Lunch with Black and Native American Pastors

John C. Rankin

[excerpted from First the Gospel, Then Politics …, 1999, Vol. 2, not published]

Once, at a conference of the Free Methodist Church, I was having lunch with some Black pastors, along with a Native American pastor. One of the Black pastors was speaking of how dehumanizing it was to be treated as a non-person, in so many aspects of the majority white culture. Thus he understood the attractiveness of Malcolm X’s “Black Power” fist in the air in the late 1960s, along with the declaration that “I am somebody!”

And while this pastor is not attracted to such violence, he shared how it was hard for Black people to have a positive identity since they came to this nation as slaves, unlike other immigrants. When I shared with him the power of the Hebrew exodus and how the Negro spirituals identified with it, and Jesus’s measurement for salvation, I said that his heritage was among a people far more able to receive the gift of eternal life because of the trials they have been through. And as well, they have much to teach us white people in that regard. They have an identity of a people who know exodus, just as the Israelites had to grasp in order to be the lineage of the Messiah.

His countenance brightened, and then the Native American pastor looked at me and said thank you for speaking to them as equals, and not with the usual condescension, or patronizing approach, he receives even from white Christian pastors. That was most gracious on his part. In the Gospel there is no racism and no classism. We are all sinners saved by grace.

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House of Lords 17 October 2017

Text of John Rankin’s address on the occasion of the 500th annive5rsary of the Reformation.