RACIAL HARMONY AND THE SBC
The most significant event to happen in our history since our formation is Fred Luter’s election.
On June 19th, 2012, the SBC elected its first black president. Danny Akin commented on this by saying, "The most significant event to happen in our history since our formation is Fred Luter's election." Luter stated from the beginning of his term that his mission as SBC president was to pursue racial harmony in the convention. On June 11th, 2014, Ronnie Floyd was elected as Luter's predecessor. The lingering question was if Floyd was going to continue Luter's efforts of racial reconciliation in the convention.
"If Southern Baptist leaders truly wish to pursue racial reconciliation, it would be a great benefit to spend some time trying to better understand the perspective of African-Americans."
~ Fred Luter ~
On June 11th, 2014, Ronnie Floyd began his term as the convention's president, and on August 9th, 2014, Michael Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson. This created a racial unrest that spread far beyond the city of Ferguson, Missouri. Floyd states in one of his blog posts, "Silence is not the answer and passivity is not our prescription for healing." In the aftermath of the Ferguson unrest, he was urging SBC pastors to join him in continuing Luter's mission to work towards racial harmony. He [Floyd] goes on to say, "Racism and injustice must end, letting grace begin to unite us together in the bond of peace. Schisms and divisions will end when the gospel of grace begins to rule in our hearts again." Floyd is correct in his observation. Sweeping the racial issue under the rug simply will not do. It's unacceptable, and a mockery to the gospel we preach from our pulpits on Sundays. Floyd expresses this by saying, "Let our Southern Baptist churches rise up as one, filled with the beauty of multiple races and ethnicities, shining forth the grace of God to a world that needs the testimony and hope of the church today." In other words, Floyd is imploring the convention and its pastors to give the world Jesus as the solution to their unrest. The nation fails to address the issues. The Church needs to be the ones speaking out, because, as Floyd rightly says, "The church is where the solution is."
Schisms and divisions will end when the gospel of grace begins to rule in our hearts again.
There will be a conversation about racial unity taking place at the convention led by Rev. Jerry Young. Young is the president of the nation's largest black denomination, The National Baptist Convention (USA). Unfortunately, this conversation will not be accepted well by some. There are those who reject the convention's call to be a more diverse denomination because it makes them feel like they are having to meet a racial quota as if the convention is asking them to meet a sales goal. Personally, I find this to be an excuse to continue in passivity because it is more convenient. This is precisely why the convention needs racial reform. Complacency is not acceptable.
This discussion comes in the midst of declining membership. I do not believe the decline in membership is completely to blame on the racial passivity of the convention. (We will write more on the declining membership in a later post). However, I think this has much to do with it. Young church goers want to be apart of a racially diverse family. If they cannot find it in the convention, they will seek it elsewhere. However, we will accomplish little if our motivation for racial unity is to retain membership.
Floyd rightly observes that if we are to pursue racial diversity we must begin by loving Jesus again. He says, "When we love Jesus, we will love all people. We will see all people the way Jesus sees all people. We need to stop talking about 'my people' and start loving all people." This is an issue that needs much time and attention as we elect our next convention's president. At the Baptist Review, we pray that God, in His sovereignty, provides someone with the same heart towards racial harmony as Fred Luter and Ronnie Floyd for the next convention president. We also pray for our current SBC President and we pray for SBC pastors, that you join in the fight for racial harmony within the convention. There is much work to do. However, we must not let the daunting task ahead of us push us back into complacency and passivity. We must not rely on our own strength, but seek God in prayer as white, black, Asian, and Hispanic brothers and sisters in Christ, seeking to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth by being a diverse family of disciples -- a diverse family reaching the world for Jesus. This is our mission.