I'm reading, Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community (IVP, just published) By Charles Marsh and John Perkins (foreword by Philip Yancey). I have met John Perkins many times (interestingly more often than not, on board airplanes when we have been placed next to each other). He is an extraordinarily humble individual who consistently makes me feel unholy. The book is not for the faint-hearted because it addresses the on-going sin of racism that exists in the church -- nor is it confined to the South.
He recalls a time when he met a white pastor in Mendenhall, Mississippi.
"I liked this guy, and I started to realize that he liked me. He was a theologically educated man, and I think he was impressed that a black man could understand the basic tenets of the faith as I did. Somehow, we became friends. I knew I needed his help and he respected me, so we started to meet and talk about how we could work together.
"I told this white pastor what I perceived the problem in our community to be: I saw the best people leaving for New York and Chicago, and they weren't coming back. Anyone who got an education couldn't see how it was relevant to their community and its development. If we were going to make a difference in Mississippi, we were going to have to help poor kids get an education and then come back home. We had to show them that their communities were important. I shared this vision for ministry with my white friend, and he said he wanted to help me. This was in rural Mississippi in 1965.
"Like any good pastor, my friend decided that he needed to teach these ideas to his congregation before he led them into a new ministry. I imagine he talked to them about the importance of missions and started inviting them to think about what that could look like in Mendenhall. But his church was threatened by the idea of working with a black minister. They were shocked as I was that a white minister wanted to work with me, and they rejected my friend. He couldn't handle their rejection, so he killed himself."
An important book for us all to read and reflect over.