Introduction by Jor-El Godsey, President
The pandemic revealed something we already knew, pregnancy help is an essential service even in the face of severe community upheaval. Serving in the heart of one of those communities facing major upheaval, is First Image in Portland, Oregon. For the better part of four decades now this Heartbeat affiliate has been a harbor of life-saving ministry and lighthouse impacting the culture with Kingdom love.
In this particular season, the leadership team of First Image, led by Rev. Larry Gadbaugh, penned a worthy call to their team – staff, board, and supporters – in how to respond to the present challenge:
Diversity, Unity, and First Image
The upheaval in our culture sparked by the police killing of George Floyd has ignited a movement around racial justice in our country and within the church in our city. The realities that have sparked this movement are not new, and at First Image, we have made some intentional efforts to learn and grow in this area over the years.
Before the current movement began, some of our leadership team had been building relationships with black Christian leaders in our city. We serve a diverse population, and we have known that in order to love our clients well, we need to understand their experiences, perspectives, and unique challenges. So, as a predominantly white organization in a predominantly white area of the country, we’ve asked these leaders what we don’t know. And we’re listening.
We’ve been reading recommended books, participating in listening sessions, and are continuing to build authentic relationships. As we engage, we see that we have more work to do.
In our strategic planning process earlier this year, we identified “fostering diversity” as a key element in long-term health and vitality, both to reflect the diverse vision of the kingdom of God, and to better represent and serve our clients. Fostering diversity sounds nice, but the reality is that we have work to do in order to make First Image a place where we can have true unity in diversity. We believe that Jesus Christ is reconciling all things to himself and calls us to join in the ministry of reconciliation (1 Cor. 15). The work of true reconciliation is deep and it is hard, because it requires us to believe that there is something that’s broken, which needs restoration.
How will we be going about this work at First Image? Here are 4 things we will be practicing during this season and in an ongoing way:
Rooted in the Word of God: We believe that the scriptures are the revelation of God and the grounding of our growth in Jesus. They are also the mirror that helps us to see what we do not see naturally. They leave no stone unturned and call us to the deepest kind of love. The voices we’ll be learning from and engaging with will be rooted in The Word.
Listening: We will continue to build relationships with local Christian leaders of color and we will actively seek to listen and learn from them, to move beyond our own echo chambers. The book and resource recommendations we will be working through together in the coming months are coming directly from those leaders.
Lament: We will not be shy about empathizing with the pain of our neighbors created in the Image of God. The scriptures call us to weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). When part of the body tells us it is hurting, we will join it in its pain. As we think about our clients, we understand this intuitively. As our understanding of the experiences of people of color deepens, our lament will deepen as well. We will resist the temptation to harden our hearts in order to merely justify and protect the status quo.
Repentance: Jesus calls us to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). Listening and lamenting are not ends in themselves. They lead us to deeper repentance. Repentance is not just apology, it is going a new way. We will be actively looking for areas in our own hearts and within our organizational culture, practices and policies that need to be reformed in light of the things we continue to learn.
We realize that issues surrounding racism are politically explosive. At First Image, our aim is to go deeper and beyond the political categories to a Kingdom vision that sees and loves the people that God has called us to serve and serve alongside.
We will work to foster an open environment, where we can process together honestly, and where we maintain mutual respect and care for one another.
First Image has been raised up by God as a steward of his transforming grace and truth in Christ. We are embracing his ongoing work of transforming us together to more fully see and serve the diversity of the image of God in our mission, our churches, and our community.
All life-affirming Pregnancy Help Organizations (PHOs) grounded in faith in Christ can insert their organization name in place of First Image’s call for Unity with Diversity.
Recommended reading from Larry Gadbaugh:
- Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We are Stronger Together – by Tony Evans
- Last Call for Liberty: How America's Genius for Freedom Has Become Its Greatest Threat, by Os Guinness
- Reappearing Church: The Hope for Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Culture, by Mark Sayers