Scott Roley: God’s Neighborhood

Well good afternoon everybody. You know, for most of us racial reconciliation and community renewal are like exercising and eating right. We know they’re important, we just don’t happen to do them. Well our next guest is part of a movement of Christians who are doing something about racial reconciliation and community renewal. In his case, he’s doing it in Franklin, Tennessee, which a lot of us think of as CCM land. The story is told in God’s Neighborhood, published by InterVarsity Press.

Q. We’re visiting with Scott Roley (Photo Right) who wrote this book with James Isaac Elliott, with a foreword by Michael Card. Nice to have you with us today, Scott.
A. Well it’s great to be here and to be on the air with you , Dick.

Q. I want to start with the juxtaposition of your family and issues of social justice, because you were raised in an environment where you attended private school, you were country club Episcopalians, yet as a young boy you were influenced by Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, and Bobby Kennedy, too. How did that happen? Talk about that.
A. Yeah. I think a lot of the conflict in my early years were due to the fact my father was a government lawyer, he was a Commerce Department lawyer, arguing infringement cases. He mostly worked with the Attorney General. This was during Kennedy’s administration, so Bobby was more in touch with him. But with civil rights legislation going on, nearly everyone in Washington that were a part of the administration certainly were attuned to that. At the same time he had a southern upbringing and, in terms of the racialization of this life, there was still mixed messages that I consistently got and certainly, as a kid growing up in a country club with, you know, the black attendants in white gloves, that vision, really was effective in my own sort of racialization. I was¢â‚¬¦

Q. You know, let’s stop right there because I want to get back to the story with your dad. But you’re using this term racialization, and it is one of the issues that you talk about in this book. And as long as you’ve used the term a couple of times we might as well talk about what it is.
A. Yeah. The church ¢€œ if you say to somebody we’re racists, in other words, that separation, apartheid, segregation based on race as a part of the church ¢€œ they don’t like to hear that. It sounds too offensive. But if you say something like we’ve been racialized, meaning that we decide things ¢€œ and genderized ¢€œ we make decisions based on race and gender, that’s a softer and easier way. And I sometimes throw that out there thinking people know that term.

Q. Well talk a bit more about what it is. Some of the features of it you talk about in your book, increasingly covert, embedded in normal operations of institutions¢â‚¬¦
A. Right. Michael Emerson is the man who coined the phrase, he’s the Chair in Sociology at Notre Dame, a wonderful believer, strong Christian, who wrote Divided by Faith and United by Faith, two wonderful books, and he uses this term racialized to help us understand that there’s a DNA in the North American continent that has sort of embraced the myth of white supremacy. Of course in Seattle and the Northwest ¢€œ I’ve got family there, you and I even mentioned our friendships with people there ¢€œ it’s a different battle than it is in the South. But it is, there is still racial tension and a racialization going on, especially among believers, that I think they have a hard time seeing.

Q. Well and what you’re saying is in your own father’s experience, he was obviously committed to issues of social justice, but he was also a member of a country club that was white only.
A. Exactly. And that mixed message was foundational. And my dad took me¢â‚¬¦ One of the great things he did was he took me to the Martin Luther King speech. I was a rising sixth grader in August of ’63, took my brother and myself to that ¢€œ that was a formative moment. And then later that fall, in November, I was able to visit the Kennedy White House, visit with the President and, as a sixth grader, really seeing John Kennedy in another way. And I think cooperatively the racial reconciliation pays to King and then the care for the poor that came from the Kennedy interaction really was formative kind of providentially for me.

Q. Well you know, it’s an amazing story because there you were sitting at home playing and your dad calls and tells mom, pack up the boys, come into town because something was happening. And you know, my step-father was a Life magazine photographer and was one of the photographers at that event that day. And for people that were there it was impossible to listen to Martin Luther King, Jr. and not hear the Biblical kind of framework from which he was operating. I mean, he sounded like an Old Testament prophet.
A. Yeah. The actual experience was very much like church services that I entered into later in my life as I grew up. And it had that kind of enthusiasm.

Q. Now interestingly enough, Bobby Kennedy’s influence grew out of Ethel Kennedy’s justice for all, even horses. And you ended up, through that ¢€œ and maybe you could real quickly tell what that story is ¢€œ seeing a travel log of Africa shown by Bobby Kennedy personally in his home.
A. Right. They pulled out the 16-millimeter, you know, camera and projected their trip as a family. And here they are with Africans, you know, just unbelievable pictures. And it was sort of settling in me ¢€œ as again, now I’m an eighth grader in this particular story ¢€œ but because Ethel Kennedy had rescued some horses that were being mistreated she turned out being sued. And then my dad and another friend were on a legal team that did some work. So they gave everybody kind of a party and the Kennedys thanked them for their work on the case. She was acquitted, of course. And then in this context it really was the first taste of something that looked like the people that I had become afraid of sort of in my own racialized way.

Q. Yeah. It’s a fascinating story. Now, parenthetically, later on you had your own visit to South Africa and visited the site of the St. James Church massacre.
A. Right. This was a church that Bishop Relief, a white man in South Africa who was working for social justice in Khayelitsha, the largest township outside Cape Town, and there was an attack on their church where grenades were thrown and several people were killed. One of our closest friends, Larry Warren, was in the room at the time, was in the church at the time, and I did get to visit St. James. And it was really during that time, as a touring musician, that I really felt the call to, you know, the compelling call to not only social justice but racial reconciliation and literally left the music business to take the pastorate at Christ Community.

Q. Now interestingly, your dad ended up taking a job in Detroit where, again, you were part of a country club in a town that was experiencing race riots. And significantly what happened in Detroit, a number of things. Your faith was born through a YFC meeting, but your faith was also tested through your dad’s death. Talk a bit about Detroit and how that affected your view of racial reconciliation and community renewal.
A. Yeah. It was interesting economically to be pulled out of a political town and put into an industrial town and, of course, I was not aware of any of this. I was just sort of a kid growing up. But the race, in ’67 the race riot in Detroit was very vivid to everyone and it was all over everything, touching even the northwest suburbs. And so as a kid, again, in a privileged place, my best friend’s maid took us to one of her churches in downtown Detroit. I’ve often wanted to go back and find it. But that experience also created this longing to connect with this African American community that was swept under the rug, literally, in our area. No one really had contact relationally.

Q. Well what’s interesting, and the reason I’m taking a little bit of time with this, is your story is not unlike many people in the ¢â‚¬Ëœ60s, a kind of an awareness on the part of the white community that there was a problem.
A. Right.

Q. And yet enough of a distancing from it to not quite know how to connect to it, and also kind of on the racialization issue, a belief that it was a problem that other people had, that even though our lives were racist and we didn’t consider ourselves racist, we were all kind of in this mix and not quite knowing what to do about it.
A. Right. And until you’re in the south and you walk with friends that, you know, you watch the security guards watch them because they’re black or they’re Hispanic, or people won’t give them the check at dinner they give it to you because you’re the white guy, until you actually have that happen in your face, a lot of times we just stay in denial that these things still go on and that those imbedded experiences¢â‚¬¦ They’re very astute in picking up from the book that what I’m pushing is there are providential moments in everybody’s life that lead you to care for the poor. It’s a Christian mandate. Now, the poor sometimes are this minority or that minority, or sometimes the poor are the majority. But nevertheless, to engage with those that are different than we are is really at the heart of the gospel.

Okay. We’re going to pick up there when we come back. We’re visiting with Scott Roley. The book is God’s Neighborhood, published by InterVarsity. Don’t go away.


Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Scott Roley. His book is God’s Neighborhood, racial reconciliation and community renewal. This is a hopeful journey that we’re hearing about, Scott’s own journey.

Q. By this point he’s kind of seen the issue of racialization from a few vantage points. Heads off to college, shaped some more, meets his wife, Linda, who shares a lot of those values. Post-college, ends up in a contemporary music industry and moves to Tennessee. Now I’m obviously truncating a bunch of chapters here. But the Tennessee kind of geography, the geography lynch pins of your story are all very significant. I mean, Detroit, Washington DC, now Tennessee. And you get connected with Scott Ward Smith and with Michael Card, and this begins kind of the next part of your journey around the issue of racial reconciliation.
A. Right. Michael Card and I met singing background vocals. I had discovered that I could write songs and I formed a trio in Detroit. We ended up signing a deal with Sparrow Records, and then they moved us to Nashville to continue our recording career. Mike Card, you know, to make extra money we would sing background vocals. And so Mike and I met kind of crammed into a booth singing about banks, you know, savings and loans, this kind of thing. So it was a great start for us. In fact, I talked to him about an hour ago, we’re still fast friends. We do things all the time together. And he’s really a part of this entire story. Scott Smith, who’s the senior pastor, I just got off the phone with him as well. So the three of us have been very close for the last really almost 30 years.

Q. Yeah. You also, there’s some stories around your CCM experience that show a sensibility about these issues. You tell the story of drummer, Joe English, who of course is legendary, and the story of how he empowered a little black boy. Talk about that.
A. We were playing Cincinnati, and at the end of the show Joe would do this patented drum solo that just brought everybody out of their seats. And I mentioned the fact that I couldn’t capitalize on such a promising show, shows how poorly my career was orchestrated and how limited my talent was. Anyway, Joe finished this one show and a small black child, maybe 5, 6 years old, wandered up to his drums, which were off limits to everyone. And the child got up on the throne, the drum throne, and starts banging on the shells and missing. And the PA is still on, so Joe excuses himself, heads over, and ends up putting this child on his lap and then actually, as the child went limp, he played his drum solo through this kid across the PA to a limited crowd that was still kind of hanging around listening for Paul McCartney stories. And as it closed out, it just was a great illustration of how he is empowering this child, but he’s also willing to empower. And he’s also an example, I think, of what we do when we trust Christ, when we allow God to work through us. And then also the image that we all are the powerless child at some level as well.

Q. Now, your family got involved in adoption. Michelle, Sam, Jeff, you wanted to be a safe house. Talk about how adoption both grew out of your concern about reconciliation but also began to expand it.
A. My wife, Linda, when we married in the early ¢â‚¬Ëœ70s, really had a care for severely mentally impaired children. She was working in an SMI program in Michigan when I met her and was caring for children we began to foster. And out of foster care really the adoptions began to work out for us. They were all special needs. And as it turned out special needs children often are mixed race and certainly a minority cultured kids. And so two of our three adoptions were, one was a mixed raced child, Jeff, and then an African American child, Sam. Part of our journey then to move into Hard Bargain, into the neighborhood we’re in, was to get in touch with our Hispanic and African American, now, heritage that you enjoy through adoption.

Q. It’s a wonderful way that you interweave the stories in the book, God’s Neighborhood, because on the one hand you’re a guy that’s operating according to deeply held beliefs, on the other hand you’re flawed.
A. Right.

Q. And so things happen. And you’ve got this great story about hypocrisy about “Crab Lady.” And I love this story because having been in broadcasting for 15 years, you know, you can say all the right things on the air and then come home and have your kids, you know, point out something happening. This happened to you. Tell that story.
A. Well it was brief that this woman was known as the neighborhood crab because she literally was very, you know, an unsociable person. And my son threw a baseball, and through a course of events I ended up in her yard. And she pulls up and is very angry with me for being in her yard, sort of, you know, threatening trespassing, these ridiculous kind of overreactions. I just lit into her. I just unloaded, called her a bunch of bad names, you know, and said the reason why these people don’t like you is because you’re a pathetic, you know, sad woman who just, you know, hurts little children’s feelings. So she begins to weep. I actually just destroy her emotionally, which I’m not happy about. I turn around distraught, my children have deserted me, go off, and she says from behind, “And you call yourself a Christian.” She knew that I was a believer. And so that arrow sort of hits the back of my body like this cold, cold shower because it’s true. And I literally walk up the stairs and my youngest daughter, Emily, is coming out saying, “Dad, your song’s on the radio. Your song is on the radio.” And of course I’ve worked the last seven months putting together an album, now with Refuge Records, and the title is “Within My Reach,” and it’s the first single. So you know, as a songwriter you love to hear your stuff played. And as I walk in, there on our cheap Pioneer speakers are these words that I wrote that I sang, “We agree that love should be the purpose of the earth, the way you love your neighbor is a measure of your worth.”

Q. Oh man.
A. And you know, when you talk about hypocrisy, I really am someone who recognizes, as a sinner-saint, the amazing providence of God that has allowed me the privilege to do what I’m doing. I should have been dead and gone to hell 100 times the last, you know, my last adult life and child-like life.

Q. But you know, the reason these things are important is, these stories are important, is a lot of people have the right instincts and the right ideas and beliefs about issues of racial reconciliation, community renewal, but they’re afraid to fail. They don’t know how to do it. And what you learned through your, you know, sorry stories, is that you have to move on those instincts and then you’ve got to be prepared to fail. That’s part of the package.
A. That’s exactly right. I think, you know, Mike Card right now is working on a marvelous book on lament, and he’s talking about the lost language of lament, like when they knock down the buildings in, you know, 911, the church doesn’t have a lot to sing. We don’t really understand what it means to be sorrowful, to be broken, to be hurt. Culturally, in our psychology we’re getting there. But in terms of the real faith, we’re just so much more still, you know, it’s power, it’s wisdom, it’s wealth, it’s health, versus no, the cross is at the heart of what the gospel does. So failure really does lead to the success of faith.

Q. Yeah. Well in today’s Christian subculture you don’t invite the guy that has the crab lady problem to speak because he’s, you know, it’s a bad story. I mean, but here he is singing the gospel and living like hell. But the bottom line is that’s the only kind of people Jesus uses. And when it comes to this issue it’s especially true because none of us really know what we’re doing.
A. Yeah.

We’re going to be back with some more of Scott Roley. The book is God’s Neighborhood, published by InterVarsity Press. Stay there, we’ll be right back.


Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Scott Roley. His book is God’s Neighborhood. It’s a hopeful journey in racial reconciliation and community renewal.

Q. And now in a certain way it goes from bad to worse in the next story because here you are kind of loaded up, full of good intent, you go to a John Perkins event, a Christian Community Development Association, which is, that’s Wayne Gordon and those guys. Right?
A. Yes, it is.

Q. Yeah okay. And so you’re off, you know, getting really stoked up about going back and having a great ministry in Franklin. You come up with the name Franklin Community Ministries, but you don’t do the basic stuff that you should have done. So on the one hand you’re doing some great stuff. But there’s the story of Denny Denson. And here he is, an African American pastor in Franklin, and you come back as a white guy, full of good intentions, and plunge right in without any reference to this guy Denny. And in the book ¢€œ you talk about Denny throughout the book ¢€œ and you have this phrase, “what should have happened first but didn’t.” Talk about what happened with Denny Denson and what you learned through it about what it really means to be involved in racial reconciliation and community renewal.
A. What happens with most of us is that we want black friends. I mean, I’m contextualizing this in the south. You want minority friendships. And so people will say to me, how do I really get involved? And I say, it’s real simple, it basically costs you your life. And that’s part of why this is not a popular show that you’re doing today because what it really means is, you’re willing to give yourself away to a person who’s very different, who normally ¢€œ I mean, you have to be intentional about it. So the story with Denny came that the best thing I could have done was to go to the gatekeeper, and that’s the First Missionary Baptist Church here in Franklin. But instead of going up to the door, knocking and introducing myself and spending time with him relating, I would go by the church and we would do these wonderful things among the poor in his neighborhood, but never once asked his advice or asked for his help. And so the repentance came through another brother who suggested that perhaps Denny was not as impressed with me and our ministry as I would hope, and said that he was actually saddened by my inability to love. And it was very powerful. That was Hewitt Sawyer, he’s another African American brother, he’s a dear friend. And I got up from where we were, went over to Denny’s church and sort of went up the stairs that I’d frozen on time after time, without courage, and walked in. I was so emotionally, you know, overwhelmed by my desire and the calling the Lord put on our hearts, he rose from where he was down, very, very down in the front of the church, got up, walked up this aisle and we met halfway through, halfway there, and I just blurted out my repentance. I was just so sorry and he was¢â‚¬¦ He kind of wrapped me up in his arms and really cared about me.

Q. And how long had you been involved in ministry before you did that?
A. Eight years.

Q. Eight years in Franklin.
A. Yes.

Q. Without building a relationship with the African American pastor.
A. Correct.

Q. Now, people listening to that are almost in disbelief and stunned that such an obvious thing wasn’t part of your journey. Why? Why didn’t you go to him from the get-go?
A. It’s so funny. My intentions are always, it seems, to do it myself. I always want to kind of be ¢€œ I actually want to be in charge. And dominant culture we care about credit, we care about being in charge, it’s the way we’re bred. I think the idea of actually extending and working and, not only doing the ministry with him but turning the ministry over to him, was so foreign to me that until it was the likes of John Perkins and Dolphus Weary and other of these marvelous community developers who began to teach me. And then Denny himself, as a south-side Chicago, ex-Black Panther, was the last guy I ever thought I’d be friends with and now we’re as close as brothers.

Q. It’s such an important lesson, though, because there is a kind of a conquering hero image that a lot of suburban Christians have about what it would mean to get involved in the messiness of the city and yet, well, Wayne Gordon believes you’ve got to move there, you’ve got to live there, you’ve got to become part of it. I mean, it’s not the victor, it’s the guy coming to learn.
A. That’s right. Christ relocated for us. He comes from heaven to earth. And so what I found was, in the neighborhood that I’m in here, which we were working in prior to moving, became you know, the idea of leaving money, even millions of dollars in Hard Bargain, that seemed like a cheap way of me actually, of actually getting out of leaving myself, which was really the calling.

Q. You’ve mentioned it so let’s talk about it. The decision to live in Hard Bargain. First of all, describe the place, and then tell me what went into the decision to actually move to Hard Bargain.
A. Hard Bargain is the last African American owned community in the midst of maybe the ninth wealthiest county in the United States, Williamson County, just south of Nashville in middle Tennessee. It’s 800 to 1,000 people in a six- to seven-square block, highly underdeveloped, under-served, and economically depressed. Most¢â‚¬¦ It’s 90¢â‚¬¦ Well, it’s all African American except for the family that we have, but we consider ourselves African-Americans because of our adoptions. It’s all black owned and it’s been in a state of decline since really¢â‚¬¦ It was formed in 1870, and really since the 1930s has been in decline. We’re seeing a lot of positives happening now, as a result of this community development, which is all of us working together really over the last 15 years, but primarily the last 8 years.

Q. So why did you guys decide to move there? I mean, for goodness sakes, your buddy, Denny Denson, pastors an inner-city African American church and he lives in the suburbs.
A. Correct. You’ve got a great handle on this thing. It is interesting, and we just felt that as the dominant culture is certainly at our church and my own personal life, that if I didn’t move in there was no way to build the bridges with the people because they were so suspicious of any white people. Even the do-gooders, even the people dropping off turkeys at Thanksgiving, they always wonder why they didn’t stay. Like, why do you people come through? And of course the white people who are buying drugs in my neighborhood, they know why they don’t stay. They just come down to use the facility and then they’re out of there.

Q. So what was it that drove you to think we’ve got to do this? And how did your wife feel about it? And how did the kids feel about it?
A. Well, as I’ve mentioned, Linda’s my hero. She’s just remarkable and she’s always cared about the poor. Part of my regret is that she doesn’t have a house with the lush gardens and the garages and the size, the rooms, and she’s never complained once about the home we live in. We bought a house here, again, it’s a remarkable place. It’s a little cottage. It cost us $40,000. We bought it in ’97 and re-hab’d it. She’s never complained once. In fact, she considers this our home. My children, all of them, have felt wonderful about the move and have hit the ground running. We’ve had some, you know, awkward moments. People are distrusting of white people and, I mean, my neighbors, and it’s understandable.

Q. Well, and there’s drug deals going down on your street.
A. There’s drug deals happening, there’s gunshots fired.

Q. Now what do you say to parents who say that’s irresponsible to put your kids in harm’s way like that?
A. Yeah. It has to be a calling. I don’t think everybody in the world could do this. And this is not something noble. This is something we felt, after really praying and seeking a lot of counsel. Plus, you’ve got to remember it took me eight years to actually pull this off. I’ve intended to do this for a long time, it’s just not something we jumped into. So a lot of prayer, a lot of time. My pastor, Michael Card, all these best of friends, all were a part of the move. My friends up in Michigan, even, we’re great friends, were part of the move.

Well we’re going to pick up there when we come back because this isn’t a Lone Ranger operation. This is something you do in the company of friends. It’s a team sport, not an individual sport, that’s for sure. We’re talking about racial reconciliation and community renewal, hearing about a hopeful journey. The book is God’s Neighborhood. The author is Scott Roley. He wrote it with James Isaac Elliott, who himself is a songwriter, and with a foreword by Michael Card, who is one of the company of friends we’re going to talk about next. Don’t go away, we’re going to be right back.


Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Scott Roley. His book is God’s Neighborhood, published by InterVarsity. What a wonderful story.

Q. And as I was mentioning before the break, this is the story of the pursuit of God in the company of friends. That’s how this thing works. It’s about relationships, it’s about incarnation, it’s about service, not heroes. And a dear, dear friend, one of my mentors, Bill Lane, is part of this story, along with Michael Card and some others that you know of. And Bill Lane came up with the, coined the term, the “Empty Hands Fellowship,” which a lot of people have heard Michael Card talk about. You’re part of that group. Talk about what the Empty Hands Fellowship is, and why it is so important to pursue this kind of ministry in the company of friends.
A. The Empty Hands Fellowship began, like I said, eight years ago with this revival and renewal between Denny and myself. And we began to pray every week for an hour, on Thursdays. This morning we had our fellowship ¢€œ we began to meet for breakfast every Wednesday ¢€œ and 35 or 40 men gathered this morning to have coffee and talk about reconciliation, and we had a young African American brother share his testimony. It’s just about fellowship. Empty Hands came from, in fact, Bill Lane named us after listening to the “Rock of Ages,” the wonderful classic hymn, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I claim.” And he said, we are men with empty hands, we’re men that have no agenda other than Christ, we’re the Empty Hands Fellowship. So it really was fun to see how Bill had an incredible impact in my life here, and for you as well. It’s a neat connection.

Q. Let me talk about, or ask you to talk about some of the lessons. And I’m just going to grab some quotes from the book and let you respond to them. Here’s a lesson: “Nothing kills momentum in a ministry of mercy like confusing a motive of serving with saving.” What do you mean by that?
A. We have a tendency in the evangelical, certainly North American church, to think that we’re actually doing the saving, versus seeing Christ as the one who saves. You know, should the church, you know, save the poor, the lost? The question is, should Christ save the poor? Should Christ save the lost? We are his instrument, but that gets confused and therefore we have expectations that people are going to respond, when in actuality all we’ve been called to do is to be obedient.

Q. Here’s another phrase, and these are important for churches that are praying about what to do about their own communities. You say: “Youth ministry and community development fit like a hand in a glove.” What do you mean by that?
A. I think the energy that young people have ¢€œ and they don’t have so much of the baggage that we have as older folks ¢€œ that’s been the nucleus for so much of what’s spun off of the Christ Community Church youth group that meant so much in terms of community development. And I think that that vibrancy and the idealism is something that can be taught. And I think, that’s why I think youth group is a great place to begin reconciliation.

Q. You have a phrase that you like to throw out at the end of your talks. And it’s: “Go out and make a mess.” Now what’s that about?
A. A lot of people don’t like that because they think being messy is not what Christians are about. I would contend. I would say that being messy is everything that Christianity is about. And by “a mess,” I just make the gospels messy. You can’t be a person who finds a savior if you’re not a person that needs a savior. And once we find a savior we have a habit of thinking that’s done. Now I’m saved, everything works out. The truth of the matter is, I got worse once I came to Christ. My lifestyle was changed. Most of us, if we really are honest would say, I’m still an imposter, I’m still pretending, I’m still a Pharisee, I’m still full of self, you know, righteousness. Those are the things the gospel challenges every day in our life. So I’m saying to people, it’s okay to be a mess. That’s what your nature is. Trust Christ with it. Quit trying to try harder to make him like you, and give in and trust him.

Q. Yeah. Well the late Mike Yaconelli had a book called Messy Spirituality.
A. Yeah. That was a wonderful book. I used to say this at the end of my talks and now I hand out Yaconelli’s book.

Q. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Today in the evangelical Christian subculture there’s been a huge influence of the church growth movement, there’s been the kind of mega-church phenomena, and a lot of it is built around a principal called homogenous units, the idea that people of like mind and cultural experience like to congregate with each other. And it’s been kind of viewed as a positive and constructive step towards the church growth and the movement within evangelicalism. You kind of bring some tension to that, and I think rightly, by talking about some of what John Stott has said about the Biblical basis for reconciliation and community renewal. Talk about where you see the Bible is different from the way we’re practicing our Christian faith today around issues of poor and race.
A. I think that the North American church has had given to it, through Christ and in providence, the American Dream and a marvelous opportunity economically. There’s no greater place on earth to live. At the same time, mono, you know mono-cultural experience is not really, I think Biblically, the highest expression of the demonstration of the gospel. I think if we look at heaven and say, you know, on earth as it is in heaven, we see the plurality. Nowhere on earth is there a plurality like the North American continent. We have a melting pot that’s, unfortunately, embraced in the midst of that myth that the white people, the dominant-cultured people still are better people. We’ve embraced it subtly, but the church has bought it hook, line, and sinker. So what has happened over the course of all these last years, hundreds of years, have been that white people have congregated together and they’ve actually separated themselves from the growing plurality. Now, it’s not so evident necessarily in the northwest where there are other cultural challenges and salient hatred that goes on, but the gospel has to attack at those points of contest. And that’s where, I think, we’ve got to dismantle this idea that being together with all the same kind of people is really God’s desire. It’s the desire of the North American church to make money and to get bigger, that growth concept, but growth necessarily isn’t always the way the gospel works.

Q. Now you didn’t just deal with the issue of repentance and reconciliation at a personal level. You talk about intentional reconciliation, and you did that individually. But you also took it to the denomination, PCA denomination corporately. You place a resolution in front of them about repentance. And why did you do that? And what did it say? And what was the dynamic of actually seeing that become part of a denomination’s¢â‚¬¦
A. Yeah. The PCA started out as a racist denomination in the late 1800s, you know. Right after emancipation we basically said, it’s going to be a white Presbyterian church in the southern church, and then the black Presbyterian church or the black denominational church grew out of that separation. You know, after that, over the course of 150 years, the PCA, you know, as you break it all down, came out of the southern Presbyterian churches and it’s a conservative wing. We have 3,500 pastors, and out of that 3,500 we have 35 minority leaders. That’s just blatant sin in my mind. That is an atrocity because we have not reached out to our minority brothers and sisters. And consequently as we begin to do that, to build that bridge, they need to hear something. And what they need to hear is we were wrong. If they don’t hear that our forefathers were wrong, that we sinned against their forefathers, you can talk all day long. But until that apology is actually given and we repent for that action ¢€œ and all through scripture the covenant requires that we repent for the actions of our fathers, it’s all through the scriptures ¢€œ so people that don’t like that idea, I think, have got a problem in their heart that they’ve got to really reckon with.

Q. Well, and evangelicals are very strong on kind of theological orthodoxy, but sometimes Biblical orthopraxy slips through the cracks. I mean, the way we’re actually practicing what we say we believe.
A. That’s exactly right. And the consequence of that is the gospel truncates into just words, it’s just something that¢â‚¬¦ You know, Mike Card says that God, most of us, we have a God that’s waiting for us to get it right, not a God that really handles our sadness or brokenness, the real life stuff. So I call it this, that we have a crisis in the theology of belief with a crisis in the theology of action. Our belief and our action, words and deeds, they have, that’s what the gospel does. If you have one or the other you’ve truncated the gospel.

Well ladies and gentlemen, you can spend more time with Scott Roley. There’s a lot more in this book. We didn’t even get into all the different actual practical societies that have emerged in Franklin as a result of a bunch of people deciding to do the right thing. That story, the story of President Bush’s faith-based initiatives and more, it’s all in the book, God’s Neighborhood. You can spend more time with Scott by picking up a copy of that book. We’ll be back after this. Thanks for being with us, Scott.

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