Editor’s note: A group of 21 Anchorage pastors issued a joint letter introducing a new initiative that aims to combat racism by building relationships across racial divides and affirming that all people have inherent dignity because they are created in God’s image. Their letter is published below.
As leaders from among some of the Christian churches in Anchorage, we are appalled and grieved and challenged by the unrest in our country over racism and the church’s seeming silence. We join with others across America in condemning all forms of racial injustice, direct or indirect, individual, or systemic, and the brutal abuse of power. We reject violence and the polarization that destroys communities.
We believe all forms of racism to be in direct opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (John 4:1-26; Acts 10:9-23; Galatians 3:26-28). With the Bible as our foundation, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we desire to witness to the hope that Revelation 7:9-10 offers: After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
…all humanity has dignity and is worthy of respect and honor because we are created in God’s image.
In response, we are launching an initiative called “Reconciliation: Race, Justice, and the Gospel.” In August, we began discussing the issues of race, justice, and the gospel and how we can and will stand together as one voice (Romans 15:5-6). The churches and persons listed agree to build intentional relationships across ethnicities and maintain unity as members of the one body in Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6). As members of this community, we will pray and labor to be ministers of God’s reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). The Bible we embrace as the very Word of God clarifies that all humanity has dignity and is worthy of respect and honor because we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Anything short of this is sin, and we believe the reconciling power of God and His Word can bring forgiveness and reunite us to God and each other (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We will follow God’s guidance, through confession, to lament, repentance, justice, and ultimately to genuine peace, that tears down the dividing walls of hostility (Ephesians 2).
We know this conversation is not easy…
This initiative will seek to show the world, beginning with our communities and city, that the diverse body of believers is united in Christ: Just as a body, though one, has many parts but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). Furthermore, we will seek to let the world know that God has sent us for this purpose just as He sent Jesus into the world to reconcile all back to Himself (John 17).
We know this conversation is not easy, but we are committed to the necessary and urgent task of engaging in racial justice dialogues in our society, our churches, and our own lives. The group will implement a plan through meetings, conferences, prayer events, Bible studies, conversations, and media communications to promote reconciliation with faith leaders taking a leading role. We invite other faith leaders to join us in this great initiative.
Pastor Undra Parker, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
Pastor Rick Benjamin, Unite Church
Pastor Mel Williams, Dominion Ministries COGIC
Pastor Martine Robinson, Present Hope Church
Pastor Tommy Leonard III, New Season
Pastor Kim Patterson, Anchorage City Church
Pastor Kent Redfearn, Muldoon Community Assembly
Pastor Andy Bartel, St John United Methodist Church
Rev. Michael Burke, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Pastor Leon May I, River in the Desert Community Church
Pastor Michael Snow, Center of Hope COGIC
Pastor Michael Bunton, Greater Friendship Baptist Church
Pastor Joel Kiekintveld, Crosspoint Community Church
Dr. Randy Covington, Rev. Jimmy Stewart, Alaska Baptist Resource Network
Pastor Tim Davis, Chapel By the Sea
Rev. David Dobler, Presbyterian
Pastor Dave Kuiper, Christian Health Associates
Pastor Yolanda Jackson, First Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Dr. Jeff Anderson, Wayland Baptist University
Dr. Alonzo B. Patterson, Alaska Baptist Churches