We are a church in the city. A fairly big city—forty-second largest city in the country. We are fairly average when it comes to racial proportion: the U.S. has 80.3% white and 19.7% minority while Minneapolis has 78.4% white and 21.6% minority. We are even more average when it comes to racial proportion between African-American and white. The U.S. has 12.1% African-American and 80.3% white while Minneapolis has 13% African-American and 78.4% white. We are not like Orange City, Iowa where at last count there was one black citizen. Here is one racial picture of our community. The numbers are from State of the City, 1993 (including the conundrums of the percentages).
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Does any of this matter? On May 13-15 here at Bethlehem two men, one African-American, one white, will help us answer that question. When Spencer Perkins was 16 he visited his bloodied father John Perkins in jail. White police had beaten him. Spencer could not imagine having a trusting friendship with a white man. Chris Rice grew up in Vermont, white and Yankee. Today they serve as elders of the same church in Jackson, Mississippi, and live in an interracial Christian community called Antioch, and edit the magazine Urban Family.
Bethlehem is passing through several defining moments. One of them relates to our sense of calling regarding racial reconciliation. I hope you will come and learn from these men.