Many people have become angry and frustrated with organized religion and evangelical Christianity, in particular. Too often the church has proven to be a source of pain rather than a place of hope. Forgive Us acknowledges the legitimacy of much of the anger toward the church. In truth, Christianity in America has significant brokenness in its history that demands recognition and repentance. Only by this path can the church move forward with its message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.
Forgive Us is thus a call to confession. From Psalm 51 to the teachings of Jesus to the prayers of Nehemiah, confession is the proper biblical response when God’s people have injured others and turned their backs on God’s ways. In the book of Nehemiah, the author confesses not only his own sins, but also the sins of his ancestors. The history of the American church demands a Nehemiah-style confession both for our deeds and the deeds of those who came before us.
In each chapter of Forgive Us two pastors who are also academically trained historians provide accurate and compelling histories of some of the American church’s greatest shortcomings. Theologian Soong-Chan Rah and justice leader Lisa Sharon Harper then share theological reflections along with appropriate words of confession and repentance.
Passionate and purposeful, Forgive Us will challenge evangelical readers and issue a heart-felt request to the surrounding culture for forgiveness and a new beginning.
At a time when evangelicals are understandably often seen as pompously pious, Forgive Us reads like a confessional booth. Instead of being asked to divulge their sins to us, people who don’t share our Chris tian faith hear us admit how far too many of our predecessors and peers have grievously sinned against others and pledge to live out our faith in ways that are more tangibly aligned with the mercy and grace of Christ. This exceptional book has the power to disarm a cynical world because it is a stunning example of evangelical Christians humbly stripping off our garments of triumphalism and privilege and covering our nakedness with the sackcloth and ashes of true lament and confession. – Ken Fong, Evergreen Baptist Church of LA (Rosemead) and Executive Director, Fuller Theological Seminary’s Asian American Initiative
Reading Forgive Us was an experience I’d never had with any other book: though I expected it to be the kind I’d want to put down immediately — because it would be the kind that convicted me — I couldn’t put it down. Not only did I not want to put it down, at the end of the first chapter I wanted to leap ahead and read each new chapter simultaneously! It’s that good. Like many, I recognize the besetting sins of the church today. But this rich exploration into the history and motivations for our sin was a meaty feast, helping me to understand the reasons we’ve behaved as we have and fueling my own passion to embrace relationships that are truly patterned after the person of Jesus. I thank these wise, brave authors for the leadership they’re providing today with their ministries and with this book. In these pages Christ’s bride is being equipped for faithful living. – Margot Starbuck, author of Permission Granted: Learning to Live Graciously Among Sinners and Saints
Forgive Us strikes me as the hope and sign I have been longing for — that a new generation is indeed rising up to lead the church into its calling. Second Chronicles 7:14 says that if God’s people would humble themselves, at any time and in any condition, and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, then God will hear from heaven and will forgive us and heal our land. This book offers the church the chance to do that deep and cleansing work of repentance, not just to say we’re sorry, but to truly turn from our sinful ways in true humility. The thought that God can use a repentant people in the great enterprise of repairing and redeeming the world…this should humble us. We all need this book. This is the way and we should all walk in it. – John Perkins, Founder, John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, Co-Founder, Christian Community Development Association
Forgive Us is timely and unique. It is the heart-cry of a group of friends — all scholars and justice workers in their own rights — to bring the biblical imperative of lament, confession, and repentance to key areas of American church history that are often discussed but rarely from this perspective and with such honesty and humility. It aptly calls out the savior attitude of an American church that continues to try to fix problems without recognizing its own complicated role in creating them. Forgive Us is a counter-narrative of confession and truth-telling that will leave you wondering why you’ve never heard the fuller story of so many injustices or realized how Chris tians have and continue to be complicit in them. It will equip and encourage you toward biblical reconciliation and peace-making as well as honest selfexamination and engagement. Forgive Us is a much needed addition to the conversation on American religion and politics. – Ken Wytsma, founder of The Justice Conference; author of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things
Two women and two men, two people of color and two whites — all four US Chris tians — issue a powerful call for lament, forgiveness, repentance, and action for sins of injustice committed throughout the history of the United States. Surprisingly, their confession of sin is directed toward, and on behalf of, the church in the United States. They believe the integrity, and even the survival, of the US church is at stake. Forgive Us is a must-read for Chris tians in the United States. – Curtiss Paul DeYoung, author, professor, pastor, and activist focused on issues of reconciliation and social justice, Community Renewal Society in Chicago.
There are sins we commit as individuals, for which we usually experience some kind of guilt. This book, on the other hand, is about sins that we, as Americans, are committing collectively and for which we as a complicit people should repent. For all of us who need to be sensitized to corporate sins and to the oppression that is perpetrated because of the evils that are inherent in many of the ways our political and economic systems function, this book is both a revelation and a call to action. – Tony Campolo, Professor of Sociology, Eastern University
Forgive Us is courageous, honest, painful, and absolutely essential. Courageous because the authors know there will be pushback from some parts of the Body; honest and painful because it tells hardball truths about the sins of the church; and absolutely essential because it calls the church to do what must be done in the face of great sin: lament, confess, and repent. Perhaps on the other side, forgiveness awaits us, as well as another opportunity to tell good news — the good news of Jesus. – Al Tizon, Ronald J. Sider Associate, Professor of Holistic Ministry, Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University
A powerful urgent plea for Christians to repent. Biblical faith demands that we listen carefully and respond positively. – Ron Sider, Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University
It’s a daunting task, to seek to bring Chris tians to repentance. With great grace, the authors of Forgive Us reveal ways we in the US church treat as less-than-fully-human people made in the image of God. Read with an open, humble heart. And be blessed to find that lament and confession lead to healing, reconciliation, life. – Deborah Brunt, keytruths.com, author of We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church
The progress from “now we see ourselves in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” does not always bring great joy. This book showed me more of myself, of my group, of my heart than I wanted to see clearly. Yet in facing and confessing the ways I have participated in other’s degradation elevates us both. To ask forgiveness is to not to give up a sense of right and wrong; it is to give up a sense of arrogance and scapegoat theology. This book helps me love my neighbor better and accept God’s judgment of us all. – Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland - A Church Distributed
First Chronicles 12:32 mentions the sons of Issachar, who “understood the times and knew what God’s people should do.” Of course, one cannot understand our times without going into the past and realizing the roots of our current historical situation. Our brave authors here do this for us, helping us learn things we did not know, underscoring certain features of our past social failings and bad theologies, and then offer insightful theological reflections to help us name sin, seek forgiveness and move forward in newness of life. Anyone wanting to be Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation and agents of God’s transforming kingdom simply must grapple with the social sins named in this book, nurturing hearts that can become broken and healed by these stories of pain and compromise. We must learn the rhythms and goodness of grace that comes through lament and admitting guilt. This book will indeed help us be sons and daughters of Issachar — aware, repentant, wise, and relevant. I pray it gets a wide, wide readership. – Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Bookstore
Forgive Us is a truly courageous and prophetic book. It calls on evangelical to go beyond paying lip ser vice to social justice to engage collective confession for the church’s complicity in racial, gender, and other forms of oppression. Through its engaged historical and social analysis, Forgive Us makes clear that the church must engage in deep introspection to effectively proclaim God’s word. This book will challenge many because it offers no cheap grace and pulls no punches in telling the truth about the church’s histories of injustice. And yet this book offers hope that through serious and engaged collective confession, Chris tians can finally become the people we are called to be — proclaiming God’s justice throughout the world. – Andrea Smith, Board Member of North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Study and author of Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide
Forgive Us points us to vital issues in the American evangelical world where the ball has been dropped and where various traditions may not have provided helpful direction. We are invited by the authors to repent and lament in ways that direct us to strategic opportunities to bring our Bibles and our respective doctrinal standards to the questions of yesterday, today, and tomorrow so that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. These are some of the most important issues facing the church today. – Anthony B. Bradley, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, The King’s College and author of The Political Economy of Liberation
In fidelity to the way of Jesus, this collection of prophetic writings is an urgent call to repentance and confession not just for evangelicals but for every Chris tian denomination and institution. “Woe to you rich… . “(Luke 6:24 – 26). Do we dare confess the intrinsic evil of the invisible structures of excessive wealth while billions of people live on less than a dollar a day, of the manufactures of weapons of war and destruction, of industry that is devastating the environment, of developers who are destroying indigenous peoples for the sake of development? The authors of this book write for today with the same fire, clarity, and depth of the great prophets of the Bible. – Rev. Dr. Virgilio Elizondo, Professor of Hispanic and Pastoral Theology, University of Notre Dame
Forgive Us is a strikingly candid and humble admission of the where the contemporary church has been in the wrong. A remarkable quartet of authors and thought-leaders, Cannon, Harper, Jackson, and Rah use biblical examples of honest prayers to seek reconciliation and ask God to “heal our land.” If you long to see the church be more than “right,” but also have a right relationship with the world around us, than Forgive Us is a must-read! – Dave Ferguson, author of Finding Your Way Back To God, Lead Pastor, Community Christian Church; Spiritual Entrepreneur, NewThing
The authors’ generous hearts help open us to the difficult, prophetic truths they have to share. Aside from looking back on historical transgressions, they challenge us to do the necessary work of confession and reconciliation for the sinfulness in our midst, here and now, both individually and as church. The real gift is that it is through this humble search for forgiveness that we find the opportunity for real healing in a fractured, skeptical world. – Christian Piatt, author of PostChristian and Blood Doctrine
In this book a very promising evangelical future is embodied: humble, honest, repentant, post-WASP, post-patriarchal. Evangelical sins are skewered; American (and Chris tian) history is recounted in terrifyingly unsentimental terms. The contrast between this kind of evangelicalism and that of the reactionary right is staggering. A must-read book. – David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics Director, Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University
There is now a great deal of talk about “the crisis in the church.” Most of that talk is frivolous and too easy, propelled by manufactured solutions, business models, or cheap grace. Not here! These writers walk honestly into the failures of the church that has too long, too often, colluded with convenient exclusionary practices. This book is a recognition that serious forgiveness by God follows serious repentance. This is well-informed, highly disciplined theology applied to the lived realities of the church. – Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
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