Derek Chauvin’s conviction for killing George Floyd has returned race issues to the center stage of public discourse. In a world rocked by racial turmoil and demands for justice and equality, some view the Christian church as part of the problem – white supremacy, discrimination, apathy. Consider one faith movement’s efforts to become part of the solution.
Prisoner to pastor
Dax Palmer’s unusual career path is taking him from prisoner to pastor. As a Black California drug seller, he experienced multiple incarcerations. In the penitentiary, he found faith in Jesus. Paroled in 2008, he pursued YMCA work, then joined the staff of a Raleigh, NC, Presbyterian church as community outreach coordinator.
Feeling out of place in the mostly white congregation, he encountered at a convention other African-American faith leaders who deepened his commitment to serve where God planted him. “I felt like I could be a part of this,” he reflected to byFaith magazine. He now helps church members engage with people of color and networks with leaders serving refugees, the homeless, and human trafficking victims.
Palmer also attends graduate school aided by the PCA Unity Fund, established in 2016 to help develop diverse leadership in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The fund assists men and women of various US minorities, including Blacks, Asians and Latinas/os.
Cornell grad Soojin Park, a Korean-American woman, got Unity Fund assistance for her graduate ministry education in DC. Nikki Ellis, a Black woman, received a Unity Fund scholarship for her faith-service studies at a Florida graduate school.
The PCA, founded in 1973, made news in 2018 by unanimously electing its first African-American moderator at its annual General Assembly. (The moderator becomes the organization’s face for a year.) That moderator, Irwyn Ince, directs a Washington, DC-area institute to train faith leaders in cross-cultural work, helping churches and organizations to “welcome others…[of] all cultures…as Christ welcomes us.”
Disclosure: I’ve been a PCA member since its inception. But since I don’t regularly follow PCA national matters, I was unaware of these developments until a friend – knowing my racial equality interests – recently alerted me. I learned more of the inspiring backstory.
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SOURCE: Assist News Service, Rusty Wright