Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Impact Summit & Racial Reconciliation

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in a truly historic gathering (at least in the history of Campus Crusade). For a few days in Orlando, a couple dozen leaders from The Impact Movement and the U.S. Campus Ministry of CCC got together to build relationships with one another and dream about the future together.

A handful of years ago The Impact Movement went through some major structural and organizational changes. For a myriad of reasons, it became apparent that in order to be a significant leader in bringing change within the African American community and in the world that Impact would need to forge a new identity apart from Campus Crusade. In church terms, this was much more akin to a "church plant" rather than a "church split." In a new church plant, an existing church gives birth to a new church in order to reach people that aren't currently being reached. A church split, on the other hand, is caused by divisiveness and disagreements.

Within the legacy of Campus Crusade, there has always been a spirit of relinquishing control to new leaders and new ministries. Dr. Bill Bright modeled this often as his primary concern was not the promotion of Campus Crusade for Christ, but of the glory of God and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. If more people could be reached for Christ through another vehicle apart from CCC, Dr. Bright supported it. And so it has been with that spirit that the leadership of CCC agreed with the leadership of Impact that changes needed to happen.

The Impact Summit was a demonstration of our commitment to partner together to reach the lost for Christ. Since we made the changes with Impact, it has affected the amount of time that we have been able to relationally connect and trust is built as relationships are formed. In bringing together various leaders from both ministries, we were able to share our stories with one another and hear each other's perspective.

A couple of highlights from the Summit:
  • We had a panel of Impact "veterans" share about their early experiences with Campus Crusade and the story behind how the Impact conference (and later The Impact Movement) was launched. There was a lot of laughter, but also painful stories were shared as some of our African American staff members shared their experiences of being involved in a predominately white organization.
  • We spent some time looking at a passage in Daniel 9 as Dr. Charles Gilmer, the president of The Impact Movement, led us in a powerful time of public confession of our past corporate and present personal sins against one another. In over a decade of being involved in addressing these issues within this organization, I had never been apart of something like this.
  • On our last evening together we enjoyed a tremendous meal at Johnson's Diner, a popular soul food restaurant in downtown Orlando. It was a great time of fellowship and a unique experience. While our group was there, we ran into a couple of Orlando's African American city commissioners and had the opportunity to pray for them -- right there in the middle of the restaurant!

Anytime you have gatherings such as this (i.e. blacks and whites coming together) there are bound to be issues that surface. In order for true racial reconciliation to take place, we need to be willing to hear one another's stories and seek to understand one another. Our experiences may not all be the same, but we can learn from each other in moving forward together. One of the issues that does need to be addressed for many of us when it comes to working with those of other ethnicities is the area of control.

We all seem to like to be in control and call the shots. But in order for biblical reconciliation to take place, there must be a willingness to relinquish control (especially for those of us in the majority) if there is to be any hope of the unity that Jesus prayed about in John 17. Christianity Today published a great article several months ago entitled, "More Free at Last." David Gushee, the author of the article, addresses the need for those of us that are white to be willing to submit to others ouside of our own cultural background. You can read the whole article here, but here is a highlight...

"We will witness true racial reconciliation when white evangelicals release power and become more regularly willing to share leadership with Christians of other ethnicities. It happens in several other sectors of our society, such as the military and education, far more often than it happens in our churches. Warm feelings of fellowship are one thing; sharing power is something altogether different—and much harder. When we share power, we lose control, and in our human insecurity, a craving for control is one of our most basic instincts. And yet Christ calls us to imitate him in laying down our control, our self-interest, and our power, for the good of others (Phil. 2:5-11)."

I have had the privilege of having a number of friendships with those of other ethnicities, co-workers whose cultural background is different than mine and mentors that have different color skin than mine. I've also sat under the teaching of pastors who don't look like me and bosses that are of another race. This has helped me in seeing things from their perspective and helped me in giving up the control that I so desperately wanted to hold onto. I hope that we all seek to follow the model of Jesus in Philippians 2 as we serve with one another.

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Linda Hargrove said...

Hi, this is super. Could I post excerpts of this post on my blog this week? It's http://www.17seeds.com. I focus quite a bit on biblical racial reconciliation.

Linda Leigh Hargrove
author of The Making of Isaac Hunt
a story of adoption, reconciliation, and faith

scottmcrocker said...

Sure, Linda. Thanks for the encouragement.