Messages emphasizing relationship and friendship as a way to combat racial strife were set forth to more than 1,600 ministers, church members, youth and senior citizens during a “Shrink the Divide” gathering in Mobile, Ala.
As ushers in gray T-shirts with Shrink the Divide in white letters handed out programs and directed visitors to seats in the Mobile Civic Center Theater, the atmosphere took on the feel of a worship service. A praise band shared several songs including one with the words, “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.”
Shrink the Divide — a July 24 gathering for racial reconciliation — was sponsored by The Pledge Group, encompassing Mobile-area pastors who are seeking “to unify the body of Christ and our communities across ethnic and denominational lines, realizing that racism is a heart/sin problem and only the gospel will bring about such unity.”
Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., was one of the event organizers. “We could not be more excited and satisfied with this event,” he told The Alabama Baptist. “Our response from those who want to join us in practical ways of shrinking the divide was overwhelming.”
Keynote speakers Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and John M. Perkins, a minister, civil rights activist, Bible teacher and author, focused on the Gospel and authentic Christianity.
Moore, who along with Perkins received a standing ovation when he entered the stage, told the crowd “that once you are in the family of God, you are a joint heir with Jesus Christ.”
“If you have really been brought in by this Gospel, then that’s going to change the way you see things, including the way you see yourself in relation to other people,” Moore said.
Issues involving reconciliation “could not be more relevant in the kind of American society that we are in right now that is riddled with division, riddled with racism, riddled with injustice, riddled often with hatred for one another and often infected with a kind of racism and racial animosity that is more subtle than it would have been at other points in American history which means that it is even more dangerous,” Moore said, while acknowledging, “What God has called you to do is going to take time.”
Perkins described the situation as a crisis of belief and owning sin.
“Our crisis is in not understanding authentic Christianity,” he said. “Sin is a rebellion against God and all sin in the end becomes your own. That’s a problem. The problem is that we don’t own our sin. And so we don’t believe. We don’t own our sin and so we can’t forgive. And even now we use our sin as a weapon. I won’t commit to you because you hurt me so bad and you might hurt me again. The problem is a crisis of belief.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press; The Alabama Baptist, Rhoda Pickett