Pastor Calls for Reconciliation, Not Marginalization

Post a Comment » Written on October 31st, 2008     
Filed under: News
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (October 31, 2008) – If Christians are to be instruments of God’s peace, they need to reject media that profit from promoting division, says Efrem Smith, pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church.

Smith advocates not listening to certain radio and television talk show hosts he describes as “shock jocks” who he says “are getting paid millions of dollars to draw great chasms in the sand.”

Efrem SmithPrograms of that ilk are contrary to the call of the gospel, Smith says with impassioned emphasis. “The church needs to be a prophetic voice of reconciliation.”

Smith helped organize a conference held last week in Minneapolis to promote reconciliation, and he has spoken nationally on the issue.

Too much of the media has categorized, marginalized, and demonized people of all races and economic status, he says. He cites the current financial crisis is an example.

“People in the banking industry are being painted as criminals,” Smith says. Meanwhile bankers who attend Sanctuary – as well as others who are friends and did not engage in unethical practices – are painted with the same brush. “For sure, they’re struggling.”

People who are suffering financial difficulties and especially foreclosures also have been marginalized through stereotyping, Smith adds.

“In June and July we had more benevolence requests than in the first five months combined,” Smith says. “The majority of these people were college-educated individuals and families.”

The financial difficulties generally were not caused by their greed or foolishness, he says. Instead, they lost their jobs when workplaces closed or businesses trimmed their number of employees.

“People have to be careful not to stereotype people who come to them,” Smith says.

The financial pain felt by people in his congregation has led to changes at Sanctuary.
“It caused us to think more seriously about how we care for people in our church,” Smith says.

That process led them to alter the way they celebrate communion. Emphasizing the sacrifice of Christ, the church now asks members to bring an offering for the benevolence fund when they come to the table.

Since then, giving to the fund has increased, Smith says. “It’s expanded the number of people we can help.”

Smith says that may not be the best response for every church, but adds, “All churches are going to have to figure out new ways of caring for people who are hurting.”

Christians can consider those changes when they’re not listening to politically motivated rhetoric, Smith says.

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