Surprisingly, Many Evangelical College Leaders Have Embraced Black Lives Matter

Students worship at the Urbana conference in St. Louis
Students worship at the Urbana conference in St. Louis

When Michelle Higgins addressed a gathering of 16,000 evangelical students meeting in St. Louis this week for a missions conference, she brought the same intensity and fervor she’s often displayed as a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ms. Higgins, a St. Louis native and director of Faith for Justice, a protest group devoted to “Biblical activism,” minced no words when she told the crowd what happened after Michael Brown was killed last year in Ferguson, Mo.

“When I first heard that our brother had been killed, we began looking for churches to host discussion groups,” said Higgins, also the director of worship and outreach at a local congregation. “All of our evangelical partners said, ‘We’re not ready to talk about race and justice; we’re not ready to talk about police brutality and mass incarceration; we’re not ready to talk about the fact that black bodies are grotesque to us – we don’t want to admit that.’ ”

Her provocative words at the 2015 Urbana conference, a student gathering co-hosted by the conservative campus ministry InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, not only laid bare some of the deep racial divisions in the United States after the killings of Mr. Brown and other black men over the past year and half, but they also went directly to the fact that, as a whole, evangelical Christians remain among the least likely to have sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement.

But at the Urbana conference this week, many evangelical student leaders and others have expressed full solidarity with the emergence of the protest movement. Worship leaders onstage, a diverse group leading worship with the kind of praise music that many evangelical churches are known for, wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts and sang songs in Spanish, French, Korean, and Swahili, as well as English.

The evening devoted to the cause has produced a stir on social media, and many have notedhow unexpected it was that a major conservative evangelical ministry would include a speaker like Higgins in such a prime spot.

It wasn’t accidental.

“Part of what drove our decision to engage Black Lives Matter more directly was, obviously, we’re meeting in St. Louis, 12 miles from Ferguson,” says Greg Jao, a vice president and the director of campus engagement for InterVarsity USA. “The idea that evangelical Christians would be that close to the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement, and not engage it, seemed wrong.

“This is a conference focused on Jesus’ call to engage in the worldwide mission of the church,” Mr. Jao continues. “To us that means proclamation of the Gospel in word and deed. And so to have a part of the body of Christ, the black church, in deep pain and not acknowledge that – it seemed implausible.”

Click here to continue reading…

SOURCE: Harry Bruinius
Christian Science Monitor