When a Neo-Nazi rally happened in Charlottesville, Virginia Acts 29 Trinity City Church responded quickly to condemn it. Bryan Lair’s church re-published the EFCA statement on racism from the 1992 General Conference. Despite my concerns with the Acts 29 movement, which this blog writes about, I am encouraged that Bryan’s church responded in the manner that it did to this disturbing incident here in Virginia.
“Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.”
“Anti-Semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out. It has no place in America.”
William Howard Taft
If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer,[a] that person is still living in darkness.
1 John 2:9 NLT
The memorial where Heather Heyer was murdered in Charlottesville.
History of Trinity City Church
There are five Acts 29 churches inside the North Central District on the EFCA. We are going to look at one today, that of Trinity City Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Before we get into how the responded to the Charlottesville situation let’s examine the history and leadership of Trinity City Church.
History of Trinity City Church and Leadership
Bryan Lair and his wife were thinking of doing a church plant in either Saint Paul, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; or Evanston, Illinois. In 2008 Bryan decided to plant in Saint Paul. This was done with support of Hope Community Church in Minneapolis and Evanston Bible Fellowship in the Chicago area. The North Central District of the EFCA also participated in the church plant. The goal was to plant in an area near several colleges and universities. Trinity City Church held its first worship service on July 12, 2009 in a private residence in Highland Park. On October 10, 2010 the church officially launched in Merriam Park and then on February 6, 2013 Trinity moved Sunday Gatherings to MacGrove after they lost the building. In 2015 Trinity City Church joined the Acts 29 network, and were able to purchase the prior property in Merriam Park which came back on the market. Trinity City Church then re-launched on February 7, 2016.
Bryan Lair grew up in southern Minnesota. He obtained a B.A in Biblical Studies from the University of Northwestern in Saint Paul. He then went on to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and earned a Masters of Divinity. After moving to the Chicago area and growing to like city life Bryan decided that he wanted to plant a church in the city. In Chicago Bryan was a member and elder of Evanston Bible Fellowship. Today after planting Trinity, Bryan is the lead pastor at Trinity City Church. He is responsible for most of the preaching, pastoral care, and oversight. Bryan is ordained as a pastor inside the EFCA. In researching Bryan I found some articles that help understand the culture at Trinity City Church. For example at the Gospel Coalition in 2014 they published an article about Bryan about integrating jobs and vocation. You can read that in, “Integrating Faith and Work in a Church Plant.” Also back in 2013 in the EFCA Today Bryan was part of a discussion on marriage which you can read in, “Will You Marry Us?”
While Deeply Concerned with Acts 29 this is Encouraging
This blog has deep concerns with the Acts 29 network. After all there is story after story about problems that keep emerging. For example at ground zero of the Acts 29 network in 2015 Matt Chandler’s church attempted to practice church discipline on a female who annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict. You can read more about that situation in, “Has Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Recovered from the Karen Hinkley/Jordan Root Scandal?” Meanwhile in Richmond, Virginia another Acts 29 church shot down a person who wanted to serve as a military chaplain. This action was taken for theology reasons. You can read the story about Remnant in, “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives.” Trinity City Church is Acts 29 and also a part of the EFCA. There have been several stories that this blog has broken or wrote about expressing the concerns about the relationship between Acts 29 and the EFCA. For example in Columbia, South Carolina there is the story of Riverside Community Church and how an EFCA/Acts 29 church violated professional counseling guidelines, which eventually became a legal issue after appeals to the head of the EFCA at the time William Hammel. You can read more in, “Disturbing Allegations of Spiritual Abuse at James Walden’s Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina.” Then in the neighboring Forest Lakes District in Wisconsin there is the issue with Scott Sterner from Acts 29 The Vine in Madison, Wisconsin. As the Director of Church Multiplication is the Acts 29 pastor pushing a Neo-Calvinist agenda inside this EFCA district? You can read more in, “A Closer Look at Scott Sterner from Acts 29’s The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin; Is Scott Tilting the Forest Lakes District Toward Neo-Calvinism as the Forest Lakes Director of Church Multiplication?“
Despite these concerns there are some features of the Neo-Calvinist movement that I do admire. One of them is that the Neo-Calvinist movement does a far better job then traditional evangelicalism in addressing racism and racial issues. You can read more about that and other aspects that I admire in, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.” When the Neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville occurred it was a deeply disturbing event. Here in Virginia is was upsetting to a number of people who call this state home. And this event hit close when someone that I know explained how his mother-in-law hid in her home in Charlottesville when Neo-Nazis roamed her neighborhood waving shotguns. I wrote three articles about Charlottesville which you can read in, “The Season of my Discontent: When the Evangelical Christians are Wrong, the Atheists are Correct, and the Neo-Calvinists Surprise Me; A Reflection on the Neo-Nazi Rally in my Home State of Virginia.” Then there is Russell Moore’s response which you can read in, “Recommended Reads: Russell Moore on Jesus Being Angry on White Supremacy; Plus Jayson Bradley on how if Pastors Aren’t Discussing Racism they Need to Turn Over the Microphone.” Finally there is this article I researched and composed as to why racism is a sin and why Confederate monuments need to be removed. “Why Racism is a Sin, and Why Confederate Monuments in the United States Need to be Removed.”
When Charlottesville happened Bryan Lair of Trinity City Church faced the issue of racism directly. He didn’t mince words and reminded people that racism is a sin. He re-printed the EFCA statement on racism from the 1992 General Conference. You can read his statement in its original format in, “A Resolution Against Racism.” Despite the concerns I have with Acts 29, I deeply appreciate Bryan Lair facing this issue head on. I recall dealing with trepidation where I pop up for church and wondering would this be addressed? After all Charlottesville is not very far from Washington, D.C. So this blog wants to commend Bryan Lair for doing the right thing. In a critical time in history when people are saying that there are good people on both sides its crucial that the pastor of Trinity City Church got this right. For that I am thankful, and hope that this church can use discernment in other areas. That is it for the day Trinity City Church I will be writing about you again in the near future. Please take care of yourself.
Our ethos is carried out in many ways including acts of justice and mercy in all areas of life. One of the greatest areas of injustice in our nation’s history is racism, which has been called America’s “original sin.” The Overseer Team affirms the following resolution adopted by our denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), at its 1992 General Conference. The EFCA passed this resolution in the wake of the beating of Rodney King in 1991, but it also speaks broadly to occurrences of racism before and since then. This resolution, with minor adaptations for the context of our local church, reflects the theology and mission of Trinity City Church.
THE SIN OF RACISM
As Christians, we deplore racism as sin against fellow human beings who are created in the image of God. Racism has undergone a recent resurgence with an increase in violence evidenced by racial confrontations on college campuses, numerous racially biased crimes, the increased visibility and boldness of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, and various other separatist movements. Racism is also present in more subtle and passive forms in institutional settings where systems of discrimination prevent the upward mobility of gifted and qualified individuals. It is also present in racially discriminatory housing patterns, in the neglect and avoidance of people who are racially different, in the use of racially offensive language and humor, and at the level of individual prejudices and biases which heighten tension and perpetuate misunderstanding between racially different people. Even though our society benefits from progress made in the area of racial harmony during and following the Civil Rights movement, we believe that racism continues to exist and, at the present time, appears to have found renewed energy.
Racism is an irrational belief in the superiority of one’s ethnic or racial group causing the hatred of those of another group. Inequalities of economic and political resources and competition for economic and political advantage often causes this irrational belief to surface. In America, this unhealthy attitude of racial and ethnic superiority has resulted in discrimination predominantly by whites against people of color such as Asians, African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics. It also has provoked a racist response against the dominant culture and often heightened tensions between minority groups. God’s ideal is that humans exist in harmonious relationships regardless of racial and ethnic differences (Acts 13:1, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, Gal. 3:28, Rev. 5:9-10), but racism militates against the formation of these harmonious relationships.
RESOLUTIONS FOR THE CHURCH
Realizing that even as Christians we are not immune to the sin of racism, we resolve first of all to search our own hearts and repent of any racist attitudes we may have no matter how subtle. We further resolve to work toward eliminating racism in our local churches, ministry affiliations, and partner organizations. Some ways in which we can work are:
- Speaking out against racism in whatever setting we find ourselves.
- Preparing spiritually for the inevitable tensions and conflicts which will threaten the unity of the church as it continues to become more multi-ethnic and multi-racial in composition.
- Teaching in our homes and in our churches against racism and noting God’s desire for reconciliation between races (Eph. 2:14).
- Developing relationships of mutual education and submission (Eph. 5:21) with people of different races on both an individual and congregational level.
- Celebrating the presence and participation of our brothers and sisters in Christ from all ethnic and racial backgrounds in our local churches, ministry affiliations, and partner organizations.
Dear God, we repent and turn back, that our sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from your presence (Acts 3:19-20). “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name” (Dan. 9:18-19, NIV). In Jesus name we pray, Amen.