James Cone, Illustration: Uzo Njoku (UVA ’19)
Saturday, February 27
The Rev. James Cone, writing in the 1989 preface to his 1969 book, Black Theology & Black Power, offered this holy and human observation on his place in history, “Since theology is human speech and not God speaking, I recognize today, as I did then, that all attempts to speak about ultimate reality are limited by the social history of the speaker. Thus, I would not use exactly the same language today to speak about God that I used twenty years ago. Times have changed and the current situation demands a language appropriate for the problems we now face. But insofar as racism is still found in the churches and in society, theologians and preachers of the Christian gospel must make it unquestionably clear that the God of Moses and of Jesus makes an unqualified solidarity with the victims, empowering them to fight against injustice.”
Thirty years later we have, as a Conference answered the call to see that “insofar as racism is still found in the churches and in society, theologians and preachers of the Christian gospel must make it unquestionably clear that the God of Moses and of Jesus makes an unqualified solidarity with the victims, empowering them to fight against injustice.” We as a Conference committed ourselves, in holy conferencing, to antiracism. From 1969-1989 Rev. Cone saw movement, not completion of the task, but movement. We stand now at an historic moment of crisis in American Christianity. Future generations will be right to ask, “when hate arose yet again did they as leaders answer the call to antiracism?”
Action step: today, with brutal honesty ask simply, “can I, as a called church leader, ignore the call to antiracism?”
God of Unity, We come before you dismayed at our own divisions. We have struggled as your church to come to live in unity; but we are divided – along all the fault lines of our societies. The ruptures in our families, among friends, among denominations, among nations are wide and deep. When we attempt to get on the same page, we build taller walls and dig deeper trenches. God, help us! We know that Christ is not divided. We know that it is your baptism to which we have been called. It is your service to which we are compelled. You have called us to proclaim the gospel, but we even fight about what that is. Help us, God! Help us to give up our power and our privileges. Help us to yield for the sake and cause of the cross of Jesus. Help us to embrace and to live the foolishness of a life emptied of power and given to service, in the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Help us to walk in salvation – in the name of the Servant Christ, Amen.
Valerie Bridgeman Davis, The Africana Worship Book, Discipleship Resources, 2006, p.85