Reprinted with permission from The Thistle, the newspaper of Covenant Seminary.
Commissioners to the PCA’s 43rd General Assembly in Chattanooga, Tenn., their spouses, and anyone else who is interested are invited to a special fellowship dinner the week of the Assembly focused on the theme “Justice and Peace: What Are We to Become?” Details are as follows:
When: Wednesday, June 10, 6:30 p.m. (following the evening worship service)
Where: Tennessee River Place, 3104 Scenic Waters Lane, Chattanooga, Tenn.
What and Who: Rev. Dr. Mike Higgins, dean of students at Covenant Seminary and co-pastor of South City Church in St. Louis, and his daughter Michelle Higgins (MDiv ’13), director of worship and outreach at South City Church, will share their experiences from ministering in St. Louis in the days during and following the unrest in Ferguson. Mike and Michelle will explore practical ways to get involved, and address some challenges at the epicenter of the evangelical church’s invisibility in protest, advocacy, and public justice issues in general. Michelle will also join Rev. Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace to lead a time of worship.
The Thistle interviews Mike and Michelle to learn more about the event:
Why is this event important for us as a church, especially now?
On an important topic like this, the church should be at forefront. More than that, we should be leading the way, modeling the humility and faithfulness that it takes to work for and sustain change in racially polarized systems. The most constructive conversations on racism, systemic injustice, and implicit bias should be happening in the church, because we are called to be the model of gracious living. Having the testimony of being reconciled to God as one body means that the church has so much to give in response to seemingly divisive issues.
Q. Why are you both uniquely equipped to speak to this topic?
We both interact with people of varying and sometimes opposing perspectives every day, which is teaching us to depend upon the Lord more constantly! We currently lead the St. Louis Pastor’s Fellowship, a monthly interdenominational gathering that Mike founded to create safe spaces for discussion and relationship building among churches that approach ministry differently, but preach the same gospel.
Mike is a native St. Louisan, born and raised just a few miles from Ferguson, where his father lives now. Michelle is a founding member of Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy group involved in the movement for gospel-shaped justice in St. Louis and neighboring areas. Both of us are Covenant Seminary graduates and work in a PCA church that has led protests and discussion forums on the topic of racism and social justice, both in the church and among non-believers.
Who is your target audience for this event and what do you want them to get out of it?
Men and women who want to hear personal stories about how churches minister in times of unrest. Anyone who wants to learn about Christian responsibility with regard to social justice issues should come. Those who feel they have nothing to offer may learn that everyone in the body of Christ is equipped to respond faithfully in situations like those in Ferguson and Baltimore. This event is aimed at Christians who identify as theologically Reformed, but everyone is invited, and the topics discussed are broadly accessible.
What do you hope to see this event building toward in the years to come?
We hope that everyone in God’s body, no matter where they are, will work faithfully for the elimination of racial division in all its forms. This starts with healthy conversations and a commitment to learn from one another. It would be wonderful to see more intercultural learning among PCA churches, and to hear from people who are striving—and even struggling—to bring an end to division in the church. We want to encourage honest conversations which help us realize that it’s worth our time to listen and to speak up.
Events like this display the opportunity to build relationships based on trust in Jesus, which leads to greater trust between Christians. When brothers and sisters in the church commit to learning more about one another, their churches will better represent the reconciliation of peoples who were once hostile toward each other. The evangelical church must continue to develop a daily rhythm of active repentance and forgiveness, moving toward one another despite the difficulties of understanding our differences. We will be energized by the unity Jesus has won for us, which will make us less afraid of taking risks as we pursue godly interdependence.
This event has now reached capacity. All are still welcome to attend, though dinners are no longer available.