Interview with Clifford Chappell

Paul Louis Metzger interviews the Rev. Clifford O. Chappell, who serves as senior pastor of St. Johns All Nations Church of God in Christ, Portland. The interview furthers the discussion of an Opinion column that Rev. Chappell wrote for the Oregonian earlier in the year.

PLM: What moved you to write that column?

CC: I was hearing a one-sided debate in the media supporting the position that racism does not exist, and that all too much is being made of it. The Opinion piece was my attempt to speak up and state my position that racism is alive and doing well in this country. I was especially moved after South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s speech to Congress, which I believe was directly rooted in racism. Former President Jimmy Carter was the only leading statesman who spoke up and addressed it as to what it was, that it “was based on racism.” He took a lot of heat but held his position and I applaud him for his stand.

PLM: What was the main point of your column?

CC: My main point was to demonstrate that racism exists in all facets of our culture. People are either aware of it and don’t know what to do anything about it, or they are in complete denial.

PLM: What types of responses did you receive to the Opinion column?

CC: I received many responses from across the full spectrum of beliefs. From very positive “Thank you for writing the article” to “It was a great article” to some very nasty and negative responses.

PLM: Were you surprised by the responses? If so, how so?

CC: No, I was not surprised at all by the responses. As indicated in the article, I am fully aware that racism is alive and well in this country and the responses only supported what I wrote. I believe that racism is still such a big issue that most people can’t even recognize it; it’s like trying to observe an elephant while standing only one foot away. It just doesn’t look like an elephant from that vantage point.

PLM: If you were to write a follow-up column, what would you say?

CC: My follow up article would be an attempt to raise the consciousness and awareness of racism. It is the lack of these sensitivities that causes people to be in denial.

PLM: As a pastor dedicated to pursuing a multi-ethnic church vision, what would you say to the blog’s readership?

CC: I recently got my wife a bouquet of flowers just to say, “Honey, I love and appreciate you.” The arrangement was a beautiful mix of assorted flowers where each enhanced the beauty of the next. As I studied them I was reminded of the multi-ethnic church. If we can see our individual differences as a bouquet that enhances the beauty of our diversity instead of as something to divide us, we will begin to see the real beauty that God intended, and celebrate our diversity as we worship and serve our God.

7 Responses to “Interview with Clifford Chappell”

  1. Derek C Says:

    Thank you for the timely post. In light of the New Wine events in April and recent incidents in Portland, this is important conversation to continue. Along with a political climate giving rise to things like Arizona’s illegal immigrant legislation it would be helpful to hear of redemptive, Christ-centered ways to discuss these matters as they pertain to race. I realize these are not solely race issues. Yet the role of race in these concerns shouldn’t be dismissed because some think “we’ve arrived” on racism, as Rev. Chappell indicates.

  2. Ronn E Says:

    Thank you for clearly stating what should be obvious to all of us, but often times is not: That the ghost of Jim Crow is alive and doing quite fine, thank you, in our country. It’s not “if” you write a follow-up column, it’s “when.” I hope that time is soon.

  3. Cooky Says:

    I appreciated Rev. Chappell’s candid article regarding ongoing race issues in this country, and was struck by how timely in was in view of the many tragic race-related issues which have occurred here in Portland. I continue to appreciate how New Wine, New Wineskins and Drum Majors for Love Truth and Justice have stepped up and stepped out in seeking redemptive ways to discuss these very complex issues of race. Thank you Rev. Chappell for your ongoing courage and boldness. I share your vision…”if we can see our individual differences as a bouquet that enhances the beauty of our diversity instead of as something to divide us, we will begin to see the real beauty that God intended, and celebrate our diversity as we worship and serve our God. ” To that end, we continue on. Amen

  4. Weston Ruter Says:

    I appreciate, Cliff, your invaluable perspective on the issue of racism. Sadly within the homogeneous bubble of the ethnic majority, there is much blindness toward reality. My eyes are further opened by the light you are sharing. Thank you! I appreciate you!

  5. Scott Frazier Says:

    Thank you for your work Rev. Chappell. I desire to see Portland as an example of the beauty of diversity worshiping God together as you mention. Maybe with a handful of seasoned veterans like yourself and some intentional, albeit raised ignorant, people like myself, we can see Portland transformed. I look forward to your next article.

  6. Lindsey Smith Says:

    I appreciate the light that you are shining on this issue Rev. Chappell as it is complex. What I most appreciate about your approach to opening the dialogue is that you desire it to be a discussion, not a debate or a hostile exchange of idealogies. Im challenged by you each time I read an article you’ve published and each time I hear you share in person. You are opening my eyes to racism and inviting me in to a conversation about it as well as encouraging me to stop being passive regarding it, and to become more aware of the depth and complexity of it. I pray you will keep speaking, writing and sharing. Thank you Rev. Chappell.

  7. Jan Robertson Says:

    As a grateful and humble part of your congregation in North Portland, I want to thank you Pastor Cliff, for practicing what you preach!

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