By Tim McCoy, Executive Minister
An interview with Pastor Audley Goulbourne
Over the past few weeks, we have taken inventory of the social landscape of North America and have witnessed the escalation of tensions among all people as it relates to the recent and tragic deaths of Black men and women in the US and Canada. Though we have not experienced identical expressions of racism, we know that it still persists here in Ontario and Quebec. We pray it will not continue. As Canadian Baptists, we must be sensitive and understanding. We have a responsibility as Christians to live by God’s Word and truly believe that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34) and neither should we. Ever.
It is important that we seek to understand one another and the pain of others. Rather than stopping with an “ex cathedra” statement from CBOQ, could we continue to set a table of welcome and understanding? Could we elevate the voices and perspectives of those whose lives are affected and encourage dialogue that produces change?
I’ve learned in life that I am usually motivated most often to action when I am asked simple questions that conjure up in me a passion to move, create change and influence others to do the same. Therefore, I ask you these questions today:
- Who, in your sphere of care, influence and community should you call right now and promise them of your commitment to stand with them in this time of unrest and uncertainty?
- Whose voice should you elevate in this moment in time?
- How can you take action in your community today that will provide assurance that we live by Luke’s words that God shows no partiality?
- What needs to change about yourself that will raise high the name of Christ and exhibit love of all people?
- “Proximity breeds empathy.” Eric Mason – What relationships should you begin to build now that promotes understanding of one another?
Part of building understanding means not just speaking for others, but rather creating space for listening to others as they share their perspectives. To practice what I preach, I asked my friend, Pastor Audley Goulbourne of Lisle Memorial Baptist Church, Toronto, a few questions. I hope you’ll listen with me.
Audley, as you reflect on the recent tragic events in the United States, how does that affect you, your family and community?
Thankfully, there have been cameras to capture a glimpse for the world to see of the unjust mistreatment of Blacks and the racism that has been going in the United States. (In Canada it has not been as blatant.) COVID-19 has further amplified the inequity that exist as seen by the higher death rate amongst Blacks. There is support for peaceful protest to overturn the status quo and with the hope of lasting systemic changes.
Jogging in the ”land of the free” should not have been a death sentence for Ahmaud Arbery. Fortunately, the bird watcher—Christian Cooper—in New York did not lose his life after that 911 call. Amy Cooper had used and abused her white privilege to make that call. But George Floyd’s fate was different after another 911 call in Minnesota. I was appalled when I saw how his life was terminated so needlessly and inhumanely. The police officer abused his power with such indifference.
The community has been traumatized again as he has joined the long list of Black men who have been killed by police. The concern has been that the police have been literally getting away with murder too many times. There is an awareness that they are not held accountable and brought to justice when they violate their oath to serve and protect. There is heightened fear in parents for their sons particularly, becoming targets to be treated aggressively and unfairly by the police.
Our Canadian Baptists are well-meaning people, but sometimes we don’t know the best course of action. How can we support the Black community and show care and solidarity?
The solidarity we hope to achieve comes from each of us recognizing we belong to the human race. Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently expressed, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We are further bound together in the Church as members of the body of Christ. At this time these words of the apostle Paul are apropos, If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:26).
In order to begin to realize this solidarity and to show care, I am proposing that you:
- Be informed
Get educated on the historical context, the issues and the terms such as white privilege, systemic racism and social justice.
- Be intentional
Do what you can to address the issues or plight of others. Looking away, silence or rationalizing why you cannot be involved are not options. The Good Samaritan is the role model.
- Be influential
Use your sphere of influence especially as pastors and parents to acknowledge racial issues, disparities and injustices. Have the hard conversations and get engaged with us to find constructive ways to promote and model shalom. (I am encouraged that our executive minister, Tim McCoy reached out and is using his influence and this medium to encourage you to be actively involved as the CBOQ family.)
How can we work together in the broader community as we seek God’s justice and reconciliation between different ethnicities?
The Church should be a reconciling community and be a model of different ethnicities coming together. Laurie Barber, a retired CBOQ leader, would often say the Church is to do by grace what the school is required to do by law. In the cities, our children live with diversity during the week but are segregated on Sundays. This means we are to be willing to make room for people of different ethnicities in the community. I know from personal experience that it is easier said than done, even as the church’s theme this year is Making Room. As individual churches in CBOQ, let us seek to build bridges with diverse cultures through, for example, joint worship services, pulpit exchanges and shared mission. Let us be churches with open hearts and open doors to welcome others as the overflow of God’s grace. There needs to be opportunity to come together, especially when any ethnic group is facing a crisis, to provide support spiritually, practically and morally.
Let us seek to experience a foretaste of heaven where the countless multitude will gather from every nation, tribe, people and language to worship the Lamb (Rev.6:9).
Want to learn more? We have some book recommendations for you, provided by Rev. Dr. Timothy Li-Hui Tang, Director, Tyndale Intercultural Ministries Centre!
- Road to Reconciliation, by Brenda Salter McNeal
A phenomenal book for outlining a process.
- White Awake, by Daniel Hill
Daniel Hill is the founding and senior pastor of River City Community Church, a vibrant, multiethnic church in the Humboldt Park neighbourhood of Chicago.
- Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, by Soong-Chan Rah and Brenda Salter McNeil
- The Minority Experience, by Adrian Pei
A broad conversation when talking about listening to and hearing the experiences of a minority group. An excellent chapter on organizational development.
All of the above books can be ordered through Read On Bookstore.
From a secular perspective:
- The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism, by secular, classic writing on how different ethnicities are pitted against one another.
- How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram Kendi