Posted 10/21/20 at 4:00pm. Submitted by Laura McDaniel.
This article contains excerpts from videotaped conversations between Pastor Vernon Gordon, The Life Church, and Pastor Brian Hughes, Passion Community Church (PCC), discussing their journey of learning about the complexities of race and culture together while helping their congregations understand God’s perspective, so they can do something about it. They will share their story during a breakout session at the BGAV Annual Meeting on Tuesday, November 10 at 9:30 a.m. Click here to register for this session.
Vernon Gordon: Pastor Brian and I met through Uptick’s Transformational Pastors Network. He has become a trusted friend and colleague, generously sowing into me and my leadership at The Life Church. Back in May when we started to learn about the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, Pastor Brian contacted me because he had questions.
Brian Hughes: Until six months ago, I never realized the bubble I had been living in. I never thought of myself as prejudiced, yet I became convicted to take a fresh look inside. I read “Something Must be Done About Prince Edward County” because one of our PCC campuses is in Farmville. I cried because of what happened and because of my ignorance of having lived so close without knowing. I had a lot of questions, but I didn’t know if they would be offensive to ask. I reached out to Pastor Vernon to help me and my church begin a journey. We came with a posture of humility and a desire to learn.
Vernon: While I don’t speak for all Black people because we are not monolithic, it is my conviction that all questions are okay to ask. The journey begins with awareness, which hopefully leads to developing relationships where you can ask the awkward or uncomfortable questions. Then it’s a matter of aligning your lifestyle to live into your values, creating proximity to diversity. It is great that Pastor Brian is taking the steps to learn and grow, inviting me and my staff to honest conversations. I am filled with hope that he is helping the people at PCC go from awareness to asking, with the goal of moving toward alignment.
Brian Hughes: I have learned that racial injustice is deeply embedded in our culture, and it will take generations to solve. It must be more than a sermon series or having one or two lunches with a Black person. Pastors need to help their congregations retool the way they think, so they can see people the way God sees them. At PCC we say, “Every person is of equal and infinite value before God.” We need to keep saying this, believing it, and living into it. That is the goal.
Vernon Gordon: What do you think prevents pastors from engaging in these types of conversations or leading their churches in this direction?
Brian Hughes: I think pastors in the white community are either in denial, convinced that racial injustice is not really a thing, or that they are afraid of losing their job if they talk about it. While I am not judging them, their fear of creating controversy causes them to be silent. And it’s a minefield, because everything has become so politicized and polarized. Instead I prefer to focus on how we see the world and how God sees the world.
Vernon Gordon: How do you navigate the tension between those who say you need to go faster because Black people have waited too long and others who want to slow down, saying that you are pushing too hard?
Brian Hughes: I acknowledge that Black people have waited a long time for white people to become aware. However, if I want people at PCC to come along with me, I need to calibrate the pace at which we move along. I will always keep the issues before PCC, because God has lit a fire inside of me.
Vernon Gordon: You mentioned that everything is politicized and polarized these days. What do you think is a Gospel solution to this?
Brian Hughes: Jesus went to places he wasn’t supposed to go and reached out to people who were disenfranchised. That is the Gospel solution. Actions rooted in humility, not ego, have great favor with God. And all of us need to come to the place where we are broken enough for God to heal us inside and then reach out with sacrificial love to those in need and say, “We are in this with you.“
Vernon Gordon: Yes, I agree! I think the journey we are taking together personally and as pastors leading our churches through can be an example of what the Kingdom of God can look like here on earth as it is in heaven–where people from all nations, tribes, and languages come together.
While not a complete list, here are a few books Pastor Brian and Pastor Vernon suggest for reading:
- Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristen Green
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
- White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo