Southern Baptist Panel Addresses Problem of Racism in the American Church

More than 1,300 people attended the sold-out event in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center during the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting to hear seven Southern Baptist leaders address the theme of “United and Diverse: Critical Issues for our Cooperative Future.”

The panel was moderated by Jedidiah Coppenger, co-founder of Baptist21 and lead pastor of Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tenn. The panel featured Trillia Newbell, Russell Moore, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Kevin Smith, Matt Chandler, Danny Akin, and D.A. Horton.

The panel also addressed the problem of racism in the American church. D.A. Horton, pastor of Reach Fellowship and chief evangelist for the Urban Youth Workers Institute, said the church needs to identify racism for what it is: the “sin of partiality.” When the church fails to use biblical language about racism, it lets it linger, he said.

Horton said the kingdom of God is ultimately multiethnic and multigenerational, and the church should be made up of people from different racial backgrounds — not just African Americans, but also Latinos, Asian Americans, and Middle Eastern Christians.

“We have to think systemically and structurally in our convention what it looks like to reflect the eschatological people we really are on this side of eternity,” he said. “[The church is] a snapshot for the onlooking world that this is what the kingdom of heaven looks like.”

Newbell added that Christians should recognize the value of knowing and loving their neighbors. Many believers approach racial issues from a negative perspective, she said, highlighting the church’s failure to denounce slavery and Jim Crow laws and the tainted racial legacy of the SBC. Racial diversity is not just a reversal of past wrongs, it is a celebration of God’s creative work, she said.

“If we really want our churches to be transformed, we have got to get to know our neighbor. Proximity changes everything,” Newbell said. “Look at the Scriptures, and you see God creating a people in his image — all very different — to reflect His glory. Jesus died on the cross, bearing the wrath that we all deserve, and anyone who would believe from every tribe, tongue and nation gets to be with Him for eternity. We can celebrate this. My prayer and hope for the church and us is that we can celebrate together the way we are made differently. Proximity allows for that change.”

Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said everyone comes from a different perspective — a perspective that can change as believers listen to one another. Akin said he was grieved by how aggressively political much of the SBC was during the 2016 presidential election.

“Some of [the politics] was absolutely wrong, ungodly, and it misrepresented people,” he said. “Those who said what they said and did some of the things they did ought to be ashamed of themselves. That’s not how we as a convention of churches should be doing our business when it comes to electing our president.”

Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said the church needs to value other believers’ political opinions. And this others-directed mindset is not optional, he said.

“It’s extremely helpful to engage a fellow believer that you’re disagreeing with as a brother or sister [rather] than an enemy,” he said. “Let us consider one another. To not consider one another is not a bad option — it’s sin. Biblical imperatives trump options.”

Video of the B21 panel will be available soon on B21 is a pastor-led network that focuses on addressing issues relevant to Southern Baptists in the 21st century.

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Source: Baptist Press