One of the most life-giving dynamics of the ministry of Christian Service Mission is the heart that Tracy Hipps, our executive director, carries for reconciliation. He is gifted with a significant God-given vision for unity throughout the Church in Birmingham and beyond. Tracy invests deeply into individuals, groups, leaders, communities, and churches to create a space for authentic connection and the building of relationships; he believes that it is through shared hearts, experiences, and the Spirit of God that “oneness” is achieved on earth.
CSM employees had the opportunity to witness the fruit of years of relationship between Doug Taylor (pastor of Rebirth Christian Fellowship) and Jeff James (pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church). Both James and Taylor shared the value that they have found in conversing with one another and creating productive relationships among other people who share the goal of church unity. Taylor stated that “conversations among each other are one of the best ways to find healing and common ground.” While reflecting on their meetings with Hipps, Taylor and James explained that it took time to open up initially. Still, they are now confidently vocal and honest with one another during conversations (including conversations concerning race).
Taylor highlighted his admiration of James’ willingness to engage in challenging conversations in public by stating, “I just want to say how proud I am to have such a brave friend.” Our first step in the pursuit of racial unity must be to acknowledge each other’s reality, admit that we do not understand, and have the desire to understand. These pastors cautioned that it is essential to check our motives when pursuing racial unity. They challenged those who were listening by asking the question, “Are we seeking reconciliation because it’s what Jesus wants us to do, or because we view it as a trophy on our desk?”
As the talk came to an end, Taylor thanked Tracy for his brave pursuit of reconciliation among the family of God. Tracy has done an incredible job of working to unite the Church by bringing issues into the light, addressing them directly, and facilitating spaces for pastors to connect and learn from each other. The efforts of Taylor and James, along with the efforts of the congregations at both Rebirth and Green Valley, have been such a light within the context of all of the chaos in our world. It is an encouragement to see people pursuing the unity of the Church that the Lord calls us to with such pureness of heart and such evident love for others.