Southern Baptists Look at Past Sins and Present Consequences of Racial Division

George Yancey, author, speaks during a panel called “Undivided: Your Church and Racial Reconciliation” June 11 during the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala. Other panelists included (left to right): J.D. Greear, president of the SBC and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; Dhati Lewis, pastor of Blueprint Church; Yancey; Missie Branch, assistant dean of students to women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga.; and Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C. Photo by Van Payne.

Sociology professor, researcher and author George Yancey always steps back when he knocks on a door. A 6-foot-3-inch African American, he says his appearance strikes societal fear.

Seminary assistant dean and director Missie Branch says she also encounters difficulties because she is an African American woman. She says she’s either overlooked or viewed through stereotypes “which results in fear where everything I do and say or wear is a big deal.”

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear would like white Southern Baptists in particular to hear Yancey’s and Branch’s stories. Greear included the two among a panel to discuss race relations during the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.

Moderating “Undivided: Your Church and Racial Reconciliation,” Greear spotlighted advice and wisdom from, in addition to Yancey and Branch, Marshall Blalock, pastor of The First Baptist Church of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.; Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Ga., and executive director of community restoration for the North American Mission Board; and James Merritt, lead pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga.

Greear focused on why Southern Baptists need to discuss race relations and how the church can improve in that area. He addressed the effects of hundreds of years of living in what he termed a “racialized society.”

“We’ve got to lament that we live in a racialized society where this is even a question,” said Greear, senior pastor of Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. “And it really shouldn’t be a question, but sins have consequences. Sins from the past have consequences in the present.”

At the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, Yancey has researched and written extensively on issues of race and ethnicity, and works with a network of multiracial congregations in racial reconciliation and multiracial ministry.

Societal fear of black men, he noted, is connected to why the demographic gets shot in everyday life.

“Now, I want you to make that connection,” Yancey told Southern Baptists. “I’m not saying I’m afraid of getting shot; what I’m saying is that there’s a fear in our society that I’m reacting to that also plays itself out in other situations where African American men are deprived of their lives.

“I can’t divorce myself from that,” Yancey said. “There’s an additional rate to that in my life. It’s part of who I am.”

Blalock lives in Charleston, S.C., where white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine blacks during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church four years ago today (June 17).

“When that happened, God convicted me that night,” Blalock said. “As much as I thought I was trying to help build these bridges, God convicted me that I must, I’ve got to do all we can as a church to make these bridges happen.

“Because the average Christian in our church, and most churches that we’re members of, mostly white, don’t get up in the morning and say I want to find ways I can hate black people,” Blalock said. “They’re just ignoring black people. I realize I’ve done the same thing. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. I’m saying I know what it feels like because I’ve done the same thing.”

When Anthony Thompson, whose wife Roof killed, spoke at Blalock’s pastorate on forgiving Roof and encouraging him to repent, the Southern Baptist church “saw in him the image of Christ,” Blalock said. Race relations is “something we have to address. Don’t wait for nine people to get killed in your city before you do this, is what I’m saying.”

Merritt said Southern Baptists still have a long way to go in race relations, acknowledging progress already made.

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Source: Baptist Press