Justice to Righteousness: One Pastor’s Dream After Washington March

By Stan Friedman

WASHINGTON, DC (August 29, 2013) – Harvey Drake stood among the thousands of people on the National Mall as they commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and thought about his connection with history and the future.

“I was reflecting that I was six years old when the first one occurred and that I was at this one, and I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about it,” said Drake, the senior pastor of Emerald City Bible Fellowship, an Evangelical Covenant Church congregation in Seattle, Washington.

“It was awesome being able to experience what the first crowd did, what it was like to be in the crowd walking shoulder to shoulder,” Drake said. “It was a pretty moving experience just to see the wide array of people there concerned about seeing a just society come about.”

Among that array were about twenty people from his congregation and two Seattle Presbyterian churches who meet monthly to discuss issues related to race. They also participated in other activities in the nation’s capital, including Saturday’s march that attracted tens of thousands of people.

“We decided it would be good to do this trip together,” Drake said.

The group read The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation before traveling together. They spent part of the time discussing each of the days’ events.

“The discussions have been good,” Drake said. “Anytime you have discussions about race, there are mixed emotions, but there’s a lot of safety among us so we can really be candid with each other.”

Drake has a long-standing reputation for pursuing racial reconciliation. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer once lauded him as a “visionary pastor.”

Drake had mixed emotions about Wednesday’s gathering. He appreciated that there was a lot of focus on protecting voting rights.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court struck down the key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that identified jurisdictions with a history of limiting minority voting, and it required federal review of any proposed changes in election practices in those states.

“My dad was 39 before he could cast his vote straight up,” Drake said.

But Drake lamented the many political speeches that he said sounded too much alike and neglected the importance of the spiritual undergirding of the civil rights movement.

“Hopefully we can start talking more about righteousness than just justice, although that is definitely part of it,” Drake said. “One of the things that people forget is that Martin Luther King was moved by the Scriptures to act.”

Still, Drake was thrilled with the opportunity to participate in the march. “The question is, What do we do from here?

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About the Author

Edward is an award-winning journalist and author. Besides being the executive minister of Communication at The Evangelical Covenant Church, he is author of Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epic Challenge to the Church and Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity. Ed’s mission, both professionally and personally, is to be a bridge-builder, bringing people together across racial, denominational, and cultural lines.

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1 Comment

  1. Pastor Harvey asks the right question—”What do we do from here?” One of the things we could and should do is to have more communities in dialogue as Harvey and ECBF model for us. We need to engage and talk with each other rather than at each other. More of us who are endowed with “white privilege” need to listen and learn from those who have experienced the injustice of racism. Then we need to use that invisible privilege to continue to bring about change.

    Pastor Harvey, thank you and your church for continuing to engage, and for not getting frustrated and backing away.

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