Increasing numbers of evangelical Christians are beginning to address the topic of race and the church in a public and biblical way. Actually, for the first time (that I can remember), there are not only workshops devoted to the topic, but entire conferences.
Many of the entities hosting these conferences are comprised predominantly of white men and women, which could be a cause of skepticism for some. I tend to closely scrutinize the speakers, topics and intentions of such events. I’m looking for signs of how dedicated a ministry and its leaders are when it comes to racial reconciliation. Applying the gospel to the wounds of racism in the church is costly and exhausting work. This labor has a way of inviting such conflict and criticism that many shrink back once they experience it.
In addition, it’s always hazardous for those from the majority to address issues that require minority perspectives. If the leaders haven’t had extensive cross-cultural interactions or they fail to see all the implications of the gospel for racial healing, then the event can easily do more harm than good.
So why am I excited about the ERLC’s Leadership Summit on racial reconciliation?
1. Thrilling topics
Scroll through the topics and speakers for the Summit. They are thrilling. It’s hard to choose when you have seminars such as:
- “Firing Line: How Racism Cost My Father His Pastorate But Rescued my Soul”
- “The State of Racial Reconciliation in America: Ferguson, Eric Garner, and Your Community, Pop-Culture”
- “Racial Reconciliation: Hip-Hop Sports, and Everyday Life”
2. Trusted speakers
A peek at the speakers for this event is reason enough to register for the Summit.
- Tony Evans will be doing a plenary titled, “Oneness Embraced: Racial Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and Justice.”
- I’m excited to hear Fred Luter, the first African-American president of the SBC, talk about racial reconciliation and the kingdom of Christ.
- My friend and RAAN Board member, Trillia Newbell, will share her wisdom about racial unity in the church and in friendships.
- And, the storied and still fiery Civil Rights leader, John Perkins, will talk about the status of the Movement after 50 years.
- The assemblage of godly and wise speakers at the ERLC Summit on racial reconciliation gives me great confidence about its quality.
3. A recognized urgency
The main reason I’m excited about the ERLC Summit on racial reconciliation is that the leaders recognize the urgency of the issue. This year’s Summit wasn’t always going to be about racial reconciliation. The original topic was “The Gospel for Life,” which would address the pro-life movement and related issues. This theme will be integrated into a 2016 event in conjunction with the March for Life.
Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, and his staff thought it wise to pivot their focus for this year’s Summit. The events in Ferguson, Mo., concerning Mike Brown and in New York City with Eric Garner, as well as several other fatal encounters between African-Americans and law enforcement officials, compel Christians to pointedly address issues of race. I appreciate the ERLC’s commitment to racial reconciliation, but I appreciate them even more for recognizing the topic must be addressed now.
Christians, especially those in the racial majority, must quickly and decisively move to foster greater racial unity in the church. While I am grateful that more evangelicals seem to be paying attention to race in this country, that’s not enough. Four centuries of segregation and racism is enough. Tomorrow is too late for racial reconciliation. Unity in the church must commence immediately, broadly and biblically.
As an African-American, it sends a clear message to me that an organization is committed to racial reconciliation if they are willing to change plans to address it. I hope more churches and ministries learn from what the ERLC has done. Racial harmony is not a social issue, it is a gospel issue. That should be all the motivation a Christian needs to take action now.