies and demand justice, to preach the word that even though all lives matter, the world needs to be reminded that “black lives matter.”
Rev. King once referred to 11am on Sunday as “the most segregated hour in [America.]” This continues to be the case, with so few churches being truly “interracial.” For me, it is important to remember that while churches tend to be homogenous communities, the Church is marvelously diverse. While some churches can pull off building an interracial/multiracial congregation, and some church leaders are called by God to this challenging work, churches tend to stay segregated for various systemic cultural reasons. As a pastor, if God calls me to a church that is predominantly white, I will work to establish a relationship between my congregation and a predominantly/historically Black congregation in our community, working to provide opportunities for us to experience each other’s cultures, hear each other’s stories, and share in each other’s joy and connection to God. We would provide space for our congregations to meet and foster friendships between Christians of different races that could exist outside of programmed events, manifesting our belief in the equality of all persons (Gal 3:28), and creating an even playing field upon which reconciliation can take place. Working as a partner with the leadership of the other church, we can expose both congregations to Jesus as a radical reconciler, and locate our racial reconciliation in the story of God being reconciled to all of creation (1 Cor. 1:19-20). I want my congregations to understand that reconciliation is real, reconciliation is radical, and reconciliation is revolutionary. Meaning, respectively, that when reconciliation takes place between peoples, it leads to real decolonization of the marginalized and the restoration of humanity. It reaches all the way to the roots of the injustice, and it always leads to a change in the power structure and worldview of the offender party.
My goal for my ministry of reconciliation is to live out the call of 2 Corinthians 5,
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
that my identity in Christ would be that of a reconciler, and that I would live as a prophet, humbly seeking justice and showing mercy (Mic. 6:8), motivated by my belief in, and love for the ever progressing Kingdom of God and a deep desire to see it fully manifest on the Earth.
I am a husband, a pastor, a writer, a speaker, and a consultant.
I was born and raised in Pensacola, FL. At Samford University in Birmingham, AL I studied religion and church health. During my four years there, I connected with a church plant called Celebration Church, where I served as Associate and Youth Pastor. I have also served on Church staffs as a youth minister at Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Peachtree City, Ga and Clairmont Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Atlanta, Ga.
Since moving to Atlanta, I’ve earned my M.Div in Christian Social Ethics from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology. Currently I work as a staff researcher at Mercer University's Center for Theology and Public Life.
I have partnered with various churches as a growth and general health consultant. I serve as a member of the advisory board for my friends at WORDWALK Inc., as well as speak at youth events, coach other ministers, and lead conversations on youth and family ministry, Christian ethics, Ecclesiastic/Cultural Issues, church planting, and congregational sustainability.