I’m so heartbroken as I write this blog. Each day, it’s more difficult and draining to know the pain, violence and terror that my ancestors experienced, to be cognizant of and hurt by the very damaging horrors of racism today, and then to experience the complacency and denial of the Church in response to that heinous past and present.
The Church. I grew up going to church. I was raised Southern Baptist in Alabama. I went to church three times a week, was baptized as a child, learned Easter and Christmas speeches, sang in the youth choir, and attended Vacation Bible School. I am churched.
The Church. God began beckoning me into the ministries of pastoring, teaching and prophecy when I was a 20 year-old student at The University of Alabama. I cried for several weeks when I “heard” the call. I literally cried in my campus apartment as friends comforted me. Somehow, I knew that accepting the call would signal a shift in what I’d hoped my life’s trajectory would be.
The Church. 14 years after accepting the call, I was a non-profit program director and holding key leadership roles at a metro-Atlanta mega church when my church ideology crumbled around me. The Holy Spirit charged me with unlearning all that wasn’t centered on having the heart and character of Christ and on bringing His way of thinking and engaging to earth.
The Church. I left church, as I had learned it, behind. My relationships changed, many ending. I battled depression because I struggled with letting go and moving forward with Christ. As the Healer worked on me, I was reborn. When I regained my footing on the Solid Rock, I could clearly see Christ, the Church and its glorious purpose: to be the Body of Christ, following the example of Jesus as the Body of Christ in the Gospels.
In the Gospels, Jesus created an atmosphere for the glory of God. He brought heavenly things to earth. When he arrived, the woman at the well was loved, seen, called up and encouraged. When Jesus came, the man at the pool of Bethesda was made whole. When Jesus came, people wanted to know “What must I do to experience this atmosphere and be with you always?” He shook up hierarchies and challenged religious leaders concerning the bondage of pride and greed. When He came, Nicodemus found Him in the middle of the night to learn and experience His divine wisdom and leadership.
Who’s finding the Church in the middle of the night to learn and experience the divine wisdom and leadership of the 2020 Body of Christ? Who feels loved, seen and encouraged by the 2020 Body of Christ? Who is being made whole in the presence of the Christ-led, Holy Spirit infused 2020 Body of Christ? How are we bringing heavenly things to earth? Heavenly things like love, righteousness, peace, justice, mercy, liberty from oppression, wholeness, wellness.
And who’s writing in the dust with Jesus, realizing that we all are or have been the woman caught in adultery, running from those who would condemn us instead of choosing themselves to be atmospheres for redemption, restoration and regeneration?
Who’s writing in the dust with Jesus, reminding those ensnared by religion that the heart of Christ raised high and bleeding with love for humanity is our salvation?
I just want to be like Jesus. I know he is writing in the dust for me. Hebrews 7:25 says that he “lives to make intercession for us.” As his Body, called to duplicate his character, who are we making intercession for? Who are we advocating for? Why is it often true that some sects of what should be a collective Body won’t authentically advocate for non-white, non-Christian lives?
These are the questions I’m considering as I mourn the lives destroyed by sides, supremacist ideology (including the ideology of Christian supremacy - that Christians are somehow more loved by God and valuable to Him), and the sinful dismissiveness by the Church of the part it has played in racism, slavery and colonialism.
I’m writing in the dust, etching these words of the Prophet Isaiah, as I often imagine Jesus did: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised...”
ABOUT DR. VONNETTA L. WEST
Dr. Vonnetta L. West is a Pastor at Our Neighbor's House Church, a Non-Violence Trainer at The King Center and the founder and CEO of Go West Consulting LLC which facilitates experiences and produces content to connect, transform and engage people for good. Go West Consulting provides training on Eradicating Racism, The Bias Challenge, Leadership That Grows, Salvation vs. Community, The Language of the Beloved Community, Inside/Out: Internal Adjustments for External Change, and other sessions aimed at building and sustaining community, including in professional spaces.