This week will be an experience that I will remember all of the days of my life. Being a black man from the South, and attending a historically black seminary, at Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center, learning Baptist Polity was a part of the curriculum. During my studies we learned about the National Baptist, Progressive Baptist, American Baptist and Southern Baptist conventions.
When it came up, the SBC was always a frowned upon in the academy – and rightfully so. In the African American community, the SBC is viewed in a way that’s disparaging. The roots of the SBC, how it started, with Pastors and Ministers who believed that it was ok to be a slave owner… It’s a convention that black people are taught to stay away from.
I received an invite this year to attend the SBC and my initial thought was, “No way, there’s no way I attend the SBC.” But as the days passed by, the more I watched the issues play out on social media about racial tensions, the political climate, and all of the sexual abuse allegations, I was led to attend out of curiosity.
Attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville was the best decision that I ever made and it has transformed my life forever.
Being a black man from the South I have never been in a religious space with so many people who don’t look like me. However, after I met one person, I met another person, and another. 95 percent of the people I met were white men who are Pastors. Some of these men went out of their way to speak to me, get to know me, and offered the opportunity for friendship. That was different to me.
What really touched me is that I have never met so many white men who were interested in my life, wanted to get to know me and hug me and say “I love you brother”. The Love that I experienced at the SBC was truly the Love of Christ and a feeling that I never felt from white people in the South ever.
It changed my perspective, my views, and what I witnessed was a denomination that has a dark past trying to turn the corner when it comes to racial issues, those who has been sexually abused, and their dealings with minorities. When the people selected Ed Litton I felt that was a step in the right direction. At the SBC in Nashville, this time, the SBC was on the right side of history when it comes to racial reconciliation. How do I know? Because I sensed and felt the love of God from people who don’t look like me. That gives me hope and joy about the future of the SBC and Body of Christ.
Pastor Erik Vance is the president and founder of the globally recognized “Pray or Die” Movement. Vance started the movement to emphasize the importance of prayer to a prayer-less, dying generation. Pastor Vance has made numerous media appearances on outlets such as B.E.T, CNN, TBN, and The Word Network. Vance’s Pray Or Die! has also had product placements in a Tyler Perry movie and has also been a worldwide trending topic on social media. Pastor Vance is also an itinerant speaker who has traveled around the country speaking at major universities, revivals and conventions. Pastor Vance is a licensed and ordained minister who has served as Campus Pastor at Georgia State University and Clark-Atlanta University. Vance holds a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Business Management/Marketing from Georgia State University. Vance also holds a Master of Divinity from Morehouse School of Religion in conjunction with The Interdenominational Theological Center. Ironically Pastor Vance won the Martin Luther King Sr. Award from Morehouse School of Religion prior to becoming the senior pastor at Floyd Chapel Baptist Church. Vance is also passionate about education as he lives by the motto of Benjamin E. Mays’ quote “Education is my salvation.” Vance is an Educator in the public schools in Atlanta where he teaches Social Studies. Vance has a total of 10 years of leadership in Ministry and Education.