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July 18, 2013

Controversial Verdict, Exodus Ends, and an Author’s Secret

Three recent events that matter to your ministry

Consider these recent events and how they might affect your ministry.

Just Listen: Responding to the Trayvon Martin Case

This is the big one. Even if you haven’t been following the months of public trial, you couldn’t avoid the fallout from Saturday’s verdict on the very public and very contentious George Zimmerman trial. Since the jury found him “not guilty” of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, seemingly every TV station and Facebook post has voiced an opinion on what the decision says about the state of race relations in America, the legal system, and what justice really means. If one thing in this case is clear, it’s that it’s about so much more than one man and one boy and what really happened in the subdivision that night. Its implications touch so many people in deeply personal ways, and the cries of injustice cannot be ignored.

Now is a time to listen. Every person has experiences that have shaped who they are and how they view this world, and this week a lot of people are hurt. That is a very serious thing. By listening to other people’s stories of exclusion, prejudice, and profiling, we can acknowledge their pain and offer a safe space for healing. When we focus on being right, we lose the opportunity to show someone Christ’s love.

On the point of justice, we know we have a hope beyond the American legal system and its offer of a justice that is, really, determined by other fallible people. This hope is still real in the most hopeless situations, and we have the pleasure of sharing that hope with others who have seen the result of the alternative and have been left disappointed.

The End of Exodus

Just a few weeks ago, ex-gay ministry Exodus International announced it would be shutting its doors for good and reopening as a new ministry that will aim to “reduce fear (, and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities." The ministry, which emphasized reparative theory, or gay-to-straight conversion, as the Christian response to homosexuality, publicly apologized to the gay community for years of suffering and judgment as a result of these methods via an open letter from organization president Alan Chambers.

This is a really big deal. It represents a shift in how the church communicates its message to the gay community, and models humility in a way that shocked many in and out of the church. Without apologizing for his own personal views on the issue, Chambers acknowledged the pain many have felt and demonstrated remorse and grief for his role in it. He said, “More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God's rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.”

With the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) coming just after this announcement, it’s been a big few weeks for gay marriage, which means it’s been a big few weeks for Christians trying to figure out how to respond with both love and conviction.

The JK Rowling Book We Didn’t Know We Had

On a lighter note…just this past weekend, reports surfaced that J.K. Rowling, the billionaire author of the Harry Potter series, published a mystery novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Cloaking her identity behind that of a former member of the Special Investigative Branch of the Royal Military Police, she published the novel in April to little fanfare. After critics praised the “stellar debut,” the New York Times received a tip noting the connection of the new author to Rowling’s publisher, agent, and editor. And then her secret was out.

Basically, Rowling’s actual name is too successful and draws any work into inevitable comparisons with her now-classic series of novels about a boy wizard. What a problem to have! But as she said in a statement responding to the reveal, "It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.” It would be very nice not to have to worry about the actual sales of a book, but thanks to Harry, Rowling will never have to worry about money again. Her decision to publish under the Galbraith identity, however, touches on something most of us can relate to: the weight of expectations.

Sometimes too much success can be a difficult thing. Once people begin to expect things from us, the persistent pressure to avoid disappointing them can slowly chip away at our souls. Many of us don’t have the luxury, however, of stepping outside our identities to do what we love and feel called to do. So how do we manage the pressure? Burnout is one of the most common ministry killers, and avoiding this fate requires active prioritization of soul care: time alone with God, time spent in the Word, time to rest and recharge and refocus on the reason we do anything we do. Summer is a great time to step away for a few hours or a few days to prepare yourself for the year ahead.

Laura Leonard is the associate editor of Building Church Leaders at Christianity Today. You can find her on Twitter @lmarieleonard.

Related Tags: Exodus; George Zimmerman; JK Rowling; Trayvon Martin


Re the Zimmermn Trial, your short article seems to sway toward giving credence to the belief that this was a racially motivated matter, and by your statement that justice is decided by fallible people, it would seem that you believe the jury somehow did not conclude properly. I believe your short article really falls short. Not only one side/family has been devastated by this case. Zimmerman was acquitted. Lets not forget that. His life and that of his family is forever changed because of what happened that night. This was not a race related shooting. To continue to comment on this case as if it was and give credence to the anger and "hurt" by those who want to make it so is irresponsible.

People feel what they feel. This little article is merely reporting that. Also reported is that people are talking about race relations. The article does not claim the trial was race-based.

There are the facts, and then there are people's reactions to those facts. Now that the trial is in the past, we are living in the time of reaction.

To deny that the Zimmerman trial was not about race is to give credence and support to the events that led to Trayvon's untimely death and subsequent trial of Zimmerman. Trayvon would be alive today if he hadn't been profiled and judged as a potential threat to a community his own father lived in. My prayer is that this tragedy become the impetus for our country to face the insidious nature of racism that belies our cries of liberty and justice for all.

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