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Pastor Chris Harris Addresses the Opening Plenary

Pastor Chris Harris addressed the Opening Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

First of all, good afternoon to everybody. And I want to welcome you to Chicago. I want to welcome you to the Black Metropolis. This community is Bronzeville, right in your backyard. I want to thank my good friend and so many others who invited me to be here today.

And let me just tell you, I would ask every African-American Christian pastor to stand. But the truth is, there is so much more work for all of us to do, to feel invited and included. Yes, efforts of invitation we’re made, but the reality is, relationship move at the speed of trust. And trust moves at the speed of relationship. Not only do I welcome you here to Chicago, but I also speak on behalf of about 372 other people who would welcome you if they were still alive.

Yes, this year more than 372 people have been murdered in Chicago. This year alone, Raymond Jackson, 33. Travelle Adams, 34. Trayvon Moyet, 21. Jawan Jarman, 18. Sean Marinaz Butler, 28. Joe Cunningham, 67. Garrick Glenn Eccles, Jr., 35. Jeremy Jacobs, 19. Shelby Redmond, 32. Enrique Salazar, 19. Damarianne Jakes, 14. Miguel Herrera, 34. I can only imagine, some are saying, saying, “Pastor, will you call all the names of all the slain? If I had the time, I would.” But here is the question, and here is how I challenge all of us who are people of faith. I ask the question, “What can faith do?” And the answer is more.

The faith community, collectively and individually, should absolutely do more. The question is, are we here to discuss freedom and human rights, or are we here to defend freedom and human rights? The reality is, I preach out of a book that says in James chapter 2, verse 25 through 26 in the Message Bible, it says, “The same with Rahab, the Jericho Harlot, wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape? That seamless unity of believing and doing, I repeat, believing and doing, what counted it with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, the Scripture says, you end up with a course. Here is how that Scripture ends. Separate faith and work, and you get the same thing, a course. 

Here is what I believe we have a responsibility to do. Put faith and connect it with works. In the King James Version, it says, “Faith without works is dead alone.” So I believe we have work to do. What can faith do? I’m glad you asked. 

At Bright Star, Church of God in Christ, right here, five minutes from here, St. James, Church of God in Christ, about 17 minutes from here, we are putting works with our faith. We’re putting action behind what we believe. We’re providing trauma counseling to faith leaders based on an Israeli model that I found in Israel. And now more than 50,000 people have been impacted by the works connected to our faith through a trauma helpline. 50,000 people’s lives have been changed. They are still here because of what faith has decided to do.

What can faith do? It can make sure through our Bright Star community outreach efforts that we give more than 4,500 jobs. I said it, 4,500 jobs to people who live on the South Side of Chicago.

That is what faith can do. 

What can faith do? It can step up, stand up and speak up against underfunded schools on the south side of Chicago. That’s what faith can do to make sure that we bring STEAM programs, y‘all not clapping like I really want you to clap as if you was in the black church on the south side of Chicago. Science, technology, education, talk to me, engineering, arts and mathematics. Education is what we can fight for.

What can faith do? Here is what I believe. Everybody do me a favor, shout, we can do more. Come on, I need you to say it like you mean it, say we can do more. Come on, and here is what I encourage all of us to do. As I leave you today, make sure we remember the three C’s.

Everybody do me a favor, shout, be concerned. You gotta be concerned when you are concerned. That’s when you put your head in it. 

Everybody say, be connected. When you are connected, that’s when you put your hand in it because you cannot heal who you will not touch. 

And then last but not least, everybody say, be compassionate. When you are concerned, you put your head in it. When you are connected, you put your hand in it. But when you are compassionate, that’s when you put your heart in it. 

And I say to the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I know it took you a long time to come back to Chicago, but don’t take another whole bunch of decades to come back again. And when you come back, here is what we’re going to ask. Were you concerned? Were you connected? And were you compassionate enough to address the ills of the communities that you come and hold your connections in?

God bless you, and we look to see you again.

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