February 7, 2006
FBI NORTHERN BRANCH:
Boston minister's voice still reverberates (ROYSON JAMES, 2/06/06, Toronto Star)
Either [Boston minister Eugene Rivers] opened the door for the general population to blame "the black community" for the violence on Toronto streets; or we didn't need him to come and tell us what many people here have been saying for a long time.
Some whined that Canadians were kowtowing to an American. Again. Canadians were very different from Americans and blacks here don't have a century of social deprivation and devastation precipitated by slavery and race questions, so what's there to learn from him. [...]
[N]o matter what your grouse with Rivers' solutions, his voice is reverberating across the city.
For about 1,000 people who heard Rivers challenge the city, the black community, the faith community, and particularly, the black church, his voice was so poetic, his message so rooted in a theology they recognized and his challenge so urgent that many have dispersed to form mini armies intent on tackling the scourge of violence and crime.
At the very Seventh-day Adventist Church where Rivers spoke that night, the leaders are now engrossed in drafting a new vision of community-focused "ministry." For years that ministry would have been geared almost exclusively to moving the sinner away from sin and towards Jesus. Now, the focus may turn to saving that child from the violence and despair — save a life — before saving a soul.
Eternal life is still the goal. But with people dying at your doorsteps, it would be irresponsible and callous and "non-Christian" to ignore the obvious needs.
Last Thursday, about 50 black ministers and leaders from several denominations met at the Revivaltime Tabernacle on Dufferin to push along a city-wide effort to advance a social ministry.
This is remarkable on several fronts. First, most of the clergy gathered are from conservative congregations or denominations. They usually want no part of public protest, political dialogue or the "affairs of this world." So, to meet like this and with that many speaking passionately about "doing it for the kids," signals a sea change. Secondly, the people gathered that night are far from a unified body. They have great differences in interpretation of scripture and the delivery of the gospel. When one minister suggested that all participants had to unite under one banner if they hoped to have success, you could see others shuffle uneasily in their chairs.
There is little chance of that happening — not with Pentecostal, apostolic, Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Church of God, Baptists and other mainline congregations in the room — not to mention a whole unknown number of independent ministries.
But spurred on by an awful crime wave, the cogent and powerful words of Rivers, and maybe a spiritual revolution that focuses on Jesus' own emphasis on meeting the physical needs of people as well as their spiritual ones, we have a group of black clergy that may be about to do what everyone thought impossible — come together to lead their parishioners in a massive community effort.
And it's likely Canada's need for spiritual solutions that upsets many. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 7, 2006 7:07 AM