Racial Reconciliation Ministries
God has given the ministry of reconciliation to Christians everywhere, including to us at Lake Avenue Church. As racial reconciliation has become a more prominent part of that ministry in recent years, we believe it is good to articulate Bible-based vision and values for what it is, why it is important, and how we hope to engage it as the body of Christ. This page was formed after gathering input from the Lake Avenue congregation and hearing the thoughts and questions that are important to many of you.
We hope this page will be a launching pad for reflection, conversation, and growth as a community around racial reconciliation. It will be updated frequently with links and videos of church events that delve into these areas in more detail. We will not be able to cover every facet of such a deep topic, but we will continue to add thoughts and questions as we hear more from you and journey together along the discipleship growth journey God has for each of us. Please keep checking back and use this page as a tool for spiritual growth through reflection and conversation. As we move forward together, remember that our goal is not perfect agreement or uniformity, but a fuller and deeper picture of Jesus and growth in learning to love our community as He does.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Cor 5.18-19
Racial Reconciliation Ministries began at LAC in 2018 to create opportunities to actively engage in difficult conversations around scripture, racial justice, and reconciliation in order to live out our mission, vision and core values.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Link to current statement on Racism – The updated statement when complete will sit here
Areas of Focus
Racial Justice/Reconciliation Resources – link to resource list
Engagement with community partners and other churches in alignment with these principals.
Discipleship teaching and experiences around racial reconciliation – link to any current events
Faith Based Books:
These are recommended if you are just entering the conversation:
- The Myth of Equality by Ken Wytsma
- White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill, Brenda Salter McNeil
- Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey by Sarah Shin
- Rethinking Incarceration by Domnique Gilliard
- Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison
- Roadmap To Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNiel
- Divided by Faith by Michael Emmerson
- Disunity in Christ by Christina Cleveland
- I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
- Why We Cant Wait by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
If you have been on the road a while:
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby, Lecrae Moore -
- Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Ra
- The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change by Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson
- Brown Church by Robert Chao Romero
- Can "White" People Be Saved?: Triangulating Race, Theology, and Mission Edited by Love L. Sechrest, Johnny Ramírez-Johnson, and Amos Yong. Contributions by Willie James Jennings, Andrea Smith, Hak Joon Lee, Akintunde E. Akinade, Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Angel D. Santiago-Vendrell, Andrew T. Draper, Erin Dufault-Hunter, Clifton Clarke, Daniel Jeyaraj, and Jonathan Tran
- Is Christianity the White Man's Religion? How the Bible Is Good News for People of Color by Antipas L. Harris
- Unsettling Truths by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah
Be the Bridge – You have to be approved to join and they have a rule that you have to listen, read and learn for three months, before you can comment.
When they See us
I am Not Your Negro
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality
King in the Wilderness
Slavery by Another Name
Resistance at Tule Lake
The Color of Compromise
Charlie Dates Interviews Beth Moore https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAtKDY1HWXZ/?igshid=yv6xf4pbk4qx
Fighting to be Seen in a Colorblind World/Traci Ellis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqvZRO2LPmw
How the Bible Addresses Racism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq4-eho8F5Q
Assorted short videos https://eji.org/videos
What Christian Racial Reconciliation is about
Christian racial reconciliation is about the ministry of reconciliation – loving our neighbor and serving as peacemakers (as God has done for us) in this multiethnic church and community.
(2 Cor. 5:14-20, Matt. 22:37-40, Ephesians 2:11-22, Col. 1:19-20, Acts 2:9-11)
- The mission of Lake Avenue Church is: “Following Jesus, we participate in God’s reconciling work by making disciples of all peoples and generations.” This work is firmly grounded in the work of the gospel. Jesus has broken down the barrier between humanity and God and destroyed the barriers between the tribes and tongues. In order to reach all peoples with good news we must understand how to love all peoples as God has loved us.
- Our core value of Kingdom Community says: “Reflecting God’s family in the church, we are unified across cultural, generational, socio-economic and racial / ethnic differences.” It is clear throughout Scripture that God’s Kingdom includes people from every tribe and tongue. The work of racial reconciliation is to make the church a safe place where that kingdom community can come together in community to worship and serve.
With humility and love, Christian racial reconciliation is about recognizing injustice and sin (e.g. racism) that causes pain and divides people.
(Micah 6:8, Isaiah 58:1-12, Luke 4:14-20)
- Our core value of Reconciling Community says: “Pursuing God’s justice, mercy and compassion, we are involved in His ministries of reconciliation.”
Christian racial reconciliation contains elements of both justice and peacemaking.
- Christian racial reconciliation is not just cultural competency or appreciation, which people in the majority culture can sometimes gravitate towards because it feels safer than addressing issues of pain and justice. True peace goes beyond harmony and requires addressing brokenness in people and worldly systems. But racial reconciliation doesn't just stop at identifying injustice, but works to serve, love, and do peacemaking among people and communities.
What does the Bible say about race, justice, and reconciliation between people?
What Christian Racial Reconciliation is not
Not all language and rhetoric that addresses race and racism in the world today is consistent with God’s Word and heart
- We understand that conversations and issues around race and racism can be divisive and often categorized as political. For us, we desire to be found faithful as those who have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We see this as a priority of discipleship emerging from God’s identity and Word. We do not desire to support or champion any particular political persons, party, or perspective.
- Every person takes in sources of information and learning on racial reconciliation (and every topic in life) outside of the Bible every day (e.g. books, articles, news sources, entertainment). We need God’s discernment on what parts of these can be used by God for learning and growth, and which parts are worldly forces and systems that do not seek godly justice, peace, and redemption.
- Christian racial reconciliation will not create more division. It will not construct walls and assign labels but acknowledge who we are and remove the barriers to living out the Kingdom that have been created by race and racism.
- It is not a trend. It is at the heart of the gospel.
How can we steward sources of information and learning about racial reconciliation, with Christian compassion and discernment?
How can we be sure that we are being led by God and Scripture, and not solely by culture?
Why Christian Racial Reconciliation is important to LAC at this moment in history
Christian racial reconciliation is always something that has been close to God’s heart
(2 Cor. 5:14-20, Matt. 22:37-40, Ephesians 2:11-22, Col. 1:19-20, Micah 6:8, Isaiah 58:1-12, Luke 4:14-20)
- However, we as humans haven’t always been able to see these things clearly, and live them out faithfully. Just as in the Bible (e.g. the opening of Saul of Tarsus’ eyes to Christians and Gentiles), many people are now beginning to see diverse beauty, and racial injustice and pain in new ways. We desire to choose faith and growth over fear or discomfort with change.
Christian racial reconciliation affirms the unique beauty and stories of diverse people in our own church and community.
- Ultimately, this is about loving the people in our own church and community, who are multicultural and diverse. While racial reconciliation might not be a topic some people would choose to focus on, it’s a lifeline for many others who haven’t always been seen, heard, or valued in the body of Christ and community. As Christ’s church, we seek to look not just to our own interests, but to value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4-11). As we listen, learn, and serve, we ask God to bring love and hope to our diverse community.
Christian racial reconciliation is a specific part of how LAC is called to be the church in our time and place (our people, our location, this moment in history)
- God has placed this church in diverse and multiethnic Pasadena / Los Angeles for a reason, and He is doing something right now in the world and church in all the dialogue and attention to racial reconciliation. God calls us to be "not of the world, but in the world” so that the world will know God and His love (John 17:13-23). Rather than think anything “of the world” cannot be from God, we must stay centered on Christ as we engage, serve, and love people in the world.
As followers of Christ, we need to learn to engage difficult and important issues like Christian racial reconciliation with maturity.
- Race can be difficult as a topic, but rather than bypass or minimize it, we need to learn to engage it well, for the health and love of the family and body of Christ. This is not about just skin color and not about intentionally creating barriers between people, but about addressing real issues of pain and justice, and following God's leading in how to be a reconciled people and family. For some, racial pain and injustice has been part of their very experience within the walls of LAC, so reconciliation is not just "out there" in the world, but vital to the everyday experience of LAC congregation members. As the body of Christ and a witness to the world, we are called to love one another and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
How can we grow to think beyond our own reality and needs, to consider others whom God has placed in this multiethnic church and community?
How can we honor and learn from people whose experiences, families, cultures, and communities are very different from ours?
How can we learn to better engage topics like racial reconciliation, instead of avoiding or minimizing it because it can be difficult to engage well?
How the church should engage Christian Racial Reconciliation
Towards growth and obedience to the Lord – not seeking neatness, comfort or uniformity, but deeper discipleship.
- Especially in a diverse and large church, we expect differences in backgrounds and perspectives, and we affirm that these differences can exist within the same church and body for our edification – which is a broader reflection of the image of God. Our goal is to increase understanding and love across these differences out of care for the body of Christ, and the community.
- Racial reconciliation work frequently surfaces many emotions and questions. What are those emotions and questions really about, and what should we do with them? For instance, sometimes they are pains from our personal past, or they may relate to an interpersonal relationship inside or outside the church. Sometimes they may be a systemic concern that is broader than what only one individual can address. Sometimes it is a combination of these things. Regardless, the work of discipleship is to first take personal ownership by bringing these emotions and questions to the Lord, then to our local/group leaders to grow and discern any next steps. Sometimes we feel an urgency to solve problems quickly, but with racial reconciliation, spending an extended period of time in humble listening and learning is often the most important first step.
Not just like how anyone in our culture that talks about and engages racial reconciliation - we are held to God's standard, to be patient, kind, not easily angered, not self-seeking, not arrogant, and to point people to God in our behavior and posture.
(1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5:22-26)
- In reflecting patience (1 Cor. 13:4, Gal. 5:22), we understand that people are on a journey, even if they are not where we would always like or want them to be. We seek to listen with curiosity, rather than defensiveness.
- In reflecting kindness and gentleness (1 Cor. 13:4, Gal. 5:22), we seek to connect with people in a way that makes them feel heard and seen. We also know that language around racial reconciliation can be used to degrade, label, dehumanize, shut down conversations, or minimize peoples’ views and experiences. We seek to be respectful and honoring in our language, tone, and dialogue.
- In reflecting slowness to anger and self-control (1 Cor. 13:5, Gal. 5:23), we seek to avoid swift blaming or name-calling. We do understand there is a time for godly anger at sin and injustice.
- In reflecting love that is not self-seeking (1 Cor. 13:5), we seek to consider others’ realities and needs, not just our own frustrations. We give and invest in developing others, rather than seeking power and control for ourselves and our own agenda.
- In reflecting love that’s not arrogant (1 Cor. 13:4), we desire humility to not assume we know everything, and to not look down on other people, but to recognize that we have a lot to learn and grow ourselves.
By understanding the experience of people of color is not the same as that of the majority culture – desiring that all the people of LAC feel understood and supported in their own discipleship journey in racial reconciliation.
- Our racial reconciliation journeys began many years ago, and we all have formative influences. We are not just an intellectual "position" that is set in stone, but God has given us a past that shaped us, a present where we can choose growth, and a future where He is leading us. Each of us has a valuable story that includes challenge and pain, as well as perseverance and God’s grace.
- People of color and the majority culture are not on “equal ground.” The history of people of color in the United States is intertwined with injustice and unspeakable pain. This history still impacts communities and individuals today, nationally and in the city of Pasadena and Los Angeles. We are living with the fruit of years of injustice. We must listen humbly to these stories, so our hearts can align with God’s and we can better love God and our neighbors in this church and community.
How does the journey of racial reconciliation fit into my own faith development? What can it teach me about myself, other people, and how to be a faithful witness to the world in this particular moment of history as a multi-ethnic church?
Where do I need to grow and mature in the way I talk and listen to people who are very different from me?
How are the experiences and pain points of people of color different from those of the majority culture, and what does it look like to honor them as Jesus would?
Racial reconciliation ministries at Lake Avenue Church is a cross-divisional team whose purpose is to create educational and experiential opportunities for the ongoing discipleship of the congregation in racial reconciliation, and to provide input to structural and procedural aspects of the body that could become barriers to the goal of a truly multi-cultural church.
If you have an idea for an event or experience related to racial reconciliation (or if you want to teach or facilitate), a process has been created to provide some helpful input and support. Please download it here (or use the download button below), and let the racial reconciliation team know so they can come alongside you.
Kathy has attended LAC for over 20 years, is currently the chair of the RR ministry team and also serves on the Ministry Council at LAC. Her passion for work in the area of racial justice stems from an understanding this is a discipleship matter because God intends for all of creation to love one another, flourish, and reflect His glory. She views commitment to racial justice and reconciliation as a key component of our sanctification work as Christians. She also volunteers with Racial Reconciliation ministries in other contexts.
Ray Briggs, Ph.D. serves as the Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at California State University, Long Beach and Chair of Jazz Studies at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music. Originally from Memphis, TN, Dr. Briggs holds a Bachelor of Music Education, Master of Music Performance (Woodwind Doubling), Master of the Arts (Ethnomusicology), and Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology. He is active as a saxophonist with research interests in Jazz, African American Music, American Popular Music, and World Music.
Why I Choose to Serve on the RRT: Growing up in the Bible Belt of the South, it became disturbingly clear to me that in every aspect of life, there was a division between African Americans and whites in the region. Unfortunately, the various church communities of my hometown (and other parts of the country) seem to follow these societal expectations. Contrary to this normalized behavior, I believe that God’s family should be marked by a level of unity, love, and inclusivity that is not seen in the world. Therefore, I gladly accepted the invitation to work with the Racial Reconciliation Team to help create a more inclusive and equitable environment which demonstrates God’s vision for the Lake Avenue Church family.
Mayra and her family came to Lake Avenue Church in 1998. Their four children have grown up in LAC ministries. Mayra joined Stars/LakeAve staff in 2001 and served in various roles including Stars Associate Director and most recently in a pastoral role as Director of Community Outreach at LAC. In October 2020, Mayra accepted the call to lead the Clergy Community Coalition (CCC, www.clergycommunitycoalition.org ), a ministry that Lake Avenue Church has been deeply invested in since 2005, as its first Executive Director.
It was first through her personal and professional experience as one of few persons of color on LakeAve’s pastoral staff that led to the identification and exploration of the brokenness and shallow racial/ethnic unity that existed in the local church in both interpersonal and systemic ways. Through her local and national ministry, she has gained broad experience in and developed a deep biblical foundation and theology for the important work of racial righteousness in the local and global church.
Mayra serves on various local and national boards, including as Board Chair of the Christian Community Development Association ( www.ccda.org ), Board of Elders for The Voices Project ( www.voices-project.org ), and is a founding Board of Trustees member of The Voices School for Liberation and Transformation ( https://voicesschool.org ).
“I believe God desires for us to dig deeper into our beliefs that the Imago Dei is present in people like us and unlike us, and to live our lives constantly demonstrating that belief in practical ways that lead to transformation of every space so that the flourishing of all of God’s beloved creation is possible.”
My name is Tsega Worku. I am a member of LAC and currently on staff in the Counseling Ministry. As a child of God, RR is important to me because it’s also important to God. As an immigrant, I know the challenge of keeping my identity while assimilating to a new culture/society. As a counselor, I also know the importance of true reconciliation...
Kelley Williams has attended Lake Avenue Church all her life. As she has grown up at Lake and in Pasadena the work of Race and ReconcilIation has become an integral aspect of her faith journey and being completely being seen and understood by God and the Church. Kelley is dedicated to the work of race and reconciliation because she deeply believes that the love of Christ is lived out in the embedded actions of redemption and lament that can heal the racial divides and trauma in our World.
Nancy Stiles is a lifelong member of Lake Avenue Church and is the Executive Director of Stars (formerly Lake Avenue Community Foundation), a partner ministry of Lake Avenue Church in the area of community outreach. For Nancy, the ministry of racial reconciliation flows from her understanding of the gospel and the desire to celebrate and honor that all people are created in God's image. Hearing the lived experience of Christian brothers and sisters of color helped her understand why this work is so important for our church family to engage.
Chuck Hunt is an ordained minister, experienced youth leader, and passionate communicator. He recently served nine years as a Youth and Family Ministry Pastor in Rancho Palos Verdes and has also served churches in Redondo Beach, and Glendale, CA.Chuck completed his B.S. in Airway Science at Hampton University in Virginia...
Jeanine Smith serves LAC as the Associate Pastor of Adult Ministries. This pastoral role gives leadership to LAC’s diverse array of ministries with and for adults, including young adults, seniors, discipleship communities, care, prayer, relational health and more.
Scott grew up in Pasadena during court-ordered desegregation. He went from Pasadena City College to UCLA, English Lit. After college he ran a small decorating contracting firm and a small retail arts business and began studying culture. Over the last 30 years those exposures have taken him all over the U.S. and to 40 nations globally, listening and trying to learn…
Adrian Pei is a diversity and change management consultant working part-time and short-term with Lake Avenue Church. His role is to assist the overall strategy of racial reconciliation and the church, through creating and improving processes, systems and practices. His passion is helping people navigate and manage the change involved in becoming a body that's increasingly healthy, just, and reflective of God's kingdom.
Adrian has led multiple strategic organizational transformations, as part of the organizational development department and national council for inclusion and diversity for a large corporate automaker, and as Associate National Director of Leadership Development for the Asian American ministry of Cru. He’s a speaker at podcasts, radio shows, companies, schools and churches on his book The Minority Experience: Navigating Emotional and Organizational Realities (IVP Books). Adrian’s clients range from large multinational organizations to smaller growing firms to executives, managers, and self-motivated leaders in corporate and nonprofit settings. He holds degrees from Stanford University and Fuller Seminary, and is a certified coach in change management, as well as various leadership assessment tools.
Christian Racial Reconciliation: The Now & the Next (Part 1) - May 6, 2021
View the Christian Racial Reconciliation Seminar (Part 1) which allows you to hear from our different pastors about what, why, and how we participate in Christian racial reconciliation at Lake.
View the Christian Racial Reconciliation Seminar (Part 2) which allows you to hear from our different pastors about what, why, and how we participate in Christian racial reconciliation at Lake.
These books are recommended by Racial Reconciliation Ministries at Lake Avenue Church, as good “entry points” on the learning and growth journey. More will be added in the months to come.