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A Letter to Our Redeemer Downtown Community

In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reminds us that one of the most profound realities of the gospel is that in Christ, we are all members of one body. That is why he tells us that “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). But if one part of the body is in deep agony and pain and the rest of the body does not fully acknowledge it or suffer with them, then we must conclude that the body of Christ is not functioning as it should. Love demands that we mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

Yet, last week, in the immediate aftermath of the violent death of George Floyd that has highlighted the ongoing, violent racism in our country, Redeemer Downtown failed to provide comfort and hope to those who are suffering most. We failed to adequately provide a strong moral voice that would speak to God’s hatred of injustice. And by not speaking more directly to the pain and trauma felt by our black sisters and brothers, we have not only diminished their pain, but have failed to provide the hope of the gospel to the body of Christ. For that we are deeply and truly sorry. You deserved better and we must do better.

We join others in condemning the violent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the persistent evil of racialized violence and injustice in this country. It grieves us that we should have to make explicit what should be embraced without having to be expressed. But in light of the urgency of the moment and the pastoral need, let us state clearly that the idea that one race is superior or inferior to another is directly opposed by God who created all men and women in his image with equal worth and dignity (Genesis 1:27-28). Therefore, racism in all its forms is detestable to God because it distorts, diminishes, defames, and destroys those whom God has created in his image (Psalm 8:5). And this not only destroys our society, but is antithetical to the good news of Jesus Christ. That is why we also repent of the ways that we have not adequately stood against the evil of racism in the past. We ask our black sisters and brothers to forgive us for diminishing its severity, averting our gazes, and even perpetuating such injustice deliberately, or through our inaction.

We recognize that there is a danger in just “checking the box” of our Christian duty by affirming the statements in this letter in order to relieve ourselves of dealing with these issues going forward. Doing so would be a failure of the church to lead as a witness to the world that shows forth the unifying beauty of the gospel. Instead, this must be an opportunity for our sanctification as we all grow into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13), as the church is meant to be a model to the world of how people from different races and ethnicities can learn to love and serve one another for Jesus’ sake (Ephesians 2:11-22; Acts 2:1-12).

But we also recognize that we are far from doing so. Deep wounds have been opened that will not be easily healed. But we, as Redeemer Downtown are committed to taking God’s Word seriously and living out the hope of the gospel in our community. We know that this will require each one of us to examine our own hearts in order to root out and confess all forms of racism and ask God for forgiveness from this terrible sin (Psalm 139:23-24). We also know that this must be reflected in how we operate as a church, and recognize that we need a new sustained approach to this issue that will require commitment over the long haul from all of us. We are determined to work through this together with many of you on what that approach needs to look like. Thankfully, the gospel promises us not only forgiveness for our greatest sins and failures, but also the empowering of the Spirit so that we can become God’s holy, loving and just people. We look to God’s powerful Spirit to do just that.

Grace and peace,

Redeemer Downtown Pastors, Elders and Trustees