Talking About Race

In light of Ferguson and other recent events, I am deeply disturbed by the racial divide in our country. Yet I am also deeply grateful for the bridge-builders in our ministry who take on the challenge of racial reconciliation with courage, intentionality, vision and biblical conviction in God’s redeeming grace.

One bridge-building chapter is at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, led by CSM Andrew Givens. He reports, “When our InterVarsity chapter hosted panel discussions about race, it radically transformed our chapter, our campus, and our missional vision for God’s reconciling work among us.”

Four years ago, he was the new InterVarsity staff person for a chapter which had seven students. But God gave a remarkable vision to three of those students for a racial-reconciling chapter that invites all people to know Jesus.

Andrew and these three female leaders, one black and two white, developed a strategy to reach out to the different ethnic groups at UNCW. They hosted Race Panels, a place for honest conversations about race.

The Race Panel was the first time the collective student body cried out for something to be done about the race relations on campus. Several administrators and faculty attended, including the Vice Provost of student affairs. They clearly heard students asking, “Who do we go to in the administration to address our racial grievances?” This led to a number of significant changes within the administration.

When two racist events occurred on campus, the chapter was well-positioned to respond. One involved a chapter leader, Brent Campbell, who shared his remarkable story at Staff Conference 14. Brent experienced racial taunts from a malicious group of white males, and he wondered what to do about it. “Hate, bitterness, and anger grow in the dark,” he concluded. Instead, he wrote a letter to the Chancellor of the university—one filled with grace and love for his attackers without diminishing the hurtfulness of their attack. Brent said, “Being loved by Jesus makes you love like Jesus.”

I encourage you to read more about the chapter's ministry of reconciliaton in the article, “Race Panels: Discussions that Transform.”

And thank you for your work to build bridges in the places God has called you. As we partner together, I pray for your efforts to bring God’s healing and wholeness to our broken world.

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About the Author
Interim President

Jim Lundgren serves as InterVarsity's Interim President. He and his wife, Mary Beth, live in Madison, Wisconsin. Jim has two grown sons, Tim and Andy. He has been with InterVarsity since 1973.