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Fuller Seminary President Mark Labberton Says White Christians Must Repent of Racism 'Tragically Intertwined with American Church History'

( [email protected] ) Aug 16, 2017 10:23 AM EDT
August 16, 2017: In the wake of a killing and widespread violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Fuller Theological Seminary President Mark Labberton said that white Christians must acknowledge and repent of the racism that is "tragically intertwined with American church history."
Church-goers pray at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church in Charlottesville the morning after a violent attack on counter-protesters at the "Unite the Right" white-supremacist rally.
Jim Bourg / Reuters

In the wake of a killing and widespread violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Fuller Theological Seminary President Mark Labberton said that white Christians must acknowledge and repent of the racism that is "tragically intertwined with American church history."

In a statement made available to The Gospel Herald, Labberton said that as a community, Fuller Seminary denounces the "violent racism on display last weekend in Charlottesville."

"The evil of racism so vividly unveiled in Charlottesville last weekend is tragically intertwined with American church history," he said. "But it needs to be said that nothing about white nationalism flows from the heart of God. May white-and all-followers of Jesus say and live a resounding NO to any form of white nationalism."

While it's urgent for all Christians to condemn white nationalism, it is also "urgent and necessary for white Christians" to "grasp, to repent of, and to turn from the long history by which our Christian faith has been used to accrue to us personal and systemic power and privilege simply because we are white," Labberton said.

The events of last weekend in Charlottesville - which left one dead and dozens of others injured - "cry out for the need of white Christians to look at this pervasive and insidious evil that subverts the Jesus we claim and profess," he contended. "By our racial sin, the name of Jesus is scandalized."

Dr. Clifton Clarke, who was recently named the Associate Dean of the William Pannell Center for African American Church Studies and Associate Professor of Black Church Studies and World Christianity at Fuller, also weighed in on the recent events in Charlottesville. He said that Christians need to "unequivocally speak in plain terms stating that white supremacist neo-fascist Nazi groups are an evil scourge in this country."

"White nationalism, white supremacy, white privilege, white silence, and racial fragility all drink from the same pot-the maintenance of white privilege," he said, adding that bloody rally was nothing more than "hate that hate produces" and "an affront to our faith in Jesus Christ and the biblical teachings we hold dear."

"In the hours immediately after the Charlottesville riots, I called for white evangelical leaders to swiftly respond and for white people of conscience to speak out about white privilege," he said, thanking Labberton for his "leadership and courage in having already joined me in denouncing the extreme, white supremacist, male-dominated groups in America who are heirs of those hate groups emboldened by the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s."

He concluded: "We, the Fuller community, reaffirm our unshakable commitment to diversity, equality, and the value of all people created in the image of God."

Labberton and Clarke join dozens of other Christian leader in condemning the racism and violence that took place over the weekend.

Matt Chandler, who serves as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said it's the "official position" of the church that "white supremacy and the alt right is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ."

"It's evil and it's from the pit of hell," he said. "That's not a political statement - you cannot, you simply cannot, call Jesus 'King' and believe that nonsense. A good friend of mine said, 'Heaven will be a white supremacist hell.'"

"I just want to go on record saying that this is so despicable and disgusting and evil that it needs to be called out for what it is - bigotry, hatred, racism, and you cannot attach the name of Jesus Christ to it," Chandler continued. "In fact, even doing so reveals just how ignorant and foolish you are. Jesus would look far more brown than he does white. Like, you wouldn't even want to hang out with Jesus, white supremacists."

Chandler said he's not "politicizing" anything: "I'm clearly calling this what it is: despicable, deplorable, and in no way can you tie this to Biblical Christianity."

The pastor said that what's going on is "deeply demonic" and there's "something underneath all of this" - and laws won't solve it.

"It's not law alone, it's not technology alone, it's not education alone," he said. "Without a heart transformed, you'll get the same behaviors you've ever gotten. It's why, without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are never progressing, you're always regressing. It's only in the transformation of the human heart that the walls of hostility are broken down."

Tags : Fuller Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Mark Labberton, The Village Church, Matt Chandler