Statement from Steve - Sep 2020
2020 is 155 years since the end of the Civil War. 2020 is 55 years since the
Civil Rights (1964) and Voting Rights Acts (1965) have been made law. Yet it
seems like racial harmony has taken several steps back this year.
In this time when there is so much racial unrest, I thought it would be
helpful for you to hear the story of FCC’s racial journey. Some of you may be
aware of our story. Others of you are only aware of the multiethnic face.
Sadly, our church has a past. However, ours is a story, also, of
repentance, confession, and change.
Englewood Church of Christ was born in the affluent, white Englewood
neighborhood in 1885. However, in the 1950s, due in part to the post-War
housing boom which invited white residents to move southwest, the
neighborhood experienced dynamic racial change. By the end of the decade,
the church decided to pack up, and move southwest itself, and sell the
church building to a black congregation. Unquestionably, white flight was
the reason for the move.
Renamed First Christian Church of Chicago, the congregation built in the
Ashburn neighborhood. By the 1990s the church was brought face-to-face
with their past. The church was forced to answer how they would respond
to the face of the current neighborhood becoming darker.
Racial transition was overtaking the neighborhood when I interviewed with
the church in 1996. A number of people of color, first Filipinos then Black
people, had made FCC home. I remember asking the Elders how the church
was going to respond to the racial transition. Rich Bussian responded by
saying the white flight of the 1950s was “SIN”, and the Elders, to a man,
declared, “We will not do that again.” It wasn’t misguided, a bad decision,
or just wrong. Defining the previous decision to relocate as a sin was huge.
That position was not without cost. Over the next decade, a large number of
families would do their own white flight from the area, and leave the church.
But those families would be replaced by a growing number of melanin-rich
brothers and sisters. Is FCC the perfect model of multiethnic church? No,
yet, we are committed to walking the journey together. To overcome racial
inequality, we must confront our history.