Life

It's time for white churches to step up for the Black Lives Matter movement, Cedar Rapids pastor says

Cedar Rapids-based New City Church hosting education classes for pastors, ministry leaders about race and racism

Rod Dooley, co-pastor at New City Church, leads a prayer on May's Island in Cedar Rapids on June 4. He and co-pastor Dan
Rod Dooley, co-pastor at New City Church, leads a prayer on May’s Island in Cedar Rapids on June 4. He and co-pastor Daniel Winn led a group in prayers calling for people and communities to work harder at ending systemic racism. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Churches need to stop sitting on the sidelines of the Black Lives Matter movement, New City Church Pastor Rod Dooley says.

Dooley, a Black man, says the white church is late to the Black Lives Matter movement. But the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis has sparked protests for police reform across the United States, now forcing the church into conversations about systemic racism, he said.

“Personally, I’d love to hear and see repentance of white churches in the role they have played in perpetuating racism,” Dooley said Wednesday. “I would love to see them come to the table ready to tear down the walls and develop actions and strategies to keep that wall torn down.

“I would love to see them more engaged in the underlying issues that racism has developed in our community like poverty, housing, employment and health care.”

Dooley is a co-pastor at New City Church with Pastor Daniel Winn. The pastors merged their Black- and white-congregate churches two and a half years ago as a step toward inclusion and diversity.

On June 4, New City organized a prayer gathering on May’s Island in Cedar Rapids during which they prayed for an end to systemic racism and a reconciling of hearts in the church.

Next week, they are hosting a panel discussion on race for about 20 pastors and ministry leaders in Eastern Iowa.

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The discussion will revolve around what the church’s role is in the midst of current racial tension. New City also is inviting other church leaders to participate in a five-week bridge building class on race.

“We are segregated on Sunday mornings because of a lot of things, and racism is one of those things, but the other is we don’t have a great appreciation for each other’s cultures,” Dooley said.

He added that he believes the New City Church merger could be a model for more churches in Iowa and across the United States.

From the pulpit, white pastors are talking about social injustice but they fail to talk about racism, said Winn, New City co-pastor.

“I want to challenge all white pastors to not dance around the issue talking about justice and mercy,” he said. “That will appease people and not help them come face to face with racism,” Winn said.

Evette Creighton, minister at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, a predominantly Black church, said racial reconciliation should happen first in the faith community, which requires faith leaders to stand up and call out racial injustice, she said.

“The racial division, hate and the residual impacts of that, it’s all a sin,” Creighton said.

Creighton, who will be a participant this Tuesday in a church leaders’ panel at New City, challenges white pastors who don’t believe systemic racism exists to “connect with someone who looks different from them.”

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“I question why it’s taken this long,” Creighton said. “Nonetheless, we’re starting to see little glimmers of hope that things could change.

“Is it because of the comfortability of their own privilege and the refusal to see the world as it is? I challenge them to seek God’s face, find themselves in prayer and ask God to guide them and open their eyes.”

People’s Church Unitarian Universalists also has been diving into education on race and white privilege for the past several years.

Rev. Rebecca Hinds said, as a white church, it has a lot to learn and are doing the work to be better allies to the Black community. The 130-person congregation has read four books a year for the past few years on race and held dialogues about it.

A couple years ago, the congregants put a Black Lives Matter flag outside the church.

“I don’t expect (Black people) to educate us, which is why we spend so much time educating ourselves because it’s white people’s work to dismantle white supremacy,” Hinds said.

The church has spent too many years pretending racism doesn’t exist, she said.

“Race impacts the lives of people of color in ways white people need to be aware of,” Hinds said. “For our church, we’ve spent some time being really clear that to be welcoming and inclusive, we have to be specifically anti-racist.

“We have to unearth the white supremacy culture from its roots.”

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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