Power 2 Change: Pastor Charles Butler on racial reconciliation

The pastor of Breakthrough Covenant believes faith leaders can help lead the discussion
Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 9:50 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - As a community resource, WBAY knows we need to do more to advance the conversation about race in Northeast Wisconsin.

This is the Power 2 Change.

Charles Butler is a pastor, husband and father. He leads the pastoral team at Breakthrough Covenant Church in Appleton.

Earlier this summer, he helped lead public listening sessions and organized prayer vigils in the Fox Valley calling for racial reconciliation.

Pastor Butler explains what that means, and how he believes that faith leaders need to continue the discussion, in our Power 2 Change conversation.

“My name is Charles Butler. I’m a pastor at Breakthrough Covenant church in Appleton, Wisconsin. Was born in Columbus, Ohio; moved to Wisconsin -- Kenosha, in fact, when I was in the 5th grade. Graduated from Kenosha Bradford high school -- the best high school in Kenosha -- and I went on to get my bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2000.

“First time that I can remember dealing with any kind of racism, I was maybe 5 or 6 years old. Went to get ice cream with my family at an ice cream shop. And when we walked in, it was one of those movies where all the music stops, all the conversations stop, and I just remember the guy behind the counter saying, ‘What are you N-words doing in here?’ That was the first time I’d heard that word. I didn’t know what it meant. My parents were still outside, and so I went and asked them what does that mean? And they said, ‘Just get in the car. We are leaving.'

“One of the ways that I personally believe that faith leaders can help start to bring reconciliation, racial reconciliation, we have to speak about it from the pulpit. You know, we have to start to discuss the importance of it in our messages that we preach on Sunday. We have to model it, you know, before the people that we are serving and leading. And then we have to create avenues where people from different backgrounds can start to come together and have conversation and have dialogue.

“That word, ‘reconciliation,' when you look it up in the dictionary, it really just means ‘return to friendship.' And so when I talk about reconciliation, it’s from the standpoint of being able to have people come together again and start to build genuine relationship. It’s not reparations and repenting of things you haven’t done. But it is being able to sit down and share time and space and presence with people. So conversation can start to happen and those stereotypes can start to be broken down. And then we realize we’re just people. Our skin color is different, we come from different backgrounds, we have different stories, but at the end of the day we are just people.

“I think faith leaders, we need to challenge our congregations to go outside of their norms and comfort zones, to meet people and have conversations with people that many not look like them, that many not come from their same background, so they can start to build commonality, and once again we can start to reconcile each other. Once the church is reconciled, then I believe these issues of racism that we are seeing in our culture will be greatly diminished.

“Because as we start to talk, and people are able to express their views, start to express what they have experienced in this life, it opens up a heart of compassion. It allows us to start to empathize with one another, to start to see where people are coming from, and then, all this ugliness that’s been in America for the past 400 years when we talk about racism, it starts to get stripped away and we realize we’re just dealing with people.”

To learn more:

You can watch our extended interview with Pastor Butler below and listen to the conversation continue on our Get 2 the Point podcast dedicated to Power 2 Change.

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