The Words of the Schanker Family
Christian Leaders To Carry Cross, Then Take It Down In Effort For Peace And Reconciliation
April 18, 2003
American Clergy Leadership Conference
3224 16th Street NW
Washington DC, 20010
NEWS RELEASE: Backgrounder
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Rev. Phillip Schanker
Good Friday, April 18, 2003 (202) 302-1110 / Fax: (202) 299-9496
CHRISTIAN LEADERS TO CARRY CROSS, THEN TAKE IT DOWN IN EFFORT FOR PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
Pastors from a variety of Christian churches around the country will join in a stunning and revolutionary addition to the traditional commemoration of Good Friday this year: after carrying the cross in remembrance of Christ’s suffering, they plan to take it down from their churches. The American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), an interdenominational, interracial body of Clergy with more than 15,000 members nationwide, will hold a Press Conference at 11:00 AM on Good Friday, April 18 at Lively Stone Worship Center, 7441 Landover Road (Route 202), Landover, MD, to explain their cause. Immediately following the Press Conference a Good Friday Service will be held at the Center, with participants trading the cross for a crown, as the Bible predicts. The ACLC challenges religious leaders of all faiths to "tear down the walls" of race and denomination, and work together as one body to "Rebuild the Family, Restore the Community, Renew the Nation and the World."
"We have just passed through a time of bloodshed, and tragically innocent blood was mingled with that of warriors," notes Bishop Floyd Nelson, pastor of Lively Stone, host of the day’s events. and member of ACLC’s Executive Committee. "In remembrance of Christ’s innocent blood shed for our sins, we will do as he asked us, take up our cross and follow. But the time of shedding blood must end. Jesus is no longer on the cross. He is risen, and the risen Christ is our hope for life and peace. His victory was that he overcame the pain and suffering of the cross, loved his enemies, and blessed those who hated him," Bishop Nelson adds. "If we can do the same, then we can resurrect our communities, our nation, and even the war-torn middle-east from death and hatred to life and love,".
ACLC leaders maintain that that most believers are unaware of the role the cross has played in Christian history. "Early Christians used the sign of the fish, because the first letters of the Greek phrase ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour,’ form the word ICTHUS, the Greek word for fish," notes Archbishop George Stallings, founder and spiritual leader of Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation. "The cross was of course a pagan symbol, the Roman instrument of capital punishment. It was the pagan emperor Constantine, who was given a vision of the cross, and told that if he placed that sign on the shields of his soldiers, they would conquer. He converted the Roman state to Christianity by decree, and from that time forward the cross was a symbol of conquest and forced conversions, as expressed in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadores, the forced conversions of Native Americans and colonialism in Africa and elsewhere in the name of Christ. These were all carried forward under the sign of the cross. To Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and many others, the cross is a symbol of intolerance and domination, not love and forgiveness," Stallings, a member of ACLC’s Executive Committee points out.
These innovative pastors are quick to reassure that taking down the cross is not meant to undermine the meaning of Christ’s sacrificial atonement at Calvary. "As believers we are washed in the blood of the lamb, to be sure," says Bishop C. Philip Johnson, Senior Pastor of the New Prospect Family Worship Center. "But what did Christ command us? Jesus told us to break bread & receive communion in remembrance of him. He told us to love one another, that all men may know we are his. As for the cross, he told us to carry it, not to hang it up. The world must know we are Christians by our love." "New York Pastor Dr. H.G. McGhee is concerned that too many Christians are clinging to traditional symbols that may dilute the meaning of Christ’s message. "We cling to symbols and signs," he says, "wearing them around our necks like a charm. But Jesus is the center of our faith, and instead of just focusing on what he did for us, it is high time we ask ourselves, ‘what can we do for him?’ We must internalize the cross, McGhee asserts, "and carry it as Jesus did, not to conquer but to save others."
ACLC leaders report that nearly 100 churches in 60 cities nationwide will host similar gatherings during this Easter season, with hundreds more holding more private ceremonies. 120 representative clergy from this group plan to journey to Israel in May, to meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders for reconciliation, and to forge working ties to reconcile these 3 religions springing from the same root. "We are all the children of Abraham," notes Philadelphia pastor Rev. Jesse Edwards. "But Jews reject the cross, and do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, because God’s promise to them was that the Messiah would build a kingdom in Israel, which they have yet to see. The Koran acknowledges Jesus as that promised Messiah, but Muslims reject the idea that Jesus died on the cross. To these religions, the cross represents Christianity’s intolerance and hatred in the past." Says Edwards, "Jesus taught that whoever would be greatest among us should be the servant of all. The best way to remember Jesus’ spirit of sacrifice is to practice it towards others, not get caught up in symbols and signs."
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