Archive for the category “Racial reconciliation”

African-American missionaries enlarging the Just Kingdom

If Jesus’ followers are to fulfill our missions as ambassadors of reconciliation and enlarge the Kingdom of Justice, we must focus on breaking down walls of ethnic and racial hostility, in our communities and, even more importantly, among ourselves.

break down wallsOne group making remarkable strides in that area is an old-school missional network, the Southern Baptist Convention. Fred Luter‘s 2012 election as the first African American to lead the 167-year-old national association was a milestone on a journey of reconciliation that had seen the number of African-American congregations in the SBC grow by a whopping 82.7 percent between 1998 and 2011. Some 1 million African Americans in about 3,400 churches affiliate with the denomination.

That splash of reconciliation is rippling out into communities around the world, as a Black History Month package of features on CommissionStories.com illustrates. From W.W. Colley‘s 1875 service in Nigeria to Joseph Lyles‘ short-term work in Thailand, to Marie Edwards‘ work in the IMB‘s NAME region, to Isaac Adams‘ ministry in Brazil, God is using a rock-ribbed, historically Anglo denomination to help a lost world understand that, in Christ, the unity of God’s family is abolishing all the distinctions and oppressions people insist on erecting against each other — “no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.”

View the “Celebrating African Americans on mission” package of stories, photos, and video by clicking here.

Learn more about the global and North America work of Southern Baptists.

Southern Baptists elect first African-American president

Baptist Press reports:

Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected June 19 as the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention during its annual meeting in New Orleans.

David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, said the election would send “a great, hopeful, powerful message to our city, our culture, our convention and our country.” Some observers felt it was appropriate that Luter’s election took place on the day many celebrate as Juneteenth, the anniversary of slavery’s end in the United States.

Read the Baptist Press article here.

Will Southern Baptists take this argument to New Orleans?

I am deeply distressed that, just as the Southern Baptist Convention is poised to take a big step forward in New Orleans by electing our first African-American president, another of our long-simmering disagreements is erupting into a full-blown argument. Instead of a badly needed witness to racial reconciliation, the world may watch us in New Orleans as we do what they think we do best — argue about doctrine.

This time the issue is how salvation works. One side insists our founders were convictional Calvinists: lost souls are incapable of responding to God’s grace on their own. The other side argues Southern Baptists have traditionally believed individuals must make a personal and free response to the Gospel. That the argument is coming to a head in the run-up to the annual meeting in New Orleans cannot be a coincidence.

We spent the better part of the past century disassociating ourselves from doctrinal error. When we finally purged our ranks of those who had drunk too deeply at the well of theological liberalism, we turned our sights on each other. Had we become so accustomed to focusing on how “they” differed from “us” that we no longer knew how brothers dwell together in unity? Have we been fighting civil wars so long that we cannot credibly take a message of peace to a lost world?

That lost world doubts any of us still authentically represents the Kingdom of Peace.

Jude exhorts us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” and that we certainly ought to do. But Jude was warning about false teachers who had wormed their way into the churches, preaching a heresy that because of God’s grace, believers could live in immorality. Is that kind of heresy being taught in our midst today? Of course not! We are going to divide the house over which theory of salvation represents “what Southern Baptists have always believed,” as if that were possible.

Does anyone think a 1,600-year-old disagreement is suddenly going to be resolved by another argument?

Go ahead. Lock and load. Mount up. Do battle. Don’t stop to wonder whether the war you wage against your brother has anything to do with the fact that so many of our churches have dropped out of the denominational scene. It’s probably just a coincidence that while we have been arguing a younger generation has decided it wants nothing to do with the church. Why would our bickering make people think we can’t offer any solutions for the problems destroying their lives?

If only you would lay aside your heavy books for a moment and get involved with the hurting people huddled in the alleyways and under the overpasses of your city. If only you would consider that the “sheep” Jesus will welcome into the kingdom will be those who personally helped “the least of these,” not those who scored the most points in a debate, or racked up the most page views on their blog, or got the most votes at the annual meeting.

I’m brought close to tears by the irony of Jude’s letter. You believe you are earnestly contending for the true faith, as he exhorted, but Jude’s real desire, he said, was to write about the great salvation we share in Christ. How ironic — how sad, how pathetic — that salvation is what you now feel compelled to argue about with each other.

Stop, brothers, I beg you. Don’t be drawn into controversial questions and disputes about words. Return to your first love and do the deeds you did at first. Rediscover the kingdom. Focus your best energies on loving God and your neighbor. Take good news to the poor and proclaim release for the captives, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.

I’m not as much worried about embarrassing our good brother, Fred Luter, in what should be a moment of celebration for our great convention of churches — though that embarrassment is bad enough. I’m more concerned that we are in danger of the Lord removing our candlestick from among the churches. I am concerned he will finally grow weary of our arguing and cast us aside in disgust, like salt that has lost its saltiness. I am concerned he will decide to take the talents entrusted to us and give them to servants who will multiply them.

Will we take this argument to New Orleans? I hope not. Lord willing, that gathering might get us so passionate about the Kingdom that we completely forget we were arguing at all.

— Mark Kelly

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