An Introduction to a New Blog on Racism and Prejudice
Why This? Why Now? Why Me?
During my 45 plus years of ministry, I have served in many roles in many places. When I turned 65, I resigned from my ministry staff role in Phoenix and began a teaching ministry. The advice I received from trusted, wise brothers about my future legacy was that my greatest contribution would come through leadership training and writing. Hence I embarked on the leadership training part, and pursued it vigorously for about seven years. Then we moved to Dallas and I served as a part-time staff person in 2015.
Through these eight years, I wrote only one full length book and did second editions on a couple of others. I was unable to concentrate on writing while still considered even a part-time staff member. It was purely my problem, for the Dallas leadership didn’t put any pressure on me at all. This issue, along with continuing to have friends younger than I am die, led me to end the part-time staff involvement and devote 2016 to writing.
By God’s grace and to my amazement, I wrote three books in four months, and introduced them at the Reach Conference in St. Louis. After this immersion in writing, I came up for air and realized that I didn’t have any other book idea burning in my heart, although I have the ideas for several in a folder on my computer. I felt like I was somehow in a vacuum, not knowing what God had in store for me next.
I thought of the passage in Acts 13:36: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…” This question hit me: “Are we done here, Lord?” Maybe my purpose has been fulfilled and it’s my time to die. After all, I did turn 74 on October 27th. I had no desire to sit in a rocking chair awaiting death, and the selfish life most people associate with retirement is repugnant to me.
God Moves in Mysterious Ways
As I was mulling over these things, praying about them, but still feeling like I was in a vacuum, five police officers were shot in Dallas. Some of our African American members were bold enough to state that we were not hesitant to talk about this tragedy, yet said nothing about the continuing killing of unarmed blacks by police officers. Our congregational evangelist, Todd Asaad, sent out an email blast to our membership and apologized for our oversight and seeming indifference, promising that we would seek to be more informed, more involved and more empathetic in the future. It was a very good letter.
Shortly after this, one of our region leaders, Mark Mancini, contacted me and asked if I would speak on the subject of racism and prejudice in his region. Not only does that region have a significant contingent of black brothers and sisters (including one black elder and one white elder, both married to black sisters), Mark’s and Connie’s son was about to graduate from the Police Academy in Los Angeles.
I agreed to preach the sermon, although I had never preached an entire lesson on this subject. I have mentioned it many times in sermons, plus addressed it in written articles, but hadn’t preached an entire lesson on it, surprisingly. Regarding those articles, you can read them on my website (gordonferguson.org). The articles are entitled “The Big Black Brother’s Club,” of which I was a part in Boston, and “Surprise, Surprise: Guess Who’s Been Coming to Dinner,” loosely based on the title of an old movie.
In the latter, I explain how my frequent comment (intended to be humorous) about having too much soul to be a white man led to a challenge by a black friend to take a DNA test. I finally did it and found that I was 12% black (no surprise to me). Although both articles have some humor in them, especially the first, racial issues are serious issues to me and have been for decades. The articles reflect that seriousness.
The sermon in our Southwest Region lasted well over an hour. I could not introduce such a sensitive subject without trying to make myself as clear as possible. Honestly, not many white guys could say some of the things I say about the subject, but somehow I seem to resonate well with both blacks and whites (or so I have been told by those of both races). Being an old guy likely helps, and being raised during the Jim Crow era in Louisiana by non-racist parents exposed me to situations that were very unusual for a white kid growing up in that setting.
Evidently Mark had some good things to say about the lesson, for the other region leaders asked me to preach the same sermon in their regions. The audio lessons were posted on our website, and a black sister in St. Louis, Yolanda Suber, listened to the lesson and asked her church leaders to listen to it. The result was a last minute invitation to come there to deliver the lesson, after which we had a panel discussing the race issue very openly and honestly.
You can see the video version of both the sermon and the panel on this website, the Gateway City Church website or on Disciples Today. Jeff Mannel, lead evangelist at the Gateway City church, told me recently that people from 52 nations had already watched all or part of my sermon – in less than three weeks. Obviously, the subject hit a very sensitive nerve. I suggest you watch both.
The Birth of a New Idea
However unexpected it may have been, God had his way of filling my vacuum. The issue of racism disturbs me greatly, but the prospect of speaking and writing about it excites me. My black friends have not felt totally safe sharing exactly how they feel about life in their world with those of other races. That feeling must end, and my blog is going to be dedicated to helping end it. As per usual, I will be direct and the subjects addressed will cover a broad spectrum. You will find my new blog link on my website, using the title at the top of this page. (I will explain this title in one of my next articles on the blog for those who may not fully understand it.)
With that introduction, I invite you to go to my website (gordonferguson.org) and click on the tab that reads “Black Tax and White Benefits.” Note that my original title used the phrase “white privilege,” but I changed it fairly soon after starting the blog. In a future article about coming to terms with terms, I will explain the reason for the change. I will be praying for God’s Spirit to guide me in what I say and how I say it. My intentions are always to accomplish all of this, but I’m human and will likely make some mistakes of one sort or another. I will depend on feedback from my reading audience to help me deepen my insights and to correct me when I am off base.
I cannot know what it feels like to be black in America, since I was raised white. But I have studied the subject for years, and know more about it than many of my race and I intend to keep learning. I do know that I’ve not seen the amount of racial tension between blacks and whites that I’m seeing now since the Civil Rights days when I was young.
I also know that our Latino brothers and sisters face many race related issues in their lives, along with other minorities in our country, and we will address their issues as well. But right now, the black/white tensions are the most heightened and we will definitely begin addressing them first. Please join us. I plan to post at least one new article each week on the blog. In addition to the blog, I have many articles on the site that you might enjoy reading. For sure, read the two I mentioned earlier in this article. Until we meet at the blog…
Your older brother,