Portland

As the National Black Presbyterian Caucus prepares for its 50th year, President David L. Wallace said Monday that he expects it to continue to be a voice drawing attention to social-justice issues, equality, and inclusion in the church and in society.

“God wants us to dispel the hellish notion that we should not love everybody and work to reconcile differences within the family,” Wallace said during the caucus’ dinner at the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Wallace, a retired dean of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, said he hopes to advocate for the growth, development and enhancement of black congregations, with a special emphasis on changing the church culture to build inter-generational congregations including all age groups in the life of the church.

Wallace said one of the major obstacles the church faces is the refusal of some members to support inclusion. He said the differences we allow to divide us are both visible and invisible.

“They are afraid of diversity,”  he said. “They fear that if we do come together despite all these differences, the fires of fear, suspicion and conflict will consume us.”

Wallace said the barriers that separate us – racial, social, gender, economical, physical and cultural – are more powerful than ever. He cited recent controversy over gender identity and fear of the Muslim faith as prominent examples.

Just as God did for Moses, Wallace said, God has placed special spiritual powers in all our hands. He said these powers are fourfold: The power to see what God wants us to see; the power to listen to and hear others; the power to imagine potential and possibilities; and, finally and most importantly, the power to act. “Moses came to understand that actions speak louder than words,” he said. “God expects no less from us.”

He closed his remarks by citing a need for all people to embrace ethno-relativism, which he said “is the belief that God is inclusive of everybody. God loves all people, all races and colors.”

During the event, Arlene Gordon and Lonnie Oliver were recognized for “their tireless work in advancing the efforts of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus.”