An Eye-Opening Experience
CINCINNATI — In a transparent talk at a National Black Fellowship luncheon July 18, Church Multiplication Network Director Chris Railey confessed that he is in the beginning stages of a spiritual awakening regarding the ongoing struggles of African-Americans in the U.S.
In an address to a predominantly black audience, Railey explained that he earlier scrapped a prepared presentation for the biennial NBF conference at Peoples Church in Cincinnati. Instead, he felt God prompting him to be forthcoming about his longtime, albeit unintentional, acceptance of racial bias.
"It’s no longer an option to stay silent," Railey said. "We no longer have the luxury of staying in our worldview bubbles."
Insecurities on racial issues only began to surface at a CMN conference in February, Railey said. He sought out Herbert Cooper — pastor of People’s Church in Oklahoma City and a CMN lead team member — for advice on racial reconciliation.
Railey, who oversees the launch of hundreds of Assemblies of God congregations annually, stated that CMN needs to be more racially sensitive in the future. CMN doesn’t want pastors to ignore racial issues and new churches can’t be perpetuating racial divides, he said.
Pastors may often desire a quick resolution to thorny problems, but Railey vowed to patiently continue to listen to black church leaders air their frustrations.
In sessions on the last day of the convention, NBF Vice President Walter Harvey said the body is targeting America’s 25 “toughest communities” for ministry. The organization is looking for intrepid people, both short term and long term, to be boots on the ground.
“We’re called to be a movement of hope to transform communities,” said Harvey, pastor of Parklawn Assembly of God in Milwaukee. “We are not to be fearful of these cities.”
“Urban America needs the Church,” said Michael Nelson, who has been NBF president since 2012. “I know there is a struggle in the inner cities.”
Nelson, who pastors Peace Tabernacle Assembly of God in Jacksonville, Florida, said he appreciates the racial reconciliation efforts implemented by AG General Superintendent Doug Clay, but the Fellowship has a ways to go to increase minority representation at the district level.
“The multiethnic church is the antidote for racism in America,” said Scott Temple, director of the AG’s Office of Ethnic Relations. He noted that one-third of the national AG’s Executive Presbytery are ethnic minorities and 38 percent of the General Presbytery are ethnic minorities.
In a business meeting, delegates re-elected NBF Vice President Walter Harvey and Executive Treasurer Darnell Williams to new four-year terms.
The two-day conference concluded with a banquet at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Attendees toured the museum, which recounts the nation’s history of slavery. Scott Hagan, president of North Central University in Minneapolis, gave the evening’s keynote address.
“We have to have racial revelation before we have racial reconciliation,” Hagan said. “We are poised like never before, but it has to be an act of the heart.”
Photo Credit: Amie Eckhart