A group formed in 2015 “to unite our diverse group of Grand Rapids pastors, reconcile divisions between Christians, and speak with one voice for justice” organized a demonstration last week to continue to show their commitment and to call on local leaders to address issues of systemic racism in Grand Rapids.
“Our hope was to evidence the unity in the body of Christ and to stand together with our brothers and sisters against injustice and against racism,” said Jack Kooreman, senior pastor at Grace Christian Reformed Church and a member of the Grand Rapids Association of Pastors executive team.
About 100 pastors gathered June 4 to hear a statement read and have an opportunity to sign it. Many dropped to one knee as a show of support for those whose lives have been affected by racism. Grand Rapids police chief Eric Payne and city manager Mark Washington were present.
Nearly 30 Christian Reformed Church pastors are among more than 175 clergy to have signed the statement, “Racism is what is breaking our community.”
The statement calls on believers to “respond individually, to search our hearts for how God is calling us to change the racism we have internalized. We must respond as a community here in Grand Rapids, to hold our police officers and city officials accountable to policies that protect the dignity of black and brown people. And we must respond nationally to the overwhelming injustice of racism, and the failure of those in power to lead with justice. Our Scriptures tell us that all people of faith are required by God to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In addition to the CRC pastors, the statement was also signed by Jul Medenbilk, president of Calvin Theological Seminary, as well as members of the seminary’s faculty. Reginald Smith, the CRC’s director of diversity, also signed the statement, along with pastors from more than 20 different denominations.
“We’re really pleased with the diversity of the pastors who came and who signed the document and stood with us,” Kooreman said.
James Jones, pastor of congregational care and outreach at Oakdale Park CRC in Grand Rapids, was among those who signed the document and kneeled with his fellow pastors. He says God is at work through this time.
“We believe God can reconcile us to one another, that God can heal our city and heal our nation,” Jones said. “And we recognize that pain is always a part of true healing. We resolve to work together, across the lines that have divided us. We resolve to use our power and platforms to name the legacy of systemic racism that has traumatized people of color.”
Jones was involved in prayer walks last summer in Grand Rapids after shootings occurred very near to the Oakdale Park church property.