taking the words of Jesus seriously

We are at a critical point in American history. Technology and social media are publicizing our horrific and historic battle with racial injustice, making this evil increasingly unavoidable for even the most privileged of people, as it’s been for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) for centuries. How the church responds at this time will determine whether we serve as a credible prophetic voice or exacerbate the crisis. Those responses will vary, but today we wish to speak directly to the music in our spaces. 

Within just a few generations, we’ve watched music play a powerful role in national struggles like the anti-apartheid and civil rights movements, where protest songs juxtaposed the integrity of the kingdom of God and the injustices of our world. Like with the Psalms and much of church history, worship has collided with the pain of oppression in song-form, prophetically calling people to look longer and respond. Sadly, in America, the mainstream worship and civil rights movements parted ways in the sixties and have run on separate tracks ever since, as if the freedom and edification of all humans were not applicable to the Good News of God. This must change.

As George Floyd’s murder has led to a surge in raised voices, active marchers, and impassioned allies in numbers we have not before witnessed, we recognize a secondary risk: racial diversity and justice become trendy and further exploitation occurs, especially in evangelical worship spaces. 

So we, as faith and worship leaders, implore you to navigate the following months and years with these things in mind: 

1. White worship leaders, writers, and producers, who have maintained very little, if any, commitment to addressing systemic oppression, we ask that you avoid hastily engaging these issues and tokenizing BIPOC leaders in your sphere of influence. Building your platforms at other peoples’ expense is not consistent with Christian values. Instead we ask that you commit to listening to, learning from, and investing in BIPOC leaders who have been working diligently in these spaces for some time. To use a sports metaphor, we are not asking you to leave the game, but we are asking you to pass the ball. In a time when marginalized voices need to be amplified, we are pleading with white-led ministries not to assume a leadership role and colonize people of color based on their brand, platform, money or past accomplishments. This leveraging of power is, in its very essence, the scandal of white privilege. (If you are in agreement, you will have the opportunity to sign a pledge here on Wed, July 8th.)

2. Pastors, worship leaders, congregations, and individual consumers searching for music which exists at the intersection of Jesus and Justice: we ask that you serve as a conscience and commit to inviting music into your communities that is generated by those whose words match their deeds. We believe that this will serve to strengthen a somewhat atrophied muscle in our churches of prophetic cultural critique, lamentation, and systemic redemption. This is also a time to increase our discernment, watching closely for messages and music from ministries that have aligned themselves with racist ideologies, rhetoric, legislation and political leaders. Promoting this kind of content props up people who struggle to see the error of their ways and further perpetuates an oppressive narrative. 

3. Worship leaders, writers, and producers, who have been working in the trenches of praise and protest long before now: we ask that you come to the front and consider joining in a coalition to address this disconnect and help the Church develop appropriate prophetic music for this time. We also ask that you cross-promote each other’s music, building a robust network of emerging artists with a passion for praise and protest. Understanding that while we might not have all the answers, now is the time to speak up. (Please email britney@redletterchristians.org for more information.)

VISIT: The Red Letter Christians Artists and Musicians Page

Some of the most gifted and measured communicators of our time have stepped into the anti-racism domain recently and blundered as they have tackled a subject matter with which they have limited experience, resulting in obtuse efforts that have produced more harm than good. Therefore, the emphasis here is on prevention rather than cure. The work of combating racism is not something we do only when racial violence is trending in the news cycle. It is the ongoing work of all who cherish the call of Jesus to go into the world to make disciples of all nations, of all ethnicities.

If ever there was a time for the Church to be the light of the world, it is now. If ever there was an opportunity for us to become agents of healing, it would be now. If ever there was a time for the church to regain its leadership in integrous, prophetic music that can bring about lasting change, it is now.

Calling for your awareness and participation, 

 

Coalition for Praise And Protest:

Brandi Miller (Activist, Speaker, Podcaster/Reclaiming My Theology)

Britney Winn Lee (Editor & Content Coordinator Red Letter Christians)

Brittney Spencer (Artist, Songwriter, Podcaster, Manager/Common Hymnal)

Elaina Ramsey (Interim Executive Director Red Letter Christians)

Malcolm du Plessis (Activist, Speaker, Founder/Common Hymnal)

Nontombi Naomi Tutu (Priest, Activist)

Otis Moss III (Activist, Speaker, Author, Pastor/Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago)

Propaganda (Poet, Spoken Word Artist, Podcaster/Red Couch Podcast)

Sandra Maria Van Opstal (Activist, Speaker, Liturgist/Multiethnic Worship, Author, Founder/Chasing Justice)

Shane Claiborne (Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians)

 

Adopted by:

Aaron Ivey (Songwriter, Worship Leader/The Austin Stone)

Aaron Keyes (Songwriter, Speaker, Podcaster, Founder/10000 Fathers)

Ali Gilkeson, musician (Rend Collective)

Amos Housworth (Artist, Songwriter, Founder/The Last Bison)

Andrea and Will Reagan (Artist, Songwriter, Member/United Pursuit)

Andwele Williams (PC4M)

Angela Denker (Pastor, Writer, Speaker)

April Lee (Musician, Artist)

Asha Kaye (Poet, Blogger/The Frances Project)

Ben Grace (Singer, Songwriter)

Ben Hardesty (Artist, Songwriter, Producer, Founder/The Last Bison)

Bill Cayley, Jr (MD MDiv)

Bobby Alexandre (Artist, Songwriter, Producer, Worship Leader)

Brandon Hampton (Musician, Artist, Songwriter, Worship Leader/United Pursuit)

Brian Greene (Worship Leader/Freedom Life Church, Worship Leader/Bridge Bro’s)

Brock Human (Artist, Songwriter, Podcaster, Founder/United Pursuit, Founder/Reunion)

Carlos A Rodríguez (Activist, Pastor, Founder/The Happy Non-Profit)

Chris House (Worship Leader/Bridge Bro’s)

Chris Llewellyn, musician (Rend Collective)

Clayton Ferguson (Business Management / Entrepreneur)

Connor Wheaton (Artist, Songwriter, Producer)

Dan Russell (Founder/Soul Fest)

Danny Smith (Jubilee Campaign)

Darren Calhoun (Singer/Worship Leader/The Many)

David Gate (Songwriter, Poet, Founder/Haus Church)

Dickie Chappell (Sound Engineer, Technical Production/Peter Gabriel LTD)

DJ Griffin (Songwriter, Artist/DJ and Marv Music)

Eric Marshall (Artist, Songwriter, Worship Leader/YoungOceans)

Gareth Gilkeson, musician (Rend Collective)

Gary Rand (Producer & Songwriter/The Many)

Gavin Davis (Worship Leader/Bridge Bro’s)

Gilbert Nanlohy (Musician, Songwriter, Producer, A&R)

Hannah Rand (Singer/Songwriter/The Many)

Isaac Gill (Musician, Songwriter, Artist, Worship Leader/Westside Fellowship, Nashville)

Isaiah Freeman (Worship Leader/Elizabeth Baptist Church)

Isaac Wardell (Director/The Porter’s Gate Worship Project)

Jason Foster (Musician, Songwriter, Producer, Founder/Circle Sessions)

Jason Upton (Artist, Songwriter, Founder/Key Of David Ministries)

Jenny Wahlström (Artist/Songwriter/A Treehouse Wait, Pastor/Fridhemskyrkan)

John Emery (Advertising Agency, Emery Agency )

Jonathan Martin (Speaker, Author, Blogger, Podcaster/Zeitcast, Pastor/The Table OKC)

JonCarlos and Gabrielle Velez (Artist, Songwriter, Worship Leader/Emmanuel LIVE)

Kathy Khang (Writer & Speaker)

Kierre Bjorn (Artist, Songwriter, Worship Leader/Celebration Church, Worship Leader/Bridge Bro’s)

Keivanna Thomas (Artist, Songwriter, Music Therapy Advocate)

Kevin Dailey (Multi-Instrumentalist, Songwriter, Recording and Mixing Engineer, Producer/Budbud)

Lenora Rand (Songwriter/The Many)

Leslie Michele (Singer/Worship Leader/The Many)

Mark Alan Schoolmeesters (Multi-Instrumentalist, Artist, Producer, Songwriter)

Mark Nicholas (Music Publisher)

Marquis Boone (Artist Manager/Marquis Boone Enterprises)

Marvin Hudgins II (Poet, Artist/DJ and Marv Music)

Micah Bournes (Spoken Word Artist, Songwriter, Speaker)

Michael Carr (Musician, Manager/United Pursuit, Founder/Reunion)

Morgan Shirey (Music Marketer)

Nathan Fray (Musician, Podcaster, Founder/United Pursuit, Founder/Reunion)

Nick La Parra (Activist, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Podcaster, Founder/Let’s Give A Damn)

Noah Rubin (Artist, Producer, Songwriter)

Paul Demer (Musician, Artist, Producer, Songwriter)

Phillip Joubert (Artist, Songwriter, Founder/Zero Dynamite)

Rev Jenna Martin (Pastor/Westside Fellowship, Nashville)

Royce Lovett (Artist, Songwriter)

Ryan Carr (Musician, Songwriter, Producer/Budbud)

Ryan Flanigan (Artist, Songwriter, Founder/Liturgical Folk)

Sanchez Fair (Multi-Instrumentalist, Songwriter, Producer, Podcaster/Token Confessions, Founder/It Ends Now Charlotte)

Scott Krueger (Worship Musician, Psalters)

Steve Schallert (Artist, Songwriter, Producer, Training Director/YWAM Muizenberg)

Seaux Chill (Artist, Producer, Songwriter)

Steve Schallert (YWAM Muizenberg Training Director, Cape Town, South Africa)

Stewart Doka (Music Business)

Stu “Stu G” Garrard (Artist, Author, Collaborator)

Terry and Linda Fouche (Pastors/Mercy Town, Los Angeles)

Tim Timberlake (Speaker, Pastor/Celebration Church)

Titus Tucker (Worship Leader/Faith Church, Worship Leader/Bridge Bro’s)

Vanessa Ayersman (Director/Soul Fest)

Victor and Gail Masondo (Multi-Instrumentalist, Speaker, Songwriter, Producer/Isondo Music Productions)

Will Retherford (Artist, Songwriter, Producer, Podcaster/Citizens Of Tulsa)

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