Why Juneteenth Matters

Why Acknowledging Juneteenth Is Important to the Church

By Sharon Richards
Elder at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California

There’s been a lot of discussion around Juneteenth, the upcoming US federal holiday on June 19. Some in church circles might even ask, “What does Juneteenth have to do with Church?” So, first, a brief history lesson, followed by why I believe Juneteenth should be important to the American Church.

While most of us in the US learned in grade school that enslaved people were freed when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, there’s quite a bit more to the story. Not all states fell under the jurisdiction of the 1863 proclamation, and news of freedom traveled slowly to the states that were impacted. The Civil War continued for two more years until General Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865. Two months later, on June 19, 1865, a Union regiment arrived in Galveston, Texas, announced the decrees of the Emancipation Proclamation, and informed the still-enslaved people in that state that the institution of slavery had been abolished. No one told the enslaved peoples of their freedom until that first Juneteenth, two years after the decree was issued.

Juneteenth commemorates this “official” ending of slavery in the United States. Its observance not only recognizes the end of slavery but also acknowledges and celebrates a peoples’ unbreakable faith, resilience, and optimism.

So why do I believe Juneteenth is so important to the American Church? Frankly, because it’s biblical. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (ESV). Juneteenth recognizes this rejoicing. All believers can participate in rejoicing to celebrate the freedom of people who had been owned as property, confident that God is faithful and accepting his call on our lives. . . .

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Scot McKnight at Bonfire!

In case you haven’t yet heard the news, those who attend this year’s Bonfire will be privileged to spend time learning from Scot McKnight!

McKnight is the author of more than fifty books, including, The Jesus Creed; The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible; The King Jesus Gospel; Jesus is Lord, Caesar Is Not; Kingdom Conspiracy; and A Fellowship of Differents. He is a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham. He is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historicity of Jesus. He

It is an absolute privilege to have him help guide us through our time together at this year’s Bonfire.

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