Dear Cru family,
In 1997 I attended my first Cru conference. I had just become a follower of Jesus my freshman year, and now, as a junior I was at this regional winter conference in Baltimore. In many ways, my life trajectory can be split as before and after that event. While I was there, I met a young, energetic, Black staffer named Bobby Herron. He was personable and passionate about Black students participating in missions. When he asked me what I thought of Cru, I told him something that as a 20 year-old, I thought was unique and insightful: “Y’all need more people of color on stage and on staff to really make a difference.” I cringe when I think about how incredibly smart I thought I was in suggesting this, but it was his answer that I’ll never forget.
“Have you considered that you are part of the solution?”
I was stunned. He saw me as a solution? I was also unprepared for what I would learn later is a classic Cru response to those who see problems. There is a wisdom in realizing that sometimes God gives us burdens for the problems he calls us to solve.
That challenge planted the seed, but I wanted to stay in my hometown of Philly to do ministry so when the legendary Impact staffer Jacqueline Bland invited me to launch Impact ministry at “The Mecca,” Howard University, I was conflicted. Cru could have undermined Impact’s desire to have me move, but instead Cru supported Jacqueline’s leadership. I was led to see myself as part of the bigger story of being a solution to the need to reach people who looked like me. It was also part of a bigger story God was telling to Cru about the importance of ethnic diversity and how Cru’s power was being leveraged for the greater good of the Black community. The redemptive arc of that gesture was not lost on me.
In the 20 years that have followed that meeting, God has done immeasurably more than I could have hoped and imagined. I rejoice in the countless ministry opportunities I have experienced first with The Impact Movement then with Cru in CITY. I’ve loved pouring into students, launching a music ministry that produced a Billboard charting album, and traveling the world preaching the gospel. Building relationships with people like you - who love God, people and the mandate to promote righteousness and justice - has formed me. It’s been a delight to serve with you whom I have admired and learned from - which makes my current news bittersweet.
As many of you know, I have recently recorded a docuseries, hosted a podcast, and written extensively. God has used these projects to help tell the story of the holistic gospel message in more expansive ways than I ever have before. It’s a call I sense God leading me into even more, so I have accepted a position with Our Daily Bread Ministries as a Content Developer and Church Ministries Partnership Liaison. In this role I’ll continue to write, lend my voice and energy to tell God’s story of faithful culture and faith integration. That’s the sweet part.
This transition is also bitter because it comes at a time when many of us have been beleaguered by the onslaught of resistance to the work of cultural competency, justice and faith integration. Many BIPOC staff have felt uncomfortable within Cru: wanted for our diversity of appearances, but not our thoughts and perspectives which challenge long held assumptions. The overdue national reckoning on racism, inequality and injustice over the past few years has spilled over in ways that impact experiences on our staff teams, with ministry partners, and our need for support from our leaders reflected in structural changes in Cru. We have often felt the whiplash when the same people who helped us grow spiritually and support us deny the validity of another part of our identity. In this season, it’s caused some of us to seek other ways to serve. It’s easy to see someone leaving staff for one reason, but reality is often more complex.
It is true that the recent antagonisms to efforts to help Cru address areas it has often ignored (such as cultural competency, ethics, and justice) have influenced my decision. One of the ways God reveals if it’s time to move on may be a unique openness to a message in one space, while encountering resistance in another. While the recent resistance toward diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and the lack of a clear organizational response to it are factors, they are not the only reasons. The incredible opportunity I have to engage with a global publisher to create content at the exact time I am led to invest myself in that space is a confirmation of my calling.
I share this with you because I care deeply about you and your ministry. Now is not the time to sugarcoat departures with “God called me away.” It is necessary to be real about the challenges we face, when heresy hunters make accusations instead of good faith dialogue, and any steps to critique the conscious and unconscious ways whiteness is prioritized in Cru are resisted. Over the last year, I’ve contributed to the Oneness and Diversity Theological Statement, and the Black City Taskforce, both of which have been presented to the national leadership for implementation. I have expressed my concerns and observations about the current crisis to various Cru leaders (and in my exit interview). And now, as I share a sense of encouragement and challenge to BIPOC staff who feel marginalized, and allies who feel our frustration, I find myself asking you what the late Bobby Herron asked over 20 years ago:
“Have you considered that you are part of the solution?”
Everyone must hear and heed the call God has for us distinctly. Cru is at a fork in the road. The peril of that is we don’t know which way it will go, but the promise is in the possibilities. Maybe, like Esther, God raised you up for such a time as this. Make sure to care for yourself, especially BIPOC staff. Therapy, exercise, and community have all been crucial for my own flourishing. Sometimes moving on is necessary too. Just make sure you’re not following a trend, but following the Lord.
My last day with Cru is February 2nd (so please refer to my email address below). I will continue to offer any support to you in your journey. Thank you for being who you are. I am better because you have been a part of my life, and Cru is too.
Grace and Peace,