The Table Podcast

The Church’s Role in Racial Reconciliation

In this episode, Dr. Darrell Bock and Eric Mason, Elizabeth Woodson and Bryan Carter discuss the church’s role in biblical racial reconciliation.

Timecodes
00:15
Mason’s ministry of reconciliation in Philadelphia
05:08
Woodson’s ministry of reconciliation in Dallas
06:39
Carter’s ministry of reconciliation in Dallas
08:56
Carter’s message: Recognize distinctives that shape faith for African Americans
12:37
Woodson’s message: Understand theology affects sociology in the Black church
14:18
Mason’s message: The Black church represents dignity for African Americans
18:45
How can we move from conversations about reconciliation to action?
23:40
Racial reconciliation is a key part of the church’s mission
26:47
Hope and the current racial environment in America
32:05
The role of partnerships and the church community
Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table. We discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at The Hendricks Center in Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas and I’ve got to say Dallas, Texas because I’ve got an esteemed group here with me to discuss really the nature of the church. And we’ve gone far and wide across the country. I’ve got Eric Mason over here on the end who is Pastor in Philadelphia at Epiphany Fellowship and I’ve got Elizabeth Woodson who’s on staff here at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship here in Dallas, she works with singles, and Bryan Carter who is a veteran of foreign wars. He’s done this before with us and he’s Pastor, Senior Pastor at the Concord Church and our topic is really talking about the nature of the church so I want to thank you all for being a part of The Table today.

Group: Thank you.

Dr. Darrell Bock
We’re going to set the table for The Table and the table that we want to set is this that at the core of the gospel is the theme of reconciliation. And in the New Testament of course it’s Jews and Gentiles who are being reconciled. Today we see nations coming together under Christ and being reconciled and races coming together under Christ and being reconciled. So I want to start off by asking a question about how you think about reconciliation in the context of your ministries so Eric I’ll start with you.
Pastor Eric Mason
Well thank you for having us on here Dr. Bock. It’s an honor to be here. I mean thinking about reconciliation in the context of our ministry of course we would start definitely with the biblical and theological framework really of redemptive historical theology from Genesis to Revelation. That’s where we begin and we begin in Christ’s disposition towards reconciling us towards the Father. And as a church 1 of the challenges we talk about reconciliation to God but not one another –
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Pastor Eric Mason
And the cross is a 2-way street. And so we happen to have a decently multi-ethnic church in the inner city of Philadelphia and so we have to really hit it head-on. So our average age is between 25 and 32 and so as we begin to work through and think through the idea of reconciliation 1 of the things that we begin to challenge really our congregation with and one another with is are we just going to – because everybody says that Sunday is the most segregated time. We would say outside of our Sunday morning is our most segregated time. And so because people like to gather together for the appearance of multi-ethnicity but on a practical level when it comes to outreach, when it comes to community, when it comes to local or international missions we plant churches and we do foreign missions and so it seems to be more homogenous than hetero in relation to the nature of our church.

And so we’re always pressing up against that reality and 1 of the ways that we really push on reconciliation is because we’re in a deeply broken neighborhood, 90 percent have single-parent homes, 90 percent of the pregnancies end in abortion, we’re pushing our White brothers and sisters who are in that particular context who may be middle upper class or come from a rural area that if you’re going to become a part of the church don’t become a part of the church as a missionary opportunity but actually come up under the leadership of ethnic minorities and be in community with people that aren’t like you on the mission of the gospel and see us engaging our neighborhood, prison, school pipelines, all those different types of things as gospel issues, not merely social justice issues, but central gospel issues that the church as a whole is hitting up not just Black people so that’s huge for us.

Dr. Darrell Bock
You know when we – when I write about the gospel of Luke there’s a very interesting passage at the start when John the Baptist comes on the scene to set up everything that’s going to be happening and it says he’s come to turn the people of Israel back to God and to turn the fathers to the children and the just to the unrighteous. And so it has both of those elements –
Pastor Eric Mason
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You’ve got a reconciliation in your relationship with God but that’s supposed to spill out in your relationship to others. I say if you think about The Ten Commandments it’s structure the same way, 2 tablets, tablet 1, your relationship to God, tablet 2, your relationship to others. I call it the ethical triangle.
Pastor Eric Mason
Wow, that’s amazing.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so the idea that you can be reconciled to God and not pay attention to how that impacts how you’re interacting with others is really a very truncated view of what the goal of reconciliation is all about and Paul says in 2 Corinthians of course that we have a ministry of reconciliation. When he goes to summarize the whole shooting match that’s the 1 word he chooses to put it all together so I think it’s an important thing. Elizabeth how do you think about reconciliation?
Elizabeth Woodson
You know I think really it pushes home the idea that the essence of what we do with Christ is transformation of relationships. And so this transformation of relationship that we have with God and the Holy Spirit and Christ should pour over into the transformation of relationships with have with believers and non-believers alike.

You know I think being Oak Cliff and down in the southern sector of Dallas, living in a relatively homogenous community with other African-Americans for us it looks like creating partnerships so that we can engage with other churches and other organizations to have these dialogues and to provide these relationships because if they’re not here then how can we really promote and push for reconciliation if we’re not being intentional about living in diverse community?

And I think about the singles that I have and the Bible studies that we’ve done where we’re inviting other people to engage in this dialogue, especially of the current cultural climate. How do we talk about this together and then how do we act together? Because I think it just can’t be a conversation. That conversation needs to lead to some sort of action for us to push towards this biblical ideal of diversity and really unity.

Dr. Darrell Bock
You know we had a meeting here recently of leading pastors in the area in which we were raising that very question and the 1 – 1 of the responses we were getting from the floor is that conversations are wonderful and we’ve had lots of conversations. There really is a need to do something concrete and have some genuine networks and some genuine structures in place and be doing some concrete things so that something positive comes out of this. Bryan, what’s your take on reconciliation?
Pastor Bryan Carter
So I’m quite in line with both my brother and sister in terms of their reflections on this whole matter that essentially it’s us living out this biblical expectation that’s modeled through our spiritual reconciliation and ought to be exemplified through our human and context relationships. So I think it’s – but the thing I notice more and more in our work in this area at Concord is the importance of it being intentional, that it has to be at the very heartbeat, 1 of the core DNA values for the church that I think so often what happens is we get so engaged in just ministry that we forget about if the church is not pursuing this no one else is.
Group
Right.
Pastor Bryan Carter
And they did a survey in Dallas some time ago talking about who’s responsible for really working against racism, working toward reconciliation, and they listed all these entities, schools and government and law and police officers, but I understood, we understood that the church was too far down the line. And so for us it’s about making it an intentional part of how we shape our ministry.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, because it isn’t going to happen by default.
Pastor Bryan Carter
It’s not going to happen by default. By default we drift away instead of stepping into that space. So for us it’s partnering with churches, it’s some of the work we’ve done with pulpit swaps, partnering. This year we had 8 churches, 8 Black, 8 White swap pulpits on the same day around this ideal of us – let’s begin to share this worship together but let’s also begin to talk about how do we engage in the city together because it’s our belief that the city needs the gospel and the city needs the church but that reconciled church can do much more than a church in our own area alone.

And so it’s us pressing into that, it’s us finding ways to serve together, have conversations, so we’ve done that with another church in our city. We’ve had our men spend like 4 weeks together and talk about the history of racism in the country, talk about just the dynamics in our city, and then talk about what’s the game plan? How do we move forward in addressing this issue in real ways?

Dr. Darrell Bock
Terrific. Well let’s start to have the conversation. I’m going to ask the question I told you I was going to ask before we started recording and it really is a question that’s designed to help people understand one another and so the question goes like this and Bryan I’m going to start with you.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Okay.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Tell me as an Anglo what I don’t get about being African-American and living as an African-American here in the United States and I’m all ears.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Okay.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I’m ready to duck too.
Pastor Bryan Carter
That’s a great question and I think it’s that kind of question that we have to ask more of to really begin to face some of the issues. I think 1 of the challenges we face is that we ignore the distinctives that shape my Christian experience. We have a common gospel, a common faith, but there are some unique – there is some uniqueness to my experience as an African-American and even my experience is not monolithic. I mean across the faiths there are different aspects that reflect the African-American Christian experience. Of course we cannot ignore just the theology of suffering that has been a part of our heritage through the Civil Rights Movement, through the implications of racism, and even today. I mean those implications, those influences still shape the way that I come to church.

The Black Church historically has been a place of hope, it’s been a place of encouragement, it’s been a place of collaboration; it’s been a place where the Black Church historically has had a heavy influence in this community. It wasn’t just a place where I heard the gospel. That pastor was a father figure, that pastor was engaged in the community as a community leader, he was free to speak –

Dr. Darrell Bock
It was a refuge in some ways.
Pastor Bryan Carter
It was a refuge. He was free to speak for me when no one else could – when I couldn’t speak for myself. And so those were some of the implications historically that still convey to today. I mean it’s – you need to understand that from my experience as a Black person in America suffering has been a part of my heritage; I still live with that today. I still live with being excluded at times in different places. I still live with the isolation. My commitment to Christ is well.

I think sometimes we – the Black church has sometimes been devalued because of its approach to ministry, because of its emotionalism in things, but that doesn’t mean that from my experience and from what most of us understand the Black church has always had a strong commitment to the gospel. And so I think understanding our commitment to the gospel has been through and through and stands today.

Dr. Darrell Bock
How can you not have an emotional dimension when part of the experience has so much pain associated with it?
Pastor Bryan Carter
Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You can’t do that. And so it seems to me it’s an – I asked this question to Tony Evans when we did an earlier podcast and he responded and took me through a series of experiences that he has as an African-American that I can’t really identify with. The closest I can identify with it, I did live – I told him afterwards, I said, “You know I did live 4 separate years, single years in Germany where German was not my first language; it was my 2nd language. I went to PTA meetings at the schools where my kids were struggling to understand what was being said and feeling a part because I didn’t share the language with the facility that everyone else had it with.”

So I’ve had a little bit of an experience with what it is to be marginalized just because but it’s not quite the same experience for someone here; it’s still not the same. And I think sometimes that’s underappreciated. Elizabeth what would you – how would you help us understand better?

Elizabeth Woodson
You know I think it’s understanding really, and to expand on what Pastor Carter said, the history of the Black church and the context in which it’s developed to really contextualize the suffering, the oppression that we were experiencing Black people in America really from the time of slavery. And even with Black evangelicalism to be able to contextualize how does my theology affect my sociology and the dynamics of being Black in America and living in a racialized society.

So I think people in this conversation about race, “I’m not racist. I’m not prejudiced,” but really the dynamic of what does it mean to live in a society where economic, social, psychological benefits might not come to you based upon the color of your skin. And this biculturalism that as an African-American I have to have to be able to engage in a dominant culture that might not value my church experience, might not value the dynamics in which we present the gospel or preach or just some aspects of the Black church experience that are very reach in tradition and history.

And so I think really to understand what it means to the experience of a Black person in the church is really to understand the experience of what it means to be Black in America and there really is just some truths of what that dynamic racially looks like for us that we have to unpack to really be able to put on the table an understanding that everybody can have of how can we correct some of the things that aren’t I’d say appropriate or correct some of the directions that we’re going as a country that really aren’t reflecting who Christ is.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay, Eric?
Pastor Eric Mason
I kind of – I don’t want to be a reductionist but 1 of the things of the way I look at it is 2 different timelines comprehensively on every level, a spiritual timeline in some ways from a theological standpoint, sociological, geographical, economic, sociological, psychological, timelines are different. When you have since possible 16, 19 our timeline technically is documented to have started differently than when Whiteness was created. Whiteness was created by America as a marginalization technique for capitalism.

So when you have those 2 different timelines going on and then we’ve only had maybe 40 years, maybe, it’s like telling somebody, “Start a marathon, you start running first, and you get 17 to 20 miles into the marathon,” and then you say, “Okay, you guys start running. You’ve got an equal opportunity to run but you’ve got to catch up with them.” You’re never going to catch up. And so what the Black church been has been an Imago Dei equalizer. And so I think that what the Black church has served to do is bring gospel dignity. That’s why titles are important in the Black church. Titles are not a pride thing at its root. It’s really when you are out at the street or at work an older Black man had to address a younger White man as sir and nobody called him sir. So when he got to the Black church he was Deacon, he was Reverend, he was Sister, he was Brother and we dressed up as a way to say, “I’m blue collar during the week but this is where I have my dignity and value.”

And so for me that’s what the Black church has done. It started from your youth, your junior usher, and all of it is focused on pointing towards – because you don’t have to teach us total depravity. We already know total depravity.

The issue now is dignity. The gospel brings dignity and so for me that is the major contribution of the Black church period.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Beautiful. The interesting part of this conversation when I’m trying to speak with other Anglos about it is to say – because the reaction when this discussion comes up and it’s 2-tiered. It’s, “Well I haven’t tried to do anything consciously racist in my life.” It’s very personalized, very individualized. But what is harder to see is how it’s built – how there are elements built in and it isn’t necessarily just what you do consciously. It’s what you are unaware that’s going on around you that needs attention and needs to be perceived with some element of concern.

And the great – some of the greatest conversations I have go like this: sometimes an Anglo will walk into this conversation and say, “Well I’m tired of having this conversation. This always puts my back against the wall to have this conversation,” and I love my African-American brothers and sisters who say, “I never get to leave the conversation. I live the conversation.”

And most people don’t get that. They just don’t.

Pastor Eric Mason
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so to hear the articulation of what it is that – what the experience is, again another example that Tony gave us, he said, “You know I’ve been pulled over for driving through a neighborhood on my way to lead a Bible study simply because of the color of my skin.” I said, “Tony, I’ve never had that experience.” And so we have talked about this and it just strikes me that the experience is so different. I mean some people think that the experience is the same for everybody and it’s not. It’s not.

So help us think through how we can work better together. What are some of the things? You’ve alluded to some of them, but let’s develop that a little more. What are some of the things that you’re seeing or stretching towards to try and bridge this gap and to help the understanding and to move from conversation to action? What are some of the things you see the church is needing?

Pastor Bryan Carter
So for us the last couple of years since Ferguson happened we’ve got a group of churches working together the last 2 years because I think when you look across our country and look at the matter of racism I really believe that’s a call to the church. That’s a call to the church to say, “We’ve ignored the issue and now we need to address it.” For us it’s the pulpit swaps trying to model it and then also we’re trying to work through a series of teachings that we all can preach on together around this matter of racism.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And it’s not – I think it’s very important to say it’s not politics we’re talking about; it’s theology.
Pastor Bryan Carter
It’s theology, right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
If the gospel is really about reconciliation at its core and the flipside of it is if 1 of the most powerful means of showing that the gospel has power is the way in which relationships are realigned, which I think is true, then we’re actually living out our mission when we tackle these topics.
Pastor Eric Mason
Exactly.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Elizabeth what are you seeing?
Elizabeth Woodson
I think for me it’s the dynamic of what it means to continue to sit at the table and continue to fight to have these conversations. I think sometimes there can be, especially in the current cultural climate and the conversation I’m having with the young adults and singles that I work with, there’s kind of a weariness along the way.

And so how do we continue to bring awareness? I think there is – the culture is a lot more aware that something is wrong now than maybe they were a couple of months ago. And so how do we bring information? How do we bring podcasts and documentaries and books? There’s a lot of great material that’s been written on this to understand the dynamics of what it means to live in a racialized society, what it looks like to have privilege, what it looks like to really deconstruct some of these systems, what is systematic racism I think because if you can’t see it then how do we bring it to your eyes.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Pastor Eric Mason
Absolutely.
Elizabeth Woodson
And then how do we enable you to take that information, right, because information isn’t the end goal, and how do we act to really dismantle some of these things that are creating a reality for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ that are less than ideal? And I think right now specifically working with a women’s conference here in Dallas that has a really heart for diversity and racial reconciliation and talking through those hard questions of what does this really mean? What does it look like for us to move beyond the shallow, to move to places that are uncomfortable and are comfortable being uncomfortable, and really engage this next generation with the tools that they need to be able to act?
Dr. Darrell Bock
And you’re challenging people to let God go to work and change in their lives and thinking about living in fresh and dynamic ways that actually contributes to the unity and the oneness of the body. Eric?
Pastor Eric Mason
I totally agree first off with what’s been said. Amazing stuff has been said. My home church is Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship so we used to do every year a _____ assembly. And I took that to Philly when I went and the last few years we’ve added cross-ethnic churches, so Korean churches, Chinese churches, White churches some for a week and fast with us and seek the Lord together to treat it – you know 1 of the things we wanted to do first was treat it as a spiritual warfare because we realized that the weapons of our warfare aren’t carnal but the destruction of fortresses. So racism and injustice is a fortress that needs to be destroyed. It’s a stubborn mindset that needs to be decimated by the weapons of our warfare, which fasting I believe is 1 of those things; praying is 1 of those things and so getting together.

The other thing that we’ve instituted is an opportunity. We have a conference called Frequency Conference every year. Within it this year we called it _____ Church it and in it we had racial IQ workshops you know so that Blacks and Whites could begin to learn – because you’d be surprised there are African-Americans who don’t believe there is systemic racism still. And so we had those racial IQ workshops and invited those folks in so that people could get developed in that framework.

The other thing we had a service together and that type of thing. Now we’ve started something called the _____ Church Think Tank where now we’re working through how do we developed professionals in every area. We have psychologists that are talking about the post-traumatic stress of African-Americans and how to work with that and how to train Whites to leverage their privilege for gospel means to bring systemic change in communities. So those are just some of the things we’re working on and trying to see if the Lord is going to continue to blow on it.

Dr. Darrell Bock
I think for too long in the church the discussion of racism has been seen as a political discussion or a social justice only discussion and not a theological discussion. So now I want to help you – have you help me unpack that and that is talk to me about how you see this as a theological issue, as something that is central to what the church is supposed to be?
Pastor Eric Mason
I think to me Titus 3 is the most cloaked passage in the New Testament on this issue because you have Paul kind of do things backwards than he usually does. He does orthopraxy then orthodoxy throughout the book. It’s interesting because he usually does the reverse.

And so in chapter 3 – of course in chapter 2 he says in verse 1, “Teach with a core of sound doctrine,” and then he tells you all these different things that are sound. And in verse 1 it says serves basically your city, your civic authorities, and then it talks about because you were lost and then it goes into regeneration, all of this, and God being the ultimate philanthropist by saving us. Then he goes into teach our people to learn to engage in meeting pressing needs in order that we may not be found unfruitful.

Beautiful outwork and right there in that passage for me that’s a core passage for us in thinking about what are the pressing needs. So if you’ve got Twitter you might –

And so I think that right now the church as a forth-telling prophetic opportunity to begin to reinvigorate as prophetic – I’m getting into what I’m going to talk about later, but reinvigorate as prophetic voice again to show the world that we do think something’s wrong and we do think that we have contributed to it and we want to help be a voice and practitioner in helping evade everything that we’ve helped create.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And what I see you talking about in Titus and I think this is actually true of the New Testament in general the Bible in general that is when God begins to invade a life he isn’t invading a life to have us think differently; he’s invading a life to impact our relationships. He’s invading our life to have us think through the way in which we live with one another. Again another classic passage example is the passage of the Good Samaritan in Luke where the lawyer, being a good lawyer, is trying to limit his responsibility –

by asking who’s my neighbor when he’s really asking aren’t there some people I’m not responsible for?

Pastor Bryan Carter
Sure.
Pastor Eric Mason
Wow, that’s crazy.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And then in the midst of it Jesus tells a story that says, “You’re supposed to go and be a neighbor. Don’t worry about who this applies do. Just be one. And oh by the way, neighbors can come in surprising packages.”
Pastor Eric Mason
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so in the midst of that you’re seeing really a reconfiguration about the way that we’re supposed to be thinking about the relationships that we have so that’s very helpful. Elizabeth you’ve talked about kind of the current environment. I’m going to try and go there.

So I’m going to let you describe the current environment as you see it. So what is the current environment as you see it and then we’ll go gently into this?

Elizabeth Woodson
You know I think if we’re honest there always has kind of been this divide between Black and White in our country and I really believe that in even the feedback and conversations that I’ve been having again with people that I steward at Oak Cliff is that the divide in some sense has become a chasm because there really is – our vote is the most powerful voice we have in this country.

And so I think to reduce people to a kind of 1-line narrative isn’t right I think because we – several people are doing that for African-Americans but to realize that there were dynamics that were expressed in this political campaign and that people feel are you in support of that or are you in support of me as an African-American.

And so I think the real dynamics is that some people have felt left behind and felt that they weren’t stood with when it really mattered. And again the issues are complex, we cannot reduce them or simplify them, but really it is we’ve been having these racial reconciliation conversations, we’ve been talking through this stuff for years, and when I ask you or need you to stand with me from our perception and our experience we feel that we were left by ourselves.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And I think the hard thing about this election has been that there were actually – the issues were layered if I can say it that way. And so what you had were people who said I value this concern and this choice in relationship to another set of concerns and another choice. So you had a lot of people who said – you had a lot of people who said, “I’m not happy with the choice here at all but I’ve got to cast a vote.” So – and they parsed that if I can use a good grammatical term here – they parsed that out and in the midst of parsing that out a whole group, whole groups said, not just a single group, whole groups said, “What about us? Why do we come down the ladder and down the road in consideration?”

I get that and I think that the church is actually put in a challenging position as a result of that to show that in the midst of the prioritization that many did undertake that the people who feel excluded and left out are not left out and forgotten. We actually – there’s something that needs to be done. So how do you keep hope alive?

Elizabeth Woodson
You know I think that the 1 benefit I’ve seen from this is that people do realize that there is a problem. And so I’ve seen Black and White, Asian, Latino believers say, “We need to come together and we need to talk about this and we need to address this. We need to address this issue of the prioritization of certain social issues within our culture and really what is our theology? What do we believe as believers, as brothers and sisters in Christ, because that is the closer bond that we have, not racial ties, but this tie we have as being a part of the kingdom of God? And how do we take that theology and how do we allow it to impact our sociology?” And to me I really see it has – it’s been this catalyst to push people into conversations that to me again are saying, “Hey, we need to do something about this.”
Dr. Darrell Bock
As long as people are willing to step into that space and have those conversations and not back off of it. I’ll tell you 1 thing that I’m seeing that bothers me and that is you raise this and you raise the issue of justice, et cetera, and the response comes and I call it the “Yes, but” response. The emphasis is not on the yes; the emphasis is on the but. And the point here is that someone says, “Yes, I recognize that but…” and then they’ll put whoever they perceive the other side as being, “The other side does this…”

And so it’s like – I call it not owning your own junk. You push it off and you say, “Well they’re doing this,” and sometimes the suggestion is, “And what they’re doing is worse than the problem that we have,” and you wash your hands and you walk away but that’s not a Christian response. The Christian response is to own your own junk, it’s to recognize, “We fall short here. We’re not supposed to be like the world. We’re not supposed to be like the things that we’re complaining about. We’re supposed to be different and distinct and we’re supposed to be building in a positive direction. We’re supposed to deal with the places where we fall short and bring them before the Lord and work on them.”

And it seems to me that getting into the conversation and having the conversation at least to some degree from the Anglo side is to recognize that the way to respond is not with a, “Yes, but here’s the problem on the other end.” Now I’ve got to own and deal with the stuff that I can own and deal with. Does that make sense?

Pastor Bryan Carter
It makes a lot of sense.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So Bryan talk about some of the things that you guys are doing to try and work. You’ve alluded to them but what exactly does some of this involve?
Pastor Bryan Carter
So I just believe that as we continue to have these conversations 1 of the things that I think has been dynamic, that’s been unique with our situation, is the partnership with my friend in the city, Jeff Warner, a White pastor who’s really leading his church into this space. And I think when we talk about these dynamics I think 1 of the things we’re discovering is that it really calls on the White pastor. I mean the Black pastor, we can talk about it every day, all day, but when that White pastor steps up and preaches a series and challenges his church and engages them, I think that’s really the space we’re in now that we need that kind of leadership. And so he’s really been a great partner in the city and I’ve seen a lot of other pastors partner with us.

And so for us it really involves 1, helping to inform our conversation, helping to bring together – we brought together our men, we sat down around round tables, and we sat down and we talked. He talked a lesson on systematic racism and then we had discussion around what is that. And then we talked about what does that look like in our city and talked about the poverty, talked about the lack of opportunities, and then we talked about, “Okay, what are our next steps?” We identified about 10 key next steps and we’re going to commit 2 or 3 of those around those, 1 being around the economic issues, 1 developed around the mass incarceration system, and 1 around just deepening our relationships.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And all we’re talking about here is applied theology.
Pastor Bryan Carter
It’s applied theology essentially. It’s not that we’re dealing with politics. It’s us dealing with gospel issues. We can’t disconnect. In the Black church you can’t be disconnected to the social issues. I mean they’re all around us. The poverty, the lack of quality education, all of those issue are a part of who we are but sometimes in the White church because of the communities that they live in they may not have those issues really around the church. So for us it’s to make sure we don’t disconnect those 2, to make sure it’s a gospel issue for the quality education, opportunities for those in poverty, and helping to provide educational and economic opportunities.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So going back to kind of the image we talked about earlier when you were describing the difference in the African-American church experience from a general – generally from the Anglo one, which is the church being a refuge. It’s a refuge, it’s a resource, it’s an advocate, right?
Pastor Eric Mason
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
It’s an advocate for the Black community at large, which is why you see pastors so prominent in every sphere of life. Would it be fair to say it’s almost it’s a – I want to say replacement for the family, but it steps into the void of a lack of in some cases enough family and community support. It becomes the community support. Is that a fair characterization or have I overstated it?
Pastor Eric Mason
I think you could say somewhat. I just think some of our culture from African made it’s way to America and we operate as a village. And so I think the church is more of a village of extended family but I won’t discount the fragmentation of the family because of slavery, Black coal, Jim Crow, et cetera.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Pastor Eric Mason
But yeah I think – would you all agree with that?
Elizabeth Woodson
Mm-hmm.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Yeah.
Pastor Eric Mason
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, I think that 1 of the things – this is another thing that needs to be owned on the Anglo side and that is 1 of the yes, but’s that I get is, “But look at how the fragmented the African-American community is. Look at how the lack of – the lack of structure in families, et cetera,” to which my response is from what I know about the history, what little I know about the history is, “Yeah, but it was almost set up to work that way.”
Pastor Bryan Carter
Sure it was.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And people don’t realize the impact of what slavery did to families –
Pastor Eric Mason
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And the way in which people were moved around and were pieces on a table as opposed to being people. And so you – the Bible says you pay for those things in the 3rd and 4th generations, that those things don’t go away; you don’t just wipe the slate clean and that’s part of what needs to be owned and I think that’s a part of the experience if I can say it that I think generally speaking a lot of people are oblivious to in the Anglo community and the impact of that. Would that be fair?
Pastor Eric Mason
Yeah, Dr. Bock I would – I have a lot of White friends who say, “Hey, can you give me some resources?” and I used to. Now I don’t and I’ll tell you why: you being a research professor know more probably than all of us put together about researching. But I can say all of us having been students or students of researching, researching process does something to you when you have to search and find, connect to, and that process of discovery to me is a sanctifying process. And that’s what I would call a big encouragement, like a huge encouragement for our White brothers but then not letting your research process make you think you know.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Pastor Eric Mason
It’s like Neo in The Matrix, I know Jujitsu.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Pastor Eric Mason
But then having actual relationships with African-Americans that don’t center on racial reconciliation but just a relationship.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Pastor Eric Mason
And then that comes up as a process of relationship.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So in other words in the natural pursuit of being a friend –
Pastor Eric Mason
Absolutely.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And being involved in a person’s life because they’re your friend, et cetera, in the natural scheme of things these things, and I think I’m hearing you, what you’re saying is this is not a topic that you kind of treat as an antiseptic kind of way. You put on your mask while you’re doing research, that kind of thing.
Pastor Eric Mason
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
No, this is – until you get involved in the warp and woof of what this is all about then you’re not going to get your hands around it at all. It’s not – it’s not a bibliographic note and a footnote.
Pastor Eric Mason
Absolutely.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Yeah.
Elizabeth Woodson
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, okay. So how else can you – what other things would you say? This is great Eric. What other things would you say to the church at large about how to help the church be the church?
Pastor Eric Mason
Well you know me and Shana have a real good relationship when it comes to this type of stuff and I think you just need someone pushing both ways. One of the things that I want to invite my White brothers to do is push. We can handle it. We’ve been pushed enough.

But again I think respectfully push knowing that you’re pushing against pain. But I think you have to push and ask – if you think we’re victims, act like victims, ask those questions because those things need to be on the earth.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Pastor Eric Mason
And I think even on a school level I think we need to – I think the epistles are important but I think a lot of schools live in the epistles. I think we need to think of all scripture as Jesus said all of them speak of me so going back in the prophets, looking at how it speaks of him, and just I think going back and really unearthing the whole counsel of God I think is extremely important because even the little stuff you’re saying like the 3 – what did you call those 3 things, the tablets –
Dr. Darrell Bock
Oh, the ethical triangle?
Pastor Eric Mason
That’s amazing. That needs to be written out in an article if you haven’t and talking about that in relation to racial reconciliation and having an African-American speak into that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right.
Pastor Eric Mason
I just think that that – I think that those are a conglomerate of things that are just so important; I do. I do.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I like the idea of – what I think you’re asking for is a frank, honest conversation between friends in which I don’t hide what I’m really thinking and we get it out on the table and then because there’s a built-in relationship and respect, go to work on it. It’s – the analogy, it’s no different than a marriage. It may be a shock to you but my wife and I do not agree 100 percent on everything that we discuss.
Pastor Eric Mason
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
There are sometimes times for diplomatic conversations in which the parties met and had conversation on what needs to be done.
Pastor Bryan Carter
And I would say this too that at the same time as we talk about these it’s risky. I mean it’s risky for a pastor, a White pastor, to step out and give this framework knowing in this congregation there are people that may not be in that – may not be ready for that or they have these differing opinions. So I think the risk of it as a pastor is something that pastor must step into because the conversation is happening all in the culture. But if the church doesn’t give people a framework for how to handle this on Monday morning when they’ve watched this video over the weekend and they’ve tried to explain away everything, they have to be able to give them a theological framework for that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And the thing that I find is that I find that there are lots of well-meaning people who are where they are because that’s where they’ve been.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Sure.
Elizabeth Woodson
Right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And they don’t have any other reality that’s been put before them for them to process. And so I see it in my own thinking as there’s a process of education that’s going on. I mean earlier we talked about don’t research but there is a process of education that goes on in which you say to people, “Can you step out of your own shoes and your own world for a second and just listen to someone who’s reality is different and think about if you’re in that situation what your reactions might be.”
Pastor Bryan Carter
Exactly.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And I think some people have never been in a position to be able to step into that space. And so a pastor who comes along and helps to paint that world, I mean that’s actually what this podcast is trying to do is to paint that world people so I go, “You know I never saw that before. I never understood it that way before. I didn’t realize that that was a part of what was going on,” et cetera, and I find that there are enough well-meaning people in that circumstance that they – when you lean into that space they’ll walk with you.
Pastor Eric Mason
Yeah. Yeah, I think Romans 12 stops at verse 2 for so many of us.

And it’s kind of like, “Great quote, changed my mind,” but then when you look at what being a living sacrifice looks like from the rest of that passage, this is this whole conversation. It’s a passage of empathy, I mean as the centerpiece of what it means to be a living sacrifice in the context of relationship with the body. And I think that that right there has to be – 1 of the things – and I encourage even African-Americans, like for us I can tend to become apathetic and say, “I’m sick of explaining Black people to White people.” You know I’m just being honest.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Pastor Eric Mason
And so but the Lord had to convict me about that because I can’t – you know I can’t be resistant like 2 Timothy 3 talks about people will 1 day be irreconcilable and I don’t want to be fulfilling that prophecy.
Dr. Darrell Bock
There are certain texts you’re after and that’s not 1 of them.
Pastor Eric Mason
And so I think that that’s at the core of this thing. I think if you have a relationship with a White brother, White sister, White families and different things and it’s a natural part of your relationship. When you have to talk about issues of race and injustice there’s a trust that’s already there that doesn’t start with trying to build trust and talking about something so difficult to talk about because they say, “Can we meet for coffee and talk about the current election?” It’s like, “Man I’m so – what?”
Pastor Eric Mason
So yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You want that coffee to boil while we’re talking?
Pastor Eric Mason
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
No, I get that. One of the ways this was handled here after the shootings was that 1 of the leading businessmen here in the city put together an event in which he had each of us invite someone of a different ethnicity to talk in a group of about 20 of us. And so we each brought someone and so I went with Rodney Orr. And we sat and talked and because there was a relationship base there to start with the conversation immediately went to a level that you know you weren’t having to spend hours clearing out brush before you got there.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Sure.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And it just made for a different kind of conversation. And so I guess 1 of the first steps of application might be to people work to develop relationships with people who are around you who are different than you and ask them about their world.
Pastor Eric Mason
That’s right.
Elizabeth Woodson
And I mean I think – because I think sometimes I have conversations with people who say, “You know I live far north Dallas so there aren’t a lot of people that look different than me around.” And I think even the encouragement to pursue all the more diversity, pursue all the more of those intentional relationships, because it is this racial isolation that if we’re not stepping in the experience of anybody else nothing is going to change. I mean I think we don’t have an excuse because I’m living in a community of all Black people or I live in a community of all White people that I don’t have to do this because nobody lives next door. We really need to pursue really what’s the heart of God and that takes a lot of intentionality and sacrifice.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well I just want to stop and thank you guys for taking the time to come in and talk and to have this initial conversation, at least in the context of The Table. We are – we’re thrilled about what it is that God does in the church when he brings people together. We’re elated with the hope and the – that reconciliation can represent. We have no doubt that when reconciliation happens it stands out like a big light in the midst of a divided world. And so the goal is clear and the potential of what it represents for the testimony of the church is huge and I think you all have helped us to get our hands around that so I appreciate you taking the time to come and talk with us.
Pastor Eric Mason
Thanks for the invite.
Elizabeth Woodson
Thank you.
Pastor Bryan Carter
Thanks so much.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And we thank you for being a part of The Table and we look forward to having you back again with us soon.
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Bryan Carter
Bryan Carter is the senior pastor of Concord Church, and is a graduate of the Dallas Theological Seminary Christian Education program. He has served his community in multiple capacities, including the Dallas Independent School District, Habitat for Humanity, and many other non-profits and ministries.
Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 40 books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Elizabeth Woodson
Elizabeth Woodson is the singles coordinator at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. She is a passionate Bible teacher and conference speaker who loves to disciple women. She is also pursuing an MA in Christian Education at DTS.
Eric Mason
Eric Mason is the founder and senior pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia. He has served at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, and is working on his fourth book. Mason earned his ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary and his DMin from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
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