Black History Week: A New Perspective on “Grace Relations"

February 10, 2020

By Naomi Balk

CIU Student Writer

CIU celebrated Black History Month with Dr. Charles Ware, executive director of Grace Relations at the College of Biblical Studies in Indianapolis. In a week of Chapel messages, Ware challenged students to allow “grace relations,” not just race relations, to characterize their association with people of different backgrounds and ethnicity.  

The week was organized by CIU’s African American Student Association (AASA) bringing students together for an ice cream social, a Gathering or open forum, and a banquet.

AASA president, Brandon McClaine said that God was “truly speaking through the week.”

“There was a sense of growth and maturity [on campus],” McClaine said. “I think after this week, it’s up to us to continue in [the revival],” adding that students were empowered with “the right tools to go out and impact the community.” 

In one Chapel message, Ware addressed the excellence of love from 1 John 4:9-11 and John 13. Instead of being called white or black, Ware said, “Color me love. That’s the command, because He loved us. … We need to be so free in His love that we can selflessly love others.”

He challenged the CIU student body, “Is the gospel powerful enough for racial reconciliation? Do we dare believe that we can move beyond race relations to the unity of grace relations?”

At the Gathering, Ware joined with CIU Philosophy Professor Dr. Jonathan Reibsamen and students who worshipped and engaged in a Socratic style discussion about race topics in a safe space.

The Banquet was a celebration of how far America has come in race relations, and a challenge to consider what it means to leave a legacy.

Bernard Backman, the grandfather of AASA’s event coordinator Donte’ Mackey, gave a charge to students.

“I was born in 1950. [The] era [of segregation] was my era,” Backman said. “We have come a long way. You meet no strangers, only friends, that’s something my mamma told me.”

Backman referenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that his children would one day live in a nation where they are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

“King’s dream is remembered for the legacy of his dream which is reaching completion,” Backman said. He finished by challenging the students, “What’s your legacy going to be?”

George Huff, a CIU junior, said he was deeply moved by the banquet.

“AASA has positively moved our campus in an extraordinary and even inspiring way,” Huff said. “A lot of people talk about positively impacting culture, while AASA is actually doing it.”

Meanwhile in a personal interview with Charles Ware, he said he hopes the students have a good understanding of the love of Christ for them as sinners saved by grace, and are secure in that identity.

“Practically, they can create relationships with others,” Ware added. “We have to get to us-and-us conversations because in us-and-them conversations someone’s got to lose. But if Christ wins, we advance the kingdom of God. If I can (help some) see in that direction, praise God.”

Hear Black History Week Chapel messages with Dr. Charles Ware at CIU’s podcast page.

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