An Open Letter To White Pastors In NWA

“’When America saw the death of George Floyd with their own eyes on a video played millions of times, it changed something,’ said Ronnie Floyd, a former Arkansas pastor who now heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee.

‘I really believe it will be a watershed moment for this country.’

But Floyd, who pastored a church for 35 years, said many local pastors are simply overwhelmed and often don’t know enough to address difficult topics like racism.”

Why Black Christians are bracing for a ‘whitelash’ by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor, Jul 21 2020

In 2020 white pastors in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) – overwhelmed as they are – have been pushed by the murder of George Floyd in May and other forces to address racism – some for the first time and others in new ways.

Two examples are The Christian Community’s Response To Racism and NWA United.

The Christian Community’s Response To Racism was a live discussion between seven black and white pastors hosted by The Historic St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville in July.

Of the discussion Pastor Curtiss Smith (Senior Pastor at St. James in Fayetteville) said:

“I want to thank all that joined us in this rich conversation around the church and racism.  My prayer is that it was enlightening and is causing a deeper conversation around race and will draw us to action.  A special shoutout to my dear brothers in Christ, Jim Hall, James Hawkins, Hunter Bailey, Jody Farrell, Dustin McGowan and Sam Hannon, for accepting the invitation to be vulnerable.”

Pastor Smith’s call to action was answered by some of the above-mentioned pastors and others in the form of NWA United: a statement of unity and ten commitments agreed to by partners (six white-led churches, two black-led churches, and others) in October.

Importantly, commitment number nine is investment – of both time and money – in people of color in “both our churches and communities.”

Of the statement and commitments Dr. Hunter Bailey (Lead Pastor at Christ Community Church in Fayetteville) said:

“Celebrating the collaboration of churches, organizations, and individual Christians throughout Northwest Arkansas as we stand and work united in the gospel, against racism, for justice! If you belong to Jesus, we invite you to be a part of the movement towards repentance and restoration, trusting in a Resurrected Jesus who tore down the dividing walls of hostility, who calls a diverse people His own, and who promises to make all things new.”

The Christian Community’s Response To Racism and NWA United present an opportunity to help white pastors – and the churches they represent – practice what they have preached: namely to invest resources in black people as an expression of repentance for white racism.

The Christian Community’s Response To Racism and NWA United present an opportunity to help white pastors – and the churches they represent – practice what they have preached: namely to invest resources in black people as an expression of repentance for white racism.

Becca and I are inviting the Christian community in Northwest Arkansas to take this opportunity in the form of Reparations NOW NWA.

On our website – reparationsnownwa.com – we describe Reparations NOW NWA:

What We Are Doing:

We are raising $100,000 to support black Christian leadership in NWA — to sponsor a fellow from NWA with The Witness Foundation.

Jemar Tisby is the CEO & Founder of The Witness Foundation. The mission of the Witness Foundation is to identify, train, & fund the next generation of black Christian leaders. The Witness Foundation operates a two year Fellowship program — fellows receive $100,000 to further their work plus training & mentorship. The Witness Foundation has given our community the opportunity to sponsor a fellow from NWA — we need to raise $50,000 by Feb 15 2021 & $50,000 by Feb 15 2022 to sponsor a fellow.

Why We Are Doing It:

We are sharing white wealth & submitting to black leadership as an expression of repentance & reparations for the theft of white supremacy

Duke Kwon & Greg Thompson write in their book Reparations that reparations is the fruit that the church must bear in keeping with repentance (Luke 3) for the theft of white supremacy. Like Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the church is called to restitution — to return what we have stolen. Like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), the church is called to restoration — to return to wholeness those who have been stolen from.

What You Can Do:

We are inviting white people and white-led churches to help raise funds to sponsor a fellow. We are inviting black people and black-led churches to help recruit a fellow.

Reparations NOW NWA has received funds from more than a dozen white people and from two white-led churches – Genesis Church and Central United Methodist Church (both in Fayetteville) – and fellowship applications from three black people to date.

Reparations NOW NWA has received endorsements from leaders – local and national, black and white – who with us are inviting the Christian community in Northwest Arkansas to join the work of reparations.

Rev. Jody Farrell (Campus Pastor at Genesis Church in Fayetteville) issued the below invitation:

“We are excited at Genesis Church to support this work of reparation. Racial injustice will not be resolved simply through effective relationships with people of color…The real issue is, will we use our resources and will we leverage our relationships to empower people who are marginalized, creating opportunities for people who might not find them on their own. That’s why we are excited about this work and that’s why I want to encourage you as you are able to join with us…Together we can be part of raising up a new generation of people of color who can be a voice that will lead us in the way. We desperately need these voices.”

If the death of George Floyd is to truly be a watershed moment for our country and community then all of us – especially white people and white-led churches – are wise to accept the above invitation.

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