Last night in Arlington, TX, Cornerstone Baptist Church hosted a joint worship service with churches of various races/ethnicities in the region and featuring local and national leaders in “A Kingdom Conversation on Race and the Alt-Right.” The service was quickly put together in response to the events in Charlottesville the week before. Serveral influential churches in the area met to worship together. For the second half of the event, Dr. McKissic assembled an array of leaders in a panel to address questions on issues of race, racial reconciliation and unity, and how to respond to the newly emboldened groups that make up the Alt-right. You can read more about the service here. If you missed it, you can view the archived video here (the panel discussion begins around the 1:53 mark).
A few take-aways from the event on how to move forward toward unity in the body of Christ and our nation:
- Listen to those most affected by racism. If we as evangelicals are going to address the problem of racism in our nation and among the believing community, we must hear from and listen to minority voices. Voices of color have historically been silenced or dismissed by those in positions of power and authority. Joseph Caldwell, President of the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies, brought this point home. White leaders must listen to minority leaders in their own voice, language, and tone and without having to sit at the head of the table. White evangelicals must be willing to learn from others not like ourselves, and lead the conversation, especially on the issue of race.
- The problems won’t go away on their own. There will be no “getting over” racism without a concerted effort toward reconciliation and healing. Those that want to put the past behind them will need to be active in the efforts to bring healing and unity in the body of Christ and the nation. Dr. McKissic challenged those in the room to be intentional and proactive on these issues. Personally, I appreciate his effort to put this event together and model what it looks like to “be intentional.”
- Pastors must take the lead. Several panelists and audience questions focused on the role of the church and how the world is right now watching the evangelical community to see what we will do. Christians should be leading on this issue and modeling what unity and reconciliation looks like. Jason Paredes, lead pastor of Fielder Church, Arlington, challenged pastors to take the lead. Pastors must lead their churches to get involved in the work. Several specific ideas were presented by various panelists including cross-cultural evangelism and church planting, modeling relationships and true friendship across racial/ethnic lines, and giving congregations opportunities and challenges to worship, fellowship and serve together. If the evangelical church is going to lead the Country in reconciliation and healing, pastors must take the lead in shepherding their people toward unity in the body of Christ.
- Be willing to have the conversation. You have to start somewhere and that means being willing to begin the Kingdom conversation with persons not like yourself. The leaders on the panel are to be commended, and we at SBCVoices would like to affirm Dr. McKissic and Dr. Gaines and the other panelists for being willing to model how to have these hard conversations – to sit down together, to listen, really hear, to seek the Lord, and actively pursue Oneness in the body of Christ. It was refreshing to see a real conversation among leaders with different experiences and perspectives, but with a common desire for gospel unity.
I am thankful for this event and others like it. I am thankful for leaders who are willing to join together to pursue unity and reconciliation. My prayer is that we as evangelicals and Southern Baptists will all continue in this effort and continue to pursue the heavenly vision to live as One People of God and not let up until we see His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.