Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in cooperation with the Town of Wake Forest hosted the first community dialogue on racial reconciliation entitled, “It’s Time: Interracial Dialogue.”
Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity and professor of theology at SEBTS, helped coordinate the event and served as the moderator for the five speakers.
“We are here today because in recent months there has been an unusual number of high-profile cases where the issue of race has been front and center,” Strickland said. “First and foremost, the loss of life is heartbreaking, and secondly, the nation’s polarized responses to these events, particularly the Michael Brown and Eric Garner non-indictment decisions, have been unproductive at best, and often inflammatory.”
The aim of the event was to facilitate dialogue in a community environment where each person has a voice. Organizers hope to begin developing strategies to cultivate racial harmony.
Wake Forest residents gathered recently for an interracial dialogue on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Organizers hope this and future events will cultivate racial harmony in the community.
“It’s time for the people of God to lead this conversation in a way that only we can: saturated with the humility of our Savior, and with the humble posture that we took before the cross at the moment of our salvation,” Strickland said. “We must maintain this posture of humility before each other especially in this tense cultural moment in which we find ourselves today.”
The event was a time of listening to community leaders, discussing these issues and establishing relationships across racial, cultural and denominational lines.
“Our efforts are not in vain,” Strickland added. “This time is not a meaningless token of our desire to see change in our community. We are participating in God’s redemptive mission to restore the brokenness in creation as a sign of his rule and reign that is to come in the New Kingdom.”
“At present, we live in a time where the scars of brokenness mark our world, but as the redeemed in Christ, we have the opportunity, no, the responsibility and privilege to live out the restorative plan of God until we meet him in Glory,” Strickland said. “It’s time for God’s people to gather together and mend what Christ died to heal, and today in particular we address strife along the lines of race.”
Speakers were encouraged to provide a specific strategy to facilitate healing along racial lines in the community. Following each talk small groups brainstormed practical steps to apply the strategy presented.
Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones shared about ways the Town of Wake Forest seeks to foster a positive relationship between police officers and citizens through school and community events. Advisory boards are a way for the community to stay connected and participate.
“We should continue to demonstrate respect for one another by listening to one another and working together to make Wake Forest an even better place,” Jones said.
Enoch Holloway, pastor of Friendship Chapel Baptist Church in Wake Forest, shared about having intentional dinners with others to build diverse relationships in the community.
Holloway called listeners to be intentional about loving others. “Racism can never be touched if the human heart is not touched,” Holloway said. “My white and black brothers, we have to step up to the plate and serve, asking the question of ourselves, ‘What can I do?’”
The associate minister at Friendship Chapel Baptist Church in Wake Forest, Leon Harris, said, “Racism is an evil cancer in our society; it spans the globe in every country and continent. It can only be eradicated by the power and will of Almighty God.”
“I believe that it is God’s divine plan that we come together to talk about what’s going on,” Harris said. “Until we call on the name of the Lord, we are doing it in our own strength. We have to learn to depend on Him so He can do it, and He gets the glory.”
Darryl Fisher, senior former associate superintendent of Wake County Public Schools, said, “We have to be in it for the long haul. If we are persistent, change will come. It is not enough to be opposed, we must confront these issues head on.”
Ken Steigler, Civil Rights legendary pastor who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and strategized with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), shared the importance of relationships, acceptance, intentionality and listening (RAIL) when addressing racial issues. The event hosted about 100 attendees in Southeastern’s Ledford Center on Jan. 22. The group hopes to build upon the event by hosting “It’s Time: Part II” in the coming months.
To watch a recording of this event online, go to multimedia.sebts.edu.