The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit took place March 26-27 in Nashville, Tenn.
“The cross and the Confederate battle flag cannot coexist,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), “without one setting the other on fire.”
Disagreement among American Baptists about slavery was one of the major reasons why the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) formed in 1845. Many Baptists in the Confederate South wanted to support missionaries that owned slaves. Others argued that the Bible condoned slavery as a societal institution. Still more advocated against racial integration almost 100 years after slavery was abolished in America.
Racism has lingered in the SBC since the beginning, according to Moore.
In 1995 the SBC apologized in the form of a resolution that it had historically accepted and perpetuated racial strife of the worst kinds, “from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest.”
Photo by Alli Rader
Russell Moore preaching during the first plenary address, “Black, and White, and Red All Over: Why Racial Reconciliation is a Gospel Issue”
On March 26, the first day of the 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit in Nashville, Tenn., that is focused on racial reconciliation, Moore sought in his opening sermon to fan into flame the so-called fires that will destroy racial strife among Southern Baptists.
Moore deplored the comments of a Sunday School teacher from his childhood who told him upon the discovery of a coin in his mouth, “Get that out of your mouth … a colored man may have handled that.”
He went on to speak candidly about explicit and implicit racism among Southern Baptists, calling them to repent and believe the reconciling truths of the gospel.
Southern Baptists need to understand how ethnic divisions are overcome, added Moore. “White, born-again Christians tend to assume the body of Christ is white, with room for everyone else,” he said. “Racial reconciliation is not a matter of mercy ministry toward minority communities.”
Instead, it is about the fundamental Christian beliefs found in Ephesians 3:1-13 that the gospel is a message for everyone and the church is a unified, multi-ethnic people that are “fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise.”
Photo by Alli Rader
Russell Moore and John M. Perkins during a conversation on “The Civil Rights Movement after 50 Years.”
Other speakers followed, like Tony Evans, renowned speaker, first African-American graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas; Robert P. George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions; and H.B. Charles Jr., pastor-teacher of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., a majority black church that merged with predominantly white Ridgewood Baptist Church in early 2015.
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, also touched upon the gospel and racial reconciliation as he described the connection between the church’s mission and all the nations of the world.
Walter Strickland, SEBTS special advisor to the president for diversity and theology instructor, moderated a panel discussion on key issues in racial reconciliation with Evans, Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Kevin Smith, assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; and Dean Inserra, senior pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla. They discussed topics ranging from the role of poverty in racial reconciliation to “the talk” that African-American parents often have with their sons about how to interact with law enforcement in ways that diminish the heightened level of suspicion often placed upon black males.
John Perkins, civil rights activist, author, Christian minister and president of a foundation in his name, also joined Moore on stage for an interview. Perkins recounted his conversion to Christianity and immersion into the civil rights movement. He also discussed his struggle with forgiveness toward whites after being ridiculed and beaten in a Mississippi jail for his civil rights involvement. Perkins said, “God, if you let me out of this jail alive, I want to preach a gospel that’s stronger than my black interests.” God answered his plea, he said. “God put me in relationships with white people who loved me beyond my racism.”