Efrem Smith: White Evangelicals Need to Humble Themselves

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“Allow the church that has been deemed the other, the marginalized church, to be the teacher at this moment.”

Watching the video of George Floyd’s death broke Efrem Smith’s heart.

Again.

Floyd died slowly after a police officer constricted his airway with a knee on the back of his neck. His death was another case of an unarmed black American killed in an encounter with police, following other high-profile deaths like Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Botham Jean in Texas, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Another unarmed African American killing,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “This time in South Minneapolis in the neighborhood where I grew up. The heartbreak continues. I shouldn’t have to fear for my life because of the color of my skin.”

Growing up, Smith lived not far from Cup Foods, the shop near where Floyd died, and he has fond memories of visiting the drug store that used to occupy the same space that Cup Foods now stands.

He later became a church planter and served as founding pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church, a multiethnic congregation in North Minneapolis. Author of The Post-Black and Post-White Church: Becoming the Beloved Community in a Multi-Ethnic World, he is now co-pastor of Bayside Church Midtown, an intentionally diverse congregation of 3,500 in Sacramento. He spoke by phone with Religion News Service editor in chief Bob Smietana.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What did you experience when you watched the video of George Floyd?

It broke my heart. Because you’re listening to a man that is losing his life. And it doesn’t have to be. I don’t understand. If a guy is unarmed and he’s handcuffed and there are multiple officers on the scene with weapons. He’s saying he can’t breathe. He is saying that his stomach hurts. …

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