Racism and the Church

From Fr. Thomas McKenzie

This week a spotlight was shone on what has been called "America's original sin": racism. Many of us have seen the ghastly images coming out of Charlottesville. White supremacists, alt-right bigots, Klan members, and neo-Nazis marching together in America. They shouted unspeakable words of hate while declaring that the streets of that lovely city now belonged to them. They came armed and ready to fight. Violence erupted because of their hateful presence, and a woman was murdered in a terrorist attack by one of them.

This event has garnered a great deal of attention. Some would say that we should ignore it, because attention is what these people want. And while it’s true that they seem to be loving the spotlight, we must respond. Each of us, in our own way, is now part of a national conversation about what we will and will not accept as normal in our society.

The Church is morally compelled to speak up in moments like these, and especially southern, Protestant congregations led by white men. Why? Because, in the past, we have been complicit in racism. Hate groups, and specifically the Ku Klux Klan, came from us. There were KKK meetings held in our church basements, and our members (including our clergy) were part of that terrorist organization. Since its founding in the 19th century, the Klan has killed thousands of people and terrified millions while the white, Protestant churches of the American South either stood silently or actively participated. This can never happen again.

In the Name of Jesus and his Church, I must make it clear that racism is a moral evil. It is a demonic Power. It is a sin on both a societal and personal level. There can be no equivocation on this. 

It might be helpful to suggest a way to think about racism. Many people hear that word and think it means "hating people of another race." Actually, hating someone of another group (racial, religious, etc.) might best be called "bigotry." Anyone can be bigoted toward another group. An Anglican can be bigoted toward Baptists, a Japanese person toward Chinese people, a woman toward men, and the list goes on. Bigotry is a sin that we commit personally, and no bigotry is “better" or "worse” than another.

Racism, on the other hand, is an historical system of power and oppression. Racism isn’t so much a feeling as it is a way of acting, or a state of affairs. Racism is powerful even among those who do not “feel” racist. America has been racist not just in the way people feel, but much more in the way our country has acted (slavery, the deportation of Native people, Jim Crow, etc.)

When the Klan and their friends marched in Charlottesville, they were showing themselves to be bigots, certainly. But they were also advocating racism. There is a context to their hate, there is a history. They represent things that have actually happened to real people. The Nazi’s annihilated Jews, Romani, homosexuals, disabled people, and others. The Klan lynched black men by the hundreds and sought to ghettoize or re-enslave African-Americans. These marchers were calling for more of the same. The chants, the torches, the flags, the weapons, the uniforms—they are all part of a whole. And that whole is repugnant to the Gospel, the Church, and to Christ.

How then should we respond? We should first respond to this, and all evil, with prayer. Remember that our struggle isn't really against flesh and blood. These people are still people, as hateful as they may be, and Jesus died for them, too. Pray for their souls, for their repentance.

Moreover, pray for those who are afraid right now. The purpose of racist marches is to scare historically oppressed people, and that is what is happening. Pray for everyone in this country who is a target of their hate (and that is pretty much everyone besides white, Christian men).

We should also respond by reaching out in love and compassion. Ask your friends about how this is affecting them. Talk to the children you know, age-appropriately, about this. Show your support in whatever ways the Lord leads.

Pray also with repentance for whatever bigotry you harbor (and we all harbor bigotry). Pray that we may repudiate systemic and cultural racism. May the Lord heal our nation, and may it begin with us!

Enough from me. This is a subject I could go on about for a long time. Instead, I want to turn to a post from someone who is relatively new to our church. She is a married woman, and the mother of two wonderful boys. She and her husband are white, the boys are black. I think her post will help all of us better understand why this moment is important, and why this can not be ignored. 

From Megan Hyatt Miller

I'm planning to write more about this soon, but as a parent of two black boys, often the only two black people in any church congregation we attend, when this isn't strongly addressed from the pulpit (this has been our experience in the last few years and is, in part, why were are now at Redeemer), it causes our family to feel invisible on behalf of our boys. This is ironic, because we spend our life being incredibly conspicuous. We are noticed everywhere we go. In church, it's like, they (my boys) are sitting right there, obviously not like everyone else, obviously targeted in our culture in this moment, and obviously not acknowledged in a community that is supposed to be defined by justice, peace, and truth.

And, if my boys and those they represent are unacknowledged in church, yet sitting right there in front of God and everyone, it's as if they are willfully made invisible. And if they are invisible, it's like they don't exist, and if they don't exist, how can they be human? After all, isn't that the sin of racism in the first place--a denial of God's image in all people and the the ability to make a people group invisible or subject simply because you have the ability to do so? 

An unwillingness on the part of white pastors to speak boldly, thoroughly, and often on this issue is one of the great tragedies of our history. We have the theology and the platform to shift culture, but historically, we haven't used it, or have used it for ill purposes. The result of silence is not only more injustice, but further division and segregation between Christians which is totally antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I think white pastors have the chance now to write a different ending with their leadership than their forefathers who chose to remain silent. The church has the opportunity to be a force for reconciliation like we've not seen in our lifetime. I'm grateful for your moral clarity and courage on this issue, and encourage you to continue to use your voice powerfully on this issue on behalf of our black brothers and sisters in Christ, and on behalf of children like mine.

Fill the Goodwill Trailer at Redeemer


Our church is richly blessed through our relationship with Family Affair Ministries (FAM). What a great time we had on Sunday! Pastor Glenda's message, along with the great offertory and the special singers on our worship team ... it was a blessing to worship together. Special thanks to everyone who helped with the lunch after church.

FAM does a great deal of good for people in their neighborhood. One way they do this is by giving out Goodwill gift cards. These cards help supply clothing and other necessities. Goodwill and FAM have a special partnership. Goodwill gives FAM giftcards based on donated goods that FAM sends to Goodwill.

Here's what that means for us: There will be a trailer in Redeemer's parking lot from Sunday, June 18 through Friday, June 23. Our challenge is to fill that trailer up. Bring clothing, housewares, books, toys, electronics, and sporting goods. Put them in the trailer. Then Goodwill will award FAM gift cards based on the weight of what we collect!

So don't throw that working toaster away! Don't take those clothes to Goodwill! Don't take that box of books to McKay's! Save them up for just ten more days, and then bring it to the church. Your donation will bless the folks who end up buying the item at Goodwill AND our friends at FAM. It's a win-win!

Do Something Good This Summer

A few months ago, I spent about a week with Faith Church in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. I was introduced to that church by an old friend, and founding member of my congregation (Church of the Redeemer), Mike VanHook. 

Some of you have heard me speak about my time in Haiti. I was overwhelmed by the crushing poverty of the country. I was also impressed by the godly work of Faith Church, and other ministries associated with them. I was especially impressed with Pastor Bruno. While I've only spent a few days with him, Mike has walked with him for fifteen years. Bruno is a man of passion and character. One thing I especially appreciate about him is how deeply committed he is to transparency and accountability. I have often found this to be a real issue when dealing with ministries in very poor environments. 

A few weeks ago, Pastor Bruno was in Nashville. He, Laura, and I had lunch together. As I was driving us to lunch, I asked Bruno how Laura and I could help his ministry. He told me about three things that were pressing needs. 

While I was considering these needs myself, I also decided to bring them up to our Mission and Outreach Committee. You may not know this, but Church of the Redeemer sets aside 10% of our income for mission and outreach. This committee helps to assign those funds. 

The committee decided to act on the needs I presented. But they also wanted to offer folks an opportunity to participate as well. The Vestry agreed, and decided that we should open a special designated fund just for June and July. During these two months, you can contribute towards three specific needs at Faith Church, if you wish. We will then transfer the funds to Faith Church, and we will receive reports on how they are used. 

Here are those three needs: Scholarships, Teachers, and the Construction of the Sanctuary. As a special act of worship this summer, I invite you to join me in giving (even a very small amount) to the work of Faith Church.


One-third of Haitian children do not go to school. That's because almost all available schools are private. Since the majority of Haitians live on less than two dollars a day, you can see where paying for school would be a real problem.

Faith Church has established Faith School for the children in their impoverished area. 120 children now attend, but more could go if they had the money.

I asked Bruno how much it would cost to sponsor a child for a year of school. He told me that $250 would cover school, books, uniform, and lunch (when the school could afford lunch). That's for the entire year.

Redeemer will be sponsoring four children to go to Faith School this coming year. You can sponsor a child, also. If you would like to do so, give $250 to Redeemer, and indicate "Haiti Scholarship." Bruno will send us the names and pictures of the children that we sponsor. 


I asked Pastor Bruno how much he pays the teachers at Faith School. He told me "$90 a month, when we can pay them. And we don't pay them during the summer." 

That's a full-time salary of about $3 a day, when the salary comes through. Given how critical teachers are to a school, Redeemer has decided to give $900 to pay for one teacher for the upcoming school-year. If you'd like to help provide a teacher for Faith School this year, give any amount to Redeemer, and indicate "Haiti Teachers.


To the right, you'll see a picture of Faith Church's sanctuary. Approximately 250 people worship there on Sundays, many standing outside. Bruno has plans drawn up to build a large, sturdy, cinderblock sanctuary. He can get it built for $10,000. 

Redeemer is giving $1,000 toward the building of the new sanctuary. You can pitch in, if you'd like. Just give any amount to Redeemer, and indicate "Haiti Sanctuary." Bruno will keep careful track of the expenditures, and we'll receive reports on the progress.

How to Give

If you'd like to give to any of these three needs, you can bring/mail a check to Redeemer. 920 Caldwell Lane, Nashville, 37204. You can also use our on-line giving by going here: https://portal.icheckgateway.com/ChurchOfTheRedeemer/
Please remember to indicate in the MEMO LINE where you'd like the funds to go. Haiti Scholarships, Haiti Sanctuary, or Haiti Teachers.

Summer at Redeemer

Dear Church,

We’re less than a week away from Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. Kids are getting out of school, graduations are happening, and the weather is definitely getting warmer. In summer, Nashville seems to slow down a bit. The swimming pools are open, the big blockbusters are in theaters, and the days are long and hot. 

Church of the Redeemer slows down for the summer, too. This is both cultural and intentional. Cultural, because that’s what churches in the South seem to do, at least in my experience. But we’re also intentional. Sabbath rest is not “just” a commandment of God, it’s also a helpful pattern of living. If we don’t have seasons of rest, we find that seasons of activity become more and more demanding, and less and less fulfilling. 

June 4th is Pentecost Sunday, in many ways the climax of the Church Calendar. On that day we are offering baptism (please contact me if interested!), Family Affair Ministries will join us, and Pastor Glenda Sutton is preaching. It will be a wonderful day. It will also be our last day of Sunday school until August. 

During the summer, the Women’s Ministry will be offering Connections on Thursday mornings. Otherwise, there won’t be any midweek programs. On Sundays, there will be childcare for the little ones, but youth and children will be with us in worship. Of course, pastoral care is always available for those who are sick, in a crisis, or in need of spiritual support and direction. Music, preaching, and all the other aspects of Sunday liturgy continue as always. 

Summer does bring different opportunities. Here are some things going on:

Summer Picnics

On Sunday evening, June 11, I’m inviting anyone who wants to join me for a picnic. We’ll be at our church playground, beginning at 6 pm. No agenda, just a time to hang out. I’ll be bringing my grill from home and making burgers. Bring whatever you want, bring your kids/friends/whomever. We’ll just have a beer and watch the kids play.

Neighborhood Picnics

Summer is a great time to have a picnic/bar-b-que at your house. Invite folks in your neighborhood. You’ll be surprised how many folks would love to come to something that simple. To encourage you to do this, I’ll give Kroger gift cards to anyone in the church who will use them to throw a little party for their neighbors. Seriously. Just tell me on Sunday you’re doing it, and I’ll give you one.

Summer Devotions

Just because things are laid back doesn’t mean that the discipline or regular prayer and Bible meditation goes away. So, to encourage our devotional life, I’ll be e-mailing daily devotions out to the church throughout the summer. If you are not on our e-mail list, please tell the church office.

Mission Giving

We have a great opportunity to help some desperately poor Christians in Haiti this summer. I’m going to send a separate message about that, but you’ll see that shortly.

Creation Care Camp

Registration for “Wild Wonder” (Creation Care Camp) is now open at www.tinyurl.com/wildwonder2017. Through daily devotions in scripture, nature study and exploration, and hands-on science activities, the camp weaves wonder of the natural world into a deeper knowledge of Jesus and the created world. Camp is open to rising Kindergarteners through rising 4th graders and will be held June 12th - June 16th at Church of the Redeemer from 9am to noon each day. Please register each child separately. When you register your child, there is an option to volunteer at camp. More info for volunteers will follow. If you do not have a child at camp but would still like to volunteer, please email Flo Oakes at flo.oakes@arocha.org.

Youth Summer Pool Party on May 31

Bring yourself and all your friends to our pool party to kickoff the summer! Students entering 7th grade this fall through graduating seniors are invited to attend. We will have pool games, yard games, a hot tub and a cook out. The pool party will be on Wednesday, May 31st at the Sells home (5146 Stanford Dr) starting at 5pm and ending by 8pm. Questions? Contact Johnmark (johnmark@redeemernashville.net or 630-779-4240). Look for other Summer youth events, too.

Redeemer Men's Summer Brewery Fellowship

One Saturday each month this summer, Redeemer men will be meeting at a local brewery for prayer, loosely guided discussion, fellowship and to sample some beer. Please join us as we grow closer to old friends and take the opportunity to make new ones. The breweries don't all serve food so please have lunch before coming. We will meet at 1:00 and wrap up at 3:00. Our first gathering is Saturday, May 27th from 1-3pm at Southern Grist Brewing. Join us!

Women’s Arrington Trip

Women of Redeemer are meeting at Arrington Vineyards Saturday, June 17th at 6 pm. We will meet at the vineyard.  Come sip some wine under the stars, listen to jazz, and spend some time with friends. Bring something delicious, savory or sweet, to share.  When you arrive and park at Arrington look for familiar faces around the picnic table area or call/text Esther Ehmann to find the our location: 802-989-0834.