WASHINGTON – Take one look across the social media landscape, and the impression it leaves is a tinderbox — perhaps better described as the Divided States of America rather than the United States.
If the U.S. truly will ever be "one nation, under God," the solution, some Christian leaders say, starts with God's Word and his people.
A Time to Talk
The kaleidoscope of faces that filled the large banquet hall on the fifth floor of the Museum of the Bible to kick off a new initiative on racial reconciliation reflected every hue of the skin tone spectrum.
Men and women from churches across the country came to discuss the sin of racism among Christians. They started with a conversation the event organizer described as the "third rail," involving both race and religion.
Attendees also affirmed the group's statement of change and how racism contradicts the biblical principle of "imago Dei," which asserts that all people are created in God's image or likeness.
The event marked the beginning of a national campaign called "Let's Talk." Its goal is to bring Christian pastors and leaders together to have honest and frank conversations about the racial division that exists within the walls of America's churches.
A Biblical Solution
Bishop Derek Grier, the visionary behind the campaign, points to the Old Testament book of Malachi as the framework for the conversation and solution. Drawing a link to the biblical narrative of the period of exile, he told the crowd the current national unrest in the United States is comparable to the scriptural portrayal of ancient Israel.
"The nation was in trouble, and the Bible says, 'And those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord heard,'" explained Grier, who pastors Grace Church in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
"The goal is to simply follow biblical principles and talk to one another," he added, noting the importance of listening and not "talking past" or shouting at each other.
With continued calls for criminal justice reform and racially-charged courtroom cases, the quest for unity seems elusive – both in today's culture and America's churches.
"I hold the church accountable for the culture," said Don Kroah, addressing the racially-mixed crowd at the museum. Kroah pastors a church in northern Virginia and hosts a show on Christian radio.
"We have ungodly people trying to solve problems that only the Gospel can solve," he added, explaining why he believes society has failed to find a lasting solution.
A Time to Heal
The kickoff banquet started off with an invocation from U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who prayed for unity and healing. It also included personal stories of ministry leaders and their own encounters with prejudice.
WATCH BELOW: "Let's Talk" Banquet Livestream
"No matter what has happened in your life. No matter how much trauma you've experienced, please, don't give up!" pleaded Lee Jenkins, pastor of Eagles Nest Church in Alpharetta, Ga.
While some of the speakers shared painful experiences, the evening was marked by a sense of hope. Each of the people at the podium pointed to the healing and unity rooted in his or her shared faith and the hope of a reconciled church as described in the book of Revelation.
"Church is not supposed to be one people group," declared Frank Santora, who pastors Faith Church, an integrated congregation in New Milford, Connecticut. "We now have a responsibility and mantle on us, as leaders in God's church, to show the world what heaven looks like," he said.
"If we can't do it in the church, how can we expect the world to do it the right way?" Santora asked.
As the effort moves to the next phase, including nationwide facilitated dialogue through monthly Zoom calls, Bishop Grier is calling on other pastors and ministries to join the conversation to help churches develop practical solutions and navigate a path toward healing.
The goal of the "Let's Talk" campaign is to add more voices as participants model the biblical picture of Christians, regardless of color or background, living together in unity.
For more information on "Let's Talk," and how you can be involved, click HERE.