A Statement from President Walter Denouncing White Supremacy

CHICAGO, IL (August 14, 2017) — I join with other Christian leaders to unequivocally denounce hateful white supremacist ideologies, brought into stark focus by the distressing events of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Make no mistake. This ideology is antithetical to God, and therefore must be antithetical to all who follow God. It makes a mockery of the Father, our Creator, who knit each of us together in our mother’s womb. It ridicules the cross of Jesus, our Redeemer, in whom there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female. It disdains the work of the Holy Spirit, our Sustainer, who has baptized us into the one Body of Christ.

Friends, it is hateful … and it is heresy.

In the Covenant, we instead yearn to be found evermore faithful to a Kingdom vision here on earth as it is in heaven: a vision of every tribe, nation, and tongue finding its place of belonging and reconciliation at the feet of Jesus. We don’t always get it right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

And so, we press forward with resolve, lament, and the sometimes painful but always powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

We grieve the senseless loss of three lives, Heather Heyer and state troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates. We pray for those recovering from wounds, seen and unseen, nearby and far away. We denounce hate-filled violence.

We beseech our just and merciful God to convict us of how we as a nation and Church fail one another. And, we beseech our God to convert us anew to the bedrock reality that Jesus not only can, but Jesus does, break down the dividing walls of hostility.

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  1. Thank you, Gary, for these powerful words about all of us being created in the image of God — as Christians neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, but all one in Christ Jesus.
    In our nation “under God” the government it not allowed to constrain speech (except under certain limited circumstances, which do NOT include being unGodly, ignorant, or offensive, or even hateful.) But the many ideas that can be contained in speech are not equally meritorious. Indeed, exposing hateful and hurtful speech to the light of fair consideration, and especially, we would say, to the light of the truth in Christ helps show it for what it is.
    Christ does not teach a way of violence, and seeing people resorting to violence saddens and horrifies us. On that basis we may say there was wrong on several “sides” in Charlottesville. But that does not create moral equivalence between those who preach hate and those who resist.
    How sad to see the Nazi lies raised up again; how sad to regress along the civil rights path of the last sixty or seventy years.
    Lord have mercy on us all.

  2. Thank you Gary! We need these very clear statements and I applaud your leadership on behalf of our ECC family

  3. I cannot say strongly enough how gratifying it is to me to read these words from my denomination’s leader. The signal failure of white Evangelicals over not just the last year – a year that has led me to disavow being an Evangelical altogether – but over the past decades. Either we deal with systemic racism / structural racism and its wholly deletrious effects as seen in the pernicious myth of “Christian America” we’re told we need to return to, or we submerge ourselves further and further into a nationalist myth that is cannibalizing our faith. There is not another way than one of these two. Again, thank you for your strong comments.

  4. Thank you President Walter for your powerful words and for speaking out against racism and white supremacy. It exists, even today, and is the ongoing result of yesterday’s sins. In response to some of the posts on CovMagazine, I think it’s important to clarify what racism actually is through the lens of black Christian theologians, such as James Cone.

    He argues that we must distinguish between black anger, even hatred, and black racism. Racism is “the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its rights to dominance over others.”

    The backlash against white supremacy and privilege is not rooted in African Americans being racist or believing that they are superior or have a right to dominate others. Anger is, rather, the appropriate response to a long history of white racism. Whites must stop saying get over it or “love trumps hate.” Of course, love not hate is the Christian message, but we don’t get there without examining the causes for the division and naming ongoing white complicity in racism.

    Racism is a decidedly white sin. We must deal with it, and my hope is that the white Christian community stop calling people of color racist when they are (justifiably!) angry about racism. The role of the white community in this period of history is to try to understand and listen and empathize what people of color continue to experience in our country, and when whites do call out violence, we need to call it out in the white community, as President Walter does.

  5. May the Lord raise many more leaders like you who are willing to boldly and univocally condemn idiologies contrary to our Lord Jesus’ teachings. We the outsiders are shocked at what is happening in the USA.

  6. Thank you for making clear that all forms of racism and white nationalism are opposed to the gospel, and that as Christians we must not stay silent. Grateful that the Covenant is not afraid to denounce it and is continually striving to learn how it can do better.

  7. Thank you Gary for your statement. Though some might misconstrue it, I am thankful to be part of a denomination that can be unequivocal in its response to racism in general and white supremacy in particular.

  8. Thank you, Gary for your depth of spiritual, Christ-centered wisdom on what happened in Charlottesville and the reality of the cure:
    “…The bedrock reality that Jesus not only can, but Jesus does, break down the dividing walls of hostility.” I am very encouraged to know that I serve with individuals in the ECC who like you, demonstrate such courage and are able to articulate precisely the real issue in these dark times.
    I am going to share this message with my church!
    Thank you

  9. I for one do not relate to your prayer, “We beseech our just and merciful God to convict us of how we as a nation and Church fail one another.” What happened in Charlottesville does not reflect a failure of either Church or nation. I will say no mea culpas. I will not take on the guilt of others for their acts of criminal violence.

    There is a tacit presumption in your words that what happened in Charlottesville typifies a racial hatred that is pervasive in our society. I don’t believe that for a moment. I have a higher opinion of most Americans — of all racial and political identities. What we saw in Charlottesville was the intentional disruption of civil order on the part of criminal provocateurs.

    I am troubled by how so many are willing to exclusively pile on the white supremacists without any concern about what I saw as equal hatred and equal racism coming from the counter-demonstrators. It’s human nature to look for a fall guy, a scape goat. And right now, white nationalists are the whipping boy.

    Let’s be clear. The demonstrators did not kill anyone. They were marching to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee that had stood for almost 100 years. Heather Heyer was killed when one crazed person drove into the crowd, injuring 19 others. That man was not a demonstrator. There is no evidence that he was working in concert with the demonstrators. In fact, many of them have strongly condemned him. The other two persons who died were flying in a police helicopter that crashed, and the cause of that crash is still unknown.

    There is a saying, “Suppose they gave a war and no one came?” What if the demonstrators had simply been left alone to march in protest to the removal of the statue? They had a permit to demonstrate, which the ACLU helped get for them. But as they marched, it was an angry mob of counter protesters who blocked their way and threatened them. The Charlottesville police failed to keep these groups separate, Demonstrators were forced to pass through a gauntlet of club-wielding counter protesters who also threw caustic liquid at them.

    The counter-protesters came loaded for war – loaded with the same brand of hatred attributed to “white nationalists” – but their form of bigotry and racism is getting a free pass, because they aren’t the scape goat. In Nazi Germany, the Jew was the scape goat. In Charlottesville the “white nationalist” is the scape goat. Because I’m white and I’m a nationalist, the finger is being pointed at me. Guilt by association, and worse, guilt by appearances makes the accusation that I am a racist and a bigot and a hater.

    That makes me angry, and justifiably so. Who is the accuser? He’s the father of lies. And sadly, our society today is totally swayed by his lies and accusations. I would have preferred your prayer was something like, “We beseech our just and merciful God to teach us to be quick to listen and slow to speak; to discover the whole truth of a matter before taking sides; to refuse to be taken in by a mob mentality; to refuse to participate in a witch hunt; to refuse in pointing the finger of blame.”

    So, what should we as Christians do? Are we supposed to join the politically correct band wagon? Are we supposed to give our nod to a political/social movement? Or rather than curse the darkness, should we light a candle? Rather than decry hatred, bigotry and violence — things which everyone already knows are bad — perhaps we should show the world a better way. Show, demonstrate, exercise and practice love. It’s all about how we live, not about what we say. There are times when we must condemn evil. But in the case of Charlottesville, that evil has been grossly misdefined.

    Crimes of violence can never be tolerated. But the freedom of everyone to express themselves must always be tolerated. There is a strong movement today to prevent the expression of unpopular or politically incorrect sentiment. But I am strongly convinced that unless the most unpopular ideological minorities are given their equal freedom to be heard, a death knell will soon be heard for what used to be freedom of speech. A virtuous society cannot maintain the integrity of its freedoms by the suppression of “offensive” speech, because there will always be something to offend someone.

    1. I agree with Michael Day. Church leaders are coming out and branding all of us because of our white ethnicity in the same mold. There was violence on both sides. Was one more wrong than the other? You might say it doesn’t matter. It does matter! Facts are important.
      There’s a lot more to this than what is being reported. There’s a lot of culpability on the part of government and politicians. Somebody’s fueling the fire of hate. On a daily basis, we get only one version about what’s going on because of the media and politicians who are pushing open borders and one world government.

      What does the Bible have to say about that?

      The church, for the most part, is fine with political correctness which bypasses Christian morals as defined in the Bible in so many ways. It’s the new set of morals on a floating scale. The Bible defines marriage and homosexuality in definite terms and I hear almost nothing from the pulpit because pastors and church leaders don’t want to address sticky subjects. They’re only sticky if you allow them to be sticky.
      The world isn’t going to change if the church continues to remain silent in the face of evil! Politicians aren’t going to change the world. The change, if it is to happen, needs to come from the church.
      Christ spoke up with only the full truth. Paul spoke up as uncomfortable and hard as it was about the evil and untruths in society.

      The church needs to begin to do some heavy lifting because it’s getting darker out there every day. The evil side is very active and in too many ways the church is taking a back seat.
      Satan is evil and his forces are very active! Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is in itself evil.

    2. I couldn’t have said it better, Michael, and I agree with you wholeheartedly! I really appreciate your prayer too. I wish President Walter would have had the discernment and the courage to pray that same prayer.

    3. My father grew up in the USSR during the time of Stalin. As an ethnic German, he was sent back to Germany by Hitler’s orders in 1943, served in the German army and spent 3 years in Siberia as a POW nearly starving to death in the process. While nothing justified the actions of either, regarding the relative merits of the left and right, he said; “Hitler was terrible, Stalin was worse.”

      When he came to the USA (as the spouse of my mother who was an American citizen) you would think he would have been glad to be in the “land of the free.” Instead he always worried that Americans were ideologically (rather than culturally or religiously) oriented to the point that this country would eventually fall prey to extremist ideology of either the left or the right. He was always more worried about this country going off the rails in a fascist direction than in a communist direction. He saw little difference between the post-WW2 USA and Weimar Germany; the difference being only that we had won our war and they had lost theirs.

      I thank God that he didn’t live long enough to see that he was prophetic. It was a great joy to him to see the Berlin wall come down. He died thinking the future was brighter. His son, however, thinks the future looks pretty dark for Christians in America.

      Neither of the contending sides in Charlottesville has an iota of sympathy for the Jesus way. One side (the white supremacists) are overtly haters, so it is easy to identify them as the enemy of Christians. The other side “hates the haters” which is not as easy to clearly identify as evil since we humans all too easily believe Satan’s calculus that (-1) x (-1) = (+1), but it is evil just the same. As Christians it makes no difference to us which side gains the upper hand. To quote our Muslim and Jewish friends, they are both “haram” or “qados.” The heresy from the white supremacists is overt, that from the antifa is more subtle; but they are fundamentally the same. We must follow the practice of our Amish brethren, both sides and their adherents must be “shunned.”

      1. I retired from the US Air Force in Germany in 1981 and stayed as a civilian for several years, obtaining residency and work permits.(all in the German language). I worked and lived as a civilian and talked with a multitude of people. When they found out that my language skills were fluent, they would as me questions about America, which I gladly answered

        I also learned from them about their lives under Hitler and that is what I see happening here in American today. We have radicals on both sides, and neither care about Christianity truly but some say they believe in God to fool the people that haven’t been really born again, and this is the alt-left.

    4. The man who drove the car into the crowd and killed a young woman was shown with the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists and the Alt-Right members who marched in Charlottesville carrying Tiki torches and chanting, “Blood and soil,” a Nazi slogan, and “Jews won’t replace us.” And you want to say that the Alt-Left protesters who opposed this are equated with them or the Nazis, who killed six million Jews. God doesn’t have a favorite race — at least everything I read in scripture confirms that. Our Constitution declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….”

    5. Michael, I’ve noted that you have self-identified as a “white nationalist”. Simple question – What does a Christian “white nationalist” stand for? If “white nationalists” have a vision for the future of the USA, what does that vision look like? A sincere question! I’m listening.

    6. This is a sad – and non-factual – response to the President Walter’s letter. All one need do to disprove the idea that folks gathered merely to protest removing a statue is to watch the video from vice.com and other media outlets. The Vice piece, in particular, is lengthy. These white males were chanting “Jews will not replace us” and attacking counter-protestors arranged around the statue of Lee. The event was organized by white supremacists (a.k.a., “alt-right”) leaders. There was no ambiguity about what this event was about.

      The false equivalence you present in your above comments is the very thing that wars against the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this nation’s history. We have less to fear from “humanists” than we do this fascist underpinning in our own history, one which twines Christianity and the flag and above all white western maleness into one rope. “Christ and the Lynching Tree” is one place to begin one’s own unraveling of this pernicious set of misbeliefs.

  10. Hello Gary,

    Thank you for your comments. You are ALWAYS very careful, thoughtful and poignant in your writings. I appreciate how you keep things about Jesus.

    As a pastor in the Covenant (not representing my congregation, but speaking from my own heart) I also think it necessary to point out that all violence is antithetical to Christ, who unjustly endured beatings, mockery, being spat upon, scourging and ultimately the cross to demonstrate a different way.

    This other side of this situation includes people identifying with the Antifa movement who wielded bats, clubs and long poles to clearly stir up the hatred and intimidate those they vehemently opposed. Not everyone, at the protests in Charlottesville, was there as a white supremacist or neo-nazi or with the Antifa…some just did not like the fact that the city decided to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee or that the KKK, neo-nazis and other white supremacist groups were going to be protesting. I believe people got caught up in something they never anticipated. It seems to me that we should seek to oppose all violence…whether it be from white supremacists-like or from the Antifa-like groups. This is not simply a black-white thing or a left-right thing…it is an evil versus good thing, light versus dark thing…I know it is not popular to say there were perpetrators of violence on both sides in Charlottesville, but it is true, and it is not enough to just unequivocally denounce white supremacist groups as evil. We should call all evil, evil! And yes we mourn the unnecessary loss of life. It is horrible and obviously did not and should not have to happen.

    I loathe the work of satan to create division and foment hatred amongst people with varying amounts of melanin. I loathe the idea that a group can parade around as though they are supreme and “god’s chosen” ones and yet have wicked intentions. However, I also loathe attacking people who think like that…that is no way to win people for Jesus nor is it the thing the people of God should ignore or uplift. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, hate cannot drive out hate…only love can do that (someone once said).

    Let’s call all evil evil and not highlight one while ignoring the other. I do not want there to be any satanist groups in existence but I am not about to go out and threaten them with bats and clubs though the harm they are doing may be eternal! I guess I fear this article can inadvertently excuse violent action against those with whom we disagree as long as enough of us deem it right. Jesus called out Pharisees and Sadducees for their wrong actions and thinking, but he did not go after them with clubs and bats…in fact he asked why they came at Him that way and later said, “forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” We could learn something from that. That’s preachable in today’s climate.

    I love you and pray for you as you lead this body through a tumultuous and painful time in our country’s history. Peace in Christ!

  11. What about other Black or ethnic racist groups? They should be addressed in the same manner as Jesus would have done. Stop treating minorities today as victims from yesterday’s tragedies.

    1. I do appreciate the fact that this is being addressed. I am of mixed ethnic parents and have experienced racism from both sides and God teaches us that there are things in life that we have no control over so we cast our burdens onto Jesus and stop feeling sorry for ourselves. God truly is in Control

  12. Thank you, Rev. President, for making such a clear statement regarding God’s perspective. And for calling to live into God’s design versus that of a culture not yet submitted to what our Lord desires but rooted in a debased, broken and unregenerate purpose.

  13. Thank you so much for being an example, not just by your words, but how you and your wife have lived. We are in a time when we need to be more visible than the evil in this world

  14. This message of truth needs to be shared in every church! Let’s start with the local Covenant churches.

  15. Thank you for this clear and faithful statement. It helps lead and heal and name the discipleship work in front of us as the church. #grateful

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