A Message from Bishop Felix Orji: Addressing the Issue of Race Relations

10 August 2019

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”-John 13:34-35

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Our Diocese is a racially and ethnically diverse diocese. As a result, we cannot avoid addressing the issue of race relations in our diocese. God who made us all in His image and with such diversity is desirous that we live and act with love and harmony with one another. This is the first reason why you are receiving this special message.

The second reason has to do with the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas. Appropriately this tragedy has caused us to look at our culture and contributory causes to the mass shootings around the world. We are once again confronted with the fact that our beliefs, ideas, and words regarding persons of other races and tribes lead to certain actions and behaviors toward them. When a person believes that he is superior or better than people of other races and tribes because of his race or ethnicity that person is racist. If a person resents, hates, looks down on a person or group of people or think they are worse or inferior because of their race or tribe, that person is a racist or a tribalist.

This is a problem each of us must combat in our lives together as brothers and sisters in Christ in this diocese and in North America. Sometimes we try to rationalize and excuse our racism by using expressions such as cultural differences, nationalism, or patriotism. We can be very subtle in our sinning. Jeremiah the prophet was right when he wrote that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The Lord sees our hearts and knows our thoughts.

Nationalism or patriotism is not a bad thing but nationalism or patriotism that is based on race or ethnicity and that undermines the well-being of other racial/ethnic people is ungodly and contrary to the gospel of Christ. When people who call themselves Christians, ignore or rationalize racial arrogance, hate, prejudice and racism in the church, our gospel witness and integrity are seriously undermined and compromised. We must speak up against such behaviors in our Churches, communities, and in our countries. In recent months I have seen subtle forms of racism justified by Christians in the Church and in our society. It makes me sick in my heart.

In light of our present unfortunate circumstances, I urge you to take the following actions:

First, honestly examine your own heart to see if there are vestiges of racism and prejudice that you justify or rationalize by calling it “cultural differences”. If you find such, I ask you to admit it sincerely to yourself and to God; repent of it because it is sinful.

Second, when you hear and see friends, family, members of your church or community acting in racist ways and trying to justify it using political or cultural language, please correct them. To say nothing is to unintentionally contribute to possible problems in the future.

Third, stop blaming the Republican or Democratic Party for racism in the United States. Nobody, no political party, and no video games are responsible for anyone’s racist behavior. A racist is responsible for his or her racism, and God will hold him or her accountable on the day of judgment.

Fourth, Christians, as well as political and religious leaders, must learn to say and do things that promote love, kindness, compassion, repentance, reconciliation, and godliness in both church and country especially in times like this. We should learn to be salt and light rather than incendiary elements who insinuate and ignite bigoted and prejudiced actions against people who are different from us.

Fifth, take time to read these two articles for your own edification and ministry to others.

“White Nationalist Terrorism and the Gospel” by Dr. Russell Moore
Please click here for a significant article from Russell Moore on the evil presence of white nationalism in our country.

And

“Preaching Against Racism Is Not a Distraction from the Gospel” by Dr. Esau McCaulley
Please click here for suggestions from Esau McCaulley on applying the truths of the gospel to the issues of the day to call congregants to higher ground.

Finally, every race seems to have their own form of ungodly nationalism of which we must all repent and turn away from as Christians. We must lead the way by loving and seeking the wellbeing of people who are like us as well as of those who are different from us. As the Bible says, “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:19-21).

The Lord has made us as He has chosen – black, white, yellow. We need to honor that. To that end, the Lord calls and enables us through the gospel to love others with agape love. Agape love transcends tribe, culture, and race. It forgives, cares about the well-being of others, and welcomes into fellowship those on the outside. A life of genuine love for others is the primary evidence that we are born again and true disciples of Christ.

May the Lord fill our hearts with patience and genuine love for one another for his glory through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Warm regards,

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Felix Orji, OSB.
Diocesan Bishop | Anglican Diocese of the West
Missionary Bishop | CANA
Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

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