By / Feb 9

February 25, 2024 is Racial Reconciliation Sunday. We created a free downloadable bulletin insert for use in your church.

Color Color Two-up Grayscale Grayscale Two-up

What is racial unity?

There are many misunderstandings about what racial unity is and what it entails. We might think, for example, that unity means uniformity, or sameness. But that would be incorrect. Or, we might assume that unity requires minority groups to assimilate to or be wholly subsumed into the majority culture, surrendering their own God-given distinctives for the sake of unity. This, too, would be an error.

The unity that Christ has accomplished for us doesn’t require uniformity or assimilation; it is a constitutional reality that we can either embrace by the Spirit or ignore in our flesh.

Instead, racial unity is the reality by which members of every nation, tribe, people, and language, having been redeemed by Christ, adopted by the Father, and sealed by the Spirit, are bound together in Christ as “one new man” and welcomed into the family of God together as brothers and sisters.

Racial unity in the SBC

In the SBC, one step we’re taking is through the Unify Project, an initiative led by pastors Fred Luter and Ed Litton that “provides simple, practical, and effective resources that can be adopted by churches across the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.”

Our churches are yearning for unity, but often struggling to bring it to fruition among their congregations. Our communities are scarred and in turmoil. What are we to do? It is the Church to whom racial unity has been conferred, and by whom racial unity can be displayed and, through the Spirit, offered to a watching world.

So on this Racial Reconciliation Sunday in 2024, may we humble ourselves and pray that the unity of God’s heavenly Kingdom would be on display in our churches and be on offer for those who are so weary of our divided society and so weighed-down by its effects.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Dec 8

Discussions about abortion in America often center around issues of individual choice and autonomy. Yet, embedded within the debate is a less examined but profoundly disconcerting facet: the disproportionate impact of abortion on racial minorities. Individual “choice” cannot account for the racial disparities in abortion rates. These disparities appear to be the result of eugenic ideology and targeting by the abortion industry.

Disproportionate burden

Data from institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal the stark racial disparity in abortion rates. For example, every year the CDC conducts abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States. In 2020 (the latest year for which complete data is available), the CDC found that among the areas that reported race by ethnicity data,

  • non-Hispanic White women (White) and non-Hispanic Black women (Black) accounted for the highest percentages of all abortions (32.7% and 39.2%, respectively),
  • and Hispanic women and non-Hispanic women in the other race category accounted for lower percentages (21.1% and 7.0%, respectively).

White women had the lowest abortion rate (6.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (118 abortions per 1,000 live births), and Black women had the highest abortion rate (24.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (426 abortions per 1,000 live births). According to the Departments of Public Health of every state that reports abortion by ethnicity, Black women disproportionately lead in the numbers:

  • In Mississippi, 79% of abortions were obtained by Black women; 
  • in Washington, D.C., more than 60%; 
  • in Georgia, 59.4%; 
  • And in Alabama, 58.4%. 

As a policy report by the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) noted, “In state after state, similar numbers are found, with black women aborting at two, three or more times their presence in the population.”

This racial imbalance is not merely a statistical anomaly but a reflection of deep-seated systemic issues. “There is a widespread perception that women, particularly African American women, are freely exercising their ‘choice’ when they enter the doors of the nearest abortion center,” says the CURE. “Nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that black women are being pushed – led from behind – into abortion centers by a cadre of elitists who agree with Frederick Osborne, the leading eugenicist of the 20th century, that ‘birth control and abortion are turning out to be great eugenic advances of our time.’” 

The eugenics connection

As CURE points out, the racial undertones of abortion are deeply rooted in history. The early 20th-century eugenic movements aimed at improving the genetic quality of the human population, often targeted marginalized racial groups, deeming them “unfit” for reproduction. The movement’s pernicious ideology of racial superiority often advocated for the reduction of births through abortion. The echoes of such ideologies can still be found in the modern-day abortion narrative, manifesting in the significant racial disparities witnessed today.

Even today, there are only five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee) that prohibit abortions because of the race of the child.

Targeting by the abortion industry

The abortion industry, whether intentionally or inadvertently, amplifies these disparities. The location of clinics, pricing structures, and the level of engagement in minority communities increase racial disparities on abortion. The industry appears to be capitalizing on systemic inequities, thus perpetuating a cycle of exploitation.

For example, studies have shown that abortion clinics are disproportionately located in minority-dominated neighborhoods. This geographic proximity exacerbates the accessibility and hence, the likelihood of opting for abortions among these communities.

A 2012 study found that 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities were located within walking distance of a Black or Hispanic neighborhood. Using Census data, this study documented the racial demographics of each census tract (similar to a neighborhood) within a two-mile radius of each of Planned Parenthood’s 163 surgical abortion facilities operating in 2010.

A census tract was counted as a minority neighborhood if its minority racial percentage reached over 50% or if it was 1.5 times that of the county percentage. An updated analysis in 2015 found that the new set of 173 Planned Parenthood surgical abortion facilities operating in 2014 continue their practice of heavily targeting minority neighborhoods for abortion, with 78% within walking distance of these communities.

The racial disparities in abortion rates are not mere coincidences but symptomatic of broader systemic issues. The abortion industry’s role in this scenario warrants a thorough examination and a call for accountability. It is incumbent upon society to address the root causes of these disparities, fostering a culture that cherishes life and provides support for individuals across all racial and demographic lines.  

Society must uphold the dignity of all individuals irrespective of racial or ethnic backgrounds. The evident racial disparities within abortion statistics require a moral and ethical introspection on the part of society, policymakers, and the abortion industry itself.

Editor’s Note: When you give, the ERLC can do more in 2024 to continue to advance the prolife movement, in ways like shaping policies that provide care and support for vulnerable mothers and families in a post-Roe America. Consider giving a year-end gift to bring hope to the public square.

By / Oct 4

Racial diversity and racial unity are ongoing topics of discussion among Christians. But more than that, they ought to be realities that we prayerfully and fervently pursue within our churches and communities. This is especially true for urban churches in places like New York City, New York, where a large number of different people groups are concentrated in relatively small spaces. Ramny Perez, the lead pastor of Fordham Community Church, an urban church in New York City, talks below about the heart of racial unity and the blessing of a diverse and unified church.

Julie Masson: Some Christians be experiencing compassion or conversation fatigue as we talk about racial unity. Why do we keep talking about this issue?

Ramny Perez: First and foremost, we talk about racial unity because Christ has died and purchased a diverse Bride (Rev. 5:9). Secondly, we are to guard the unity of the Spirit in order to live a life worthy of the salvation we have received in Christ (Eph. 4). I believe that some have checked out of this conversation, in part, because of the callousness of heart that has set in. Others, particularly minorities, are just tired of trying to convince their fellow Christians that these are gospel issues. Personally, for our church, we want to build on what we see is biblically good and faithful and not concern ourselves with debating those who are uninterested in racial unity. 

Masson: Many of us think in terms of “black and white” when talking about racial unity. Should that be the case? 

Perez: It should not be the case. There is a unique and long history with the Black and white relationship in this country that cannot be ignored and needs to be discussed. Further, any leader desiring to shepherd a gospel-centered church in this country should have some familiarity with these issues and the surrounding conversations. But, it is not the only conversation that needs to be had. 

The country is more Latino than ever. The future of the American church lies not in black and white, but in the Latino church. Additionally, the conversation should be expanded because a lack of gospel-informed unity exists in a variety of backgrounds, not just Black and white.

Masson: What are some of the dynamics your urban church faces in New York City that make it harder or easier to pursue racial unity?

Perez: The Bronx is a borough made up of 1.5 million people, 91% of which are what most of the country would call minority groups. In addition, 30% are first-generation Americans and speak a different language at home. For our church, pursuing racial diversity and unity in the gospel is more than a black-and-white conversation. It includes many layers. Yet, there are shared experiences of living in an urban context that have given us a common-grace advantage. 

Masson: In your urban church plant, how have you seen a diverse neighborhood and church community shape gospel growth?

Perez: Our church, by God’s grace, has been able to reach and be composed of the diversity in our neighborhood. This has led us to focus on the proclamation of the gospel and the Word of God in a way that is not colorblind. 

Additionally, we have intentionally sought to cultivate a culture where being a part of our church means that you welcome and honor different cultures. We see this reflected in our music, the food we eat in fellowships, and the illustrations in our sermons.

Masson: How has your church changed demographics over the years?

Perez: We started our church with 11 people, the majority being Latino, some white, and others Asian. This correlated well with our neighborhood. Since the diversity in our church has grown, we now have Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Black, Nigerian, Sierra Leonean, Senegalese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Ecuadorian, Honduran, white, Bolivian, and more people groups reflected in our Sunday gathering. 

Masson: How do you shepherd your church to build relationships with people of different backgrounds for the sake of the gospel?

Perez: As leaders, we have sought to model this. I have learned over the years that the ability of leadership to multiculturally connect is the biggest indicator of whether a church will do this healthily. 

We have also emphasized the expository preaching of God’s Word, which creates a meal we can all gather and build relationships around. In addition, we encourage a Christ-centered identity that remains welcoming and lovingly curious of other cultures. For example, we often have food from different cultures in our members’ meetings, we sing songs that are diverse every week, and we encourage people to believe the best of each other. 

Masson: What is one piece of encouragement you would give another urban church planter who is seeking to build bridges with people of different backgrounds?

Perez: Church planters should learn to develop cultural agility. The ability to meaningfully relate to and connect with other cultures, without dishonoring others, is vital. This cultural agility will come out in preaching, interpersonal conversations, and leadership decisions. I’m convinced this is the necessary main ingredient that is often missing. 

By / Sep 1

Monday marked the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Held on Aug. 28, 1963, the march stands as a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, influencing civil rights legislation and contributing to the end of racial segregation.

Here is what you should know about the Christian significance of the march, its impact on civil rights laws, and the ongoing quest for racial reconciliation.

Historical context: A moral imperative to overturn Jim Crow

The March on Washington occurred during a tumultuous period characterized by racial discrimination and social unrest. Although slavery had been abolished, systemic racism persisted, particularly in the form of Jim Crow laws. Named after an offensive and degrading stereotype of African Americans, Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States.

One of the primary tenets of Jim Crow laws was the doctrine of “separate but equal,” upheld by the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. This doctrine allowed for racial segregation so long as facilities were “equal,” though in reality, they were often inferior for African Americans. 

Jim Crow laws also mandated the segregation of public schools, public transportation, restrooms, restaurants, and even drinking fountains. They entrenched racial boundaries by establishing voting restrictions and prohibiting interracial marriages. These laws often enforced job discrimination, ensuring that lucrative and desirable jobs were reserved for white individuals.

Jim Crow laws were enacted primarily from the late 19th century to the early 20th century and remained in effect at the time of the march. This struggle for civil rights was therefore not merely a political or social endeavor but a moral imperative deeply rooted in the Christian doctrine that all human beings are created in the image of God.

The march: A manifestation of Christian activism

Organized by civil rights and labor leaders like A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the March on Washington brought together an estimated 250,000 individuals of all races. Many of the promoters and speakers at the events were Christian leaders, as were a great number of those who participated in the march.

Although the organizers disagreed about the purpose of the event, the group came together on a set of goals

  • passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; 
  • immediate elimination of school segregation; 
  • a program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed; 
  • a federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring; 
  • a $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide; 
  • withholding federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination; 
  • enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from states that disenfranchise citizens; 
  • a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas; 
  • and authority for the attorney general to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.

Event organizer Bayard Rustin recruited 4,000 off-duty police officers and firemen to serve as event marshals and coached them in the crowd control techniques he’d learned in India studying nonviolent political participation. The official law enforcement also included 5,000 police, National Guardsmen, and Army reservists. No marchers were arrested, though, and no incidents concerning marchers were reported.

At the close of the event, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, delivered his iconic speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King improvised the most recognizable, memorable part of the speech for which he is most famous, according to his speechwriter and attorney Clarence B. Jones. Although King had spoken about a dream two months earlier in Detroit, the “dream” was not in the text prepared by Jones. King initially followed the text Jones had written, but gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King nodded to her, placed the text of his speech aside, and veered off-script, delivering extemporaneously what is referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous orations in American history.

A cultural shift and the end of segregation

The March on Washington was instrumental in the passage of key civil rights legislation. 

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, echoed the biblical principles of justice and equality.
  •  Similarly, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to eliminate racial discrimination in voting, aligning with the Christian conviction of fair treatment for all people made in God’s image.

Beyond legislation, the march initiated a significant cultural shift. The event brought the issue of racial inequality into the American consciousness, challenging people to confront their prejudices and to strive toward the Christian ideals of love, mercy, and unity. While laws could mandate desegregation, it was this change in collective consciousness that truly began to dismantle systemic racism.

As we reflect on the march, it’s essential to recommit to the Christian call for racial and ethnic reconciliation. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse highlights the biblical mandate for unity, transcending all racial and ethnic divisions, especially in the Church.

The March on Washington serves as a profound reminder of the Christian principles of justice, equality, and love for one’s neighbor—all grounded in the reality that we are all created in God’s image. The event was not just a milestone in American history; it was a manifestation of Christian activism that led to transformative civil rights legislation and cultural changes. However, the journey toward racial reconciliation is far from over, as evidenced by the devastating and sinful acts of racial hatred and violence we see too frequently. As followers of Christ, we are called to continue this vital work, striving to build a society where all are equal, all are loved, and all have the opportunity to hear the good news of Christ Jesus.

By / Jun 30

Here are five recent Supreme Court rulings you should know about. The decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court often directly affect Southern Baptist pastors and churches and the people they serve. That’s why every year the ERLC actively engages in the judicial process on issues that hold immense importance for our churches and the gospel.

But the court also issues rulings in cases that, while they aren’t directly related to the issues we work on, intersect with or are related to topics of concern for Southern Baptists. Here are five recent Supreme Court rulings from the most recent term. 

Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admission v. UNC 

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions, Inc (SFFA). The cases—SFFA v. UNC and SFFA v. President and Fellows of Harvardaddressed the consideration of race in college admissions. The court was asked to consider whether institutions of higher education can use race as a factor in admissions, and whether Harvard College was violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race, and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives.

The court ruled that colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration as an express factor in admissions, a landmark decision that overturns long-standing precedent. In the 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the court considered a quota system in place at the University of California and established the constitutionality of affirmative action programs 

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that for too long universities have “concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the only Black woman on the court, wrote that the majority had “detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences.” But Justice Clarence Thomas, the only Black man on the court, said, “While I am painfully aware of the social and economic ravages which have befallen my race and all who suffer discrimination, I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law.”

United States v. Texas

In United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked Article III standing to challenge immigration-enforcement guidelines issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security. These guidelines were issued in a memorandum by the Department of Homeland Security to the Acting Director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) instructing ICE officials to prioritize the removal of noncitizens who pose a threat to national security, public safety, or border security.

The purpose of these guidelines was to provide a framework for ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement and to promote consistency and transparency in the enforcement of immigration laws. The Biden administration also argued that these guidelines were necessary to prioritize limited resources and focus on individuals who pose a greater risk to the country. However, Texas and Louisiana challenged the legality of these guidelines, arguing that they restrained ICE agents from fully enforcing immigration laws. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked standing to challenge these rules, reinforcing the federal government’s unique role in setting immigration policy.

Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh 

On May 18, the Supreme Court issued opinions in two related cases, Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh. In the Taamneh case, the court unanimously ruled that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to establish that the defendants (Twitter, Google, and Facebook) aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the relevant attack. 

In both cases the plaintiffs made arguments related to the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act. Additionally, in the Gonzalez v. Google case, the plaintiffs argued that Google, through its subsidiary YouTube, aided, abetted, and conspired with ISIS by allowing the terrorist group to use its platform to spread propaganda and recruit members. The plaintiffs claimed that Google’s algorithms and revenue-sharing practices contributed to the spread of ISIS content on YouTube, and that Google should be held liable for the deaths of their family members in an ISIS attack in Jordan in 2016. In the Twitter v. Taamneh case, the plaintiffs alleged that Twitter, Google, and Facebook aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out an attack in Istanbul in 2017. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants provided material support to ISIS by allowing the group to use their platforms to spread propaganda and recruit members.

The court unanimously ruled in the Taamneh case that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to establish that the defendants aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the attack. Based on that ruling, the court declined to address the issues raised about the application of Section 230 protection from liability for aiding terrorists in the Gonzalez v. Google case and remanded it back to the lower courts.

Haaland v. Brackeen 

In the case of Haaland v. Brackeen, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to reject challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal statute that aims to protect the future of Tribal Nations (i.e., the 574 federally recognized Indian Nations) and promote the best interests of Native American children. The case was brought by a birth mother, foster and adoptive parents, and the state of Texas, who claimed that the ICWA exceeds federal authority, infringes state sovereignty, and discriminates on the basis of race. 

The ICWA is a federal law that was passed in 1978 to protect the well-being and best interests of Native American children and families. The law aims to uphold family integrity and stability and to keep Native children connected to their community and culture. ICWA establishes minimum federal standards for the removal of Native children from their families and placement of such children in homes that reflect the unique values of Native culture.  

The Supreme Court rejected these challenges and upheld the ICWA, a victory for the Biden administration and several Native American tribes that defended the law. The majority opinion authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the court “declines to disturb the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion that ICWA is consistent with” Congress’s authority under the Constitution in Article I. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the only justices to dissent. 

Moore v. Harper 

The case of Moore v. Harper involved the controversial independent state legislature theory (ISL). This theory arose from the redistricting of North Carolina’s districts by the North Carolina legislature following the 2020 census, which the state courts found to be too artificial and partisan, and an extreme case of gerrymandering in favor of the Republican Party. ISL asserts that only the state legislature itself has the power to set the rules for making state laws that apply to federal elections, from drawing congressional district lines to determining the who-what-when-where of casting a ballot. 

The Supreme Court of North Carolina granted a rehearing in the underlying case, which prompted the justices to request additional briefing on whether they still had the power to rule in Moore. On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in a 6-3 decision, affirming the lower court’s ruling that the congressional map violated the state constitution and dismissing the plaintiffs’ lawsuits. The case was decided in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh filing a concurring opinion, and Justice Thomas dissenting. The case was one of the most high-profile cases the Supreme Court has taken up in recent years, with former federal judge Michael Luttig calling it the “single most important case on American democracy—and for American democracy—in the nation’s history.”

By / Jun 12

I serve in a city with a rich heritage. It is the birthplace of Mardi Gras, the home of Hank Aaron, and a place known for seafood and Southern hospitality. With our rich history also comes painful wounds from the past. There are scars from the Jim Crow era in the hearts and minds of many, and lingering challenges from redlining (a type of housing discrimination practice). 

Yet, my hope and prayer is that my city will also be remembered for its legacy of racial reconciliation, as churches in our city chart a course for a better tomorrow.

In a previous article, I unpacked the reasons why I am committed to a racially reconciling church. Here, I am going to give some of the theological pillars supporting that commitment. 

My understanding of race starts with how the Bible defines the image of God and how it describes different people groups. I also see God’s heart for racial reconciliation demonstrated in his radical call of Jonah, through Jesus’ confrontation of racial prejudice, and his reconciling death. Peter and Paul both grappled with racial reconciliation, as well. They addressed it in how they taught the Church and planted churches. All of these scriptures have been instrumental in convincing me of God’s priority of racial reconciliation. 

The image of God and race

I believe the image of God in the Bible is defined by internal features, not external ones, especially regarding how we look. Humans alone were created with the capacity to have relationship with God (Acts 17:26-28; Rom. 1:19-22). The creation account focuses more on the purpose of the human race, rather than a description of race (Gen. 1:26-31; 2:7, 15-28).

Since all human beings have common ancestry, the human genome has always included diversity. When different people groups appear in the Bible, they are almost always categorized based upon their place of origin, heritage, experience, or culture, rather than the pigmentation of their skin. According to civil rights hero John Perkins, race is a modern concept that often can be too broad to accurately describe a person’s ethnic heritage.  

For example, at my church we have people from five different countries in South America. Although their complexions might be similar, their culture and heritage are very different. Years ago, when we considered having a celebration for Hispanic families in our church, we considered Cinco de Mayo, but our families graciously informed us that they did not celebrate that holiday because it was only significant to families with Mexican heritage. 

The image of God is what unites all people as part of the human race. What distinguishes a people group is a diverse integration of factors and experiences. If the Church is to live as one unified people of God, then understanding these distinctives is paramount.

Ethnic animosity and God’s salvation

The story of Jonah and the Ninevites is a clear indication of God’s commitment to saving people groups that were far from him. The Assyrians and the Jews had long-standing animosity. Jonah was God’s reluctant prophet, caught between his sense of God’s call and his sense of nationalism. The situation was complex for Jonah because of the history of hatred and brutality between his nation and the Assyrians. For Jonah, racial reconciliation meant uncovering persistent and painful wounds. 

The story of these two nations is not unlike the story of our nation. If the Church is to face issues of racial reconciliation, then matters of nationalism and political ideology among people groups must be addressed. But also like the story of Jonah, the only hope for both people groups is a merciful God, ready to heal, save, forgive, and draw diverse people into his family. 

Jonah’s story is one of many in the Old Testament where God intentionally weaves different people groups into the tapestry of his covenant people.

The cross and reconciliation

Jesus continually fought back against the racial biases of his day. The Jews and the Samaritans were engaged in an enduring ethnic feud. Yet, he traveled to Samaria and interacted with those that his own people regarded as untouchable, preaching the Good News. God was not just saving people in Jerusalem; he was saving people in Samaria too. 

Jesus shared the love of God with a people group that he was supposed to hate. He confronted powerful Jewish leaders with the hypocrisy of their lack of love for the Samaritans. Jesus’ life and teaching centered on reconciling people with God and with one another (Luke 15; John 17; Matt. 5:43-48, etc.).  

The cross was the ultimate act of reconciliation. Jesus not only paved the way for human race to be fully in relationship with God, but he also paved way for human beings to be restored in relationship with one another. As he prayed for forgiveness over his lynch mob, he led the way in reconciliation.  

I have been asked by pastors how I keep racial reconciliation from decentralizing the gospel. Can you separate the Great Commandment from the Great Commission? I do not think that you can separate the endless lengths that Jesus went through to reconcile the human race to God from the endless efforts that he calls the Church to pursue in reconciling people to himself. 

The cross of Jesus will forever stand as the metric for God’s desire to reconcile. Jesus’ Church is to be a reconciling embassy. 

Peter’s battle with racial reconciliation

After Jesus’ resurrection, God used Peter to preach the gospel in 17 different languages, leading to the immediate diversification of the early church (Acts 2:1-42). Yet, Peter still had his struggles with accepting God’s desire for a diverse family. God repeatedly made his heart for racial reconciliation clear to Peter. God confronted him with a vision, took him to Cornelius’ house to witness non-Jews receiving salvation, and used the Apostle Paul to rebuke him before he understood and embraced God’s desire for a multiethnic family (Acts 10:1-48; Gal. 2:11-14).   

Be encouraged: Much like Peter, anyone that is on a journey of racial reconciliation will have points of disbelief, hesitation, or disillusionment. Racial reconciliation is a continuum of relationship, not a destination. 

Paul’s theology of racial reconciliation

When Paul states that there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, he is not doing away with these distinctions. Rather, he is making a case for gospel unity superseding these distinctions. While these distinctions describe the family of God, they are not the basis of their identity. Instead, identity in God’s family is based upon adoption in Jesus (Gal. 3:26-29).  

Throughout his writings, Paul addresses distinctions within people groups that lead to tension within the Church. In many of the situations, the point of tension is methodology, not theology (Rom. 14:1-23; Col. 2:16-23). Because methodology is driven by cultural norms, people groups of different cultures often collide. Culture is a reflection of the diversity within those created in God’s image, but division based upon those cultural distinctives is a reflection of the fall. As followers of Jesus, our love for people should be based upon their dignity as those created in God’s image, not simply a response to their color, class, or culture.  

A theology of racial reconciliation means striving for unity in our diversity, valuing the distinctives that make each person unique, and refusing to give up our unity as one human race made in the image of God. And as Christians, we worship the God who made us one in Christ, and we call others to do the same. 

By / Mar 1

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 1, 2023The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is highlighting key organizational efforts this week to encourage racial unity across SBC churches. 

In a new video conversation between ERLC President Brent Leatherwood and former Missouri Baptist Convention President Jon Nelson, the two leaders discuss challenges Nelson has faced as a minority pastor and their commitment to pursue racial unity in the SBC. 

This video conversation followed on the heels of a recent ERLC webinar where former SBC presidents, Ed Litton and Fred Luter, joined Leatherwood to discuss how the SBC can improve its pursuit of racial reconciliation. They also discussed The Unify Project, a pastor-led initiative designed to equip and inspire pastors and churches to become leaders in racial reconciliation and bring hope and healing to their communities through the transformative power of the gospel. 

“This conversation with my friend, Jon Nelson, provides a timely and important opportunity for us to reflect and consider ways we can bolster our work pursuing a biblical mandate of reconciliation. Time and time again, our churches have said this is a priority for our convention. This resource reflects that heart and my hope is it will assist our pastors and wider Baptist family as we move forward with this vital, God-honoring work.”

As a part of the ERLC’s commitment to pursue racial unity, the organization will be partnering with The Unify Project at this year’s SBC annual meeting to host an event on Monday evening, June 12. More information will follow.

To view more assets from the ERLC on racial unity visit ERLC.com/racialunity

By / Mar 1

It is no secret that contemporary American society continues to be embroiled in conversations about race and interracial tensions. America has a blemished history as it pertains to historical racial injustices and that history’s reverberations continue to resound today. 

However, as I look at the complicated issues here in the United States as they relate to prejudice and the tendency to segregate, I find myself seeing these current issues through the lens of our experience having lived abroad in the Middle East. And the tensions we encountered there led me to a deeper sense of why it is so important for the church to lead the way in exhibiting a reconciliation between people who share in the same blood of Christ despite bearing different tones of skin.

On the mission field 

One of the problems we faced in our ministry in the Middle East was how best to help believers from a Muslim background enter into fellowship with those from a Christian background. As I sought outside counsel, I was told by a well-respected missionary strategist, “You should just start two different kinds of churches—one for Muslim background believers and one for Christian background believers. It will slow things down too much if these new believers have to work through all the historical and cultural baggage that comes from bringing former persecutors into the community they persecuted.”

To be honest, I was stunned by the answer. I asked him later in the day if I had heard him correctly when he said we should not encourage believers from a Muslim background to fellowship with those believers who grew up culturally as Christians. He confirmed that I had heard him correctly: start two different kinds of churches because there is too much baggage to hope for unity.

This was a man who had overseen some reportedly incredible movements of people to Christ in another context. He had been brought into our training as an expert missiologist. But his advice to avoid dealing with conflict within the fellowship of believers was grossly dissatisfying—both theologically and practically. 

The more I reflected on it, the more frustrated I got. The pragmatism reflected in this advice was being allowed to trump the beauty of the enemy-reconciling effect of the gospel. I mean, think about it: What would have been the result for the early church if in Acts 9 Ananias had refused to receive Saul because of the sociological tension that it would cause to fellowship with a former persecutor?

Back at home

These sentiments, however, aren’t exclusive to the mission field. I also had a disappointing experience in a classroom in the U.S. once when a Christian professor dismissed the discussion about multiethnic churches altogether. His comment was that this is just a fad that is responding to contemporary sensitivities and that churches would do better to stay culturally homogeneous. 

Is it true that bringing together different communities might require each community to begin to appreciate expressions and forms of worship that are not native to their subculture? Certainly. But is the potential for discomfort sufficient reason to not pursue fellowship with brothers and sisters who share a common faith and theology? Hardly. 

What is lost if segregation of churches remains a practice of convenience? We lose multiple opportunities to learn from one another as we seek to live out a shared faith in different circumstances. And we lose multiple opportunities to display to a watching world how compelling the fellowship of the gospel is.

Beautiful unity as an embodied apologetic

A few years after the disappointing advice from the missiologist, however, I got a taste of what could happen if we didn’t allow socially-defined distinctions to determine the composition of our fellowship. 

I had been given the privilege of getting to teach a church planting course in an underground Bible school. The 20-or-so students who composed the class came from various Christian upbringings, and some had come to faith in Jesus out of Muslim families. Some of those of a Muslim background were even connected to high-ranking government and military officials who would have been responsible for overseeing various waves of targeted persecution of Christians throughout their country.

Standing in front of the classroom and observing small groups of those diverse students huddled together and strategizing about how they might link arms and plant churches together was one of the most stunning displays of the unifying power of the gospel I have ever seen. Those who were formerly aligned with persecutors were collaborating with those whose families had encountered persecution. And the only thing that brought them together was a common gospel-given identity and goal. 

The pain and history they shared was not erased or forgotten. But the gospel was sufficient to call both parties to walk through the painful history toward repentance and forgiveness and to continue working together toward a shared vision of the future on the basis of a present understanding of the gospel they held in common.

As those communities began to work toward planting churches, their friendship, fellowship, and partnership displayed the healing power of the gospel. It was not unlikely that there would be conflict and tension along the way. Still, that they were drawn together by a common task and vision testifies to the reconciling power of a shared gospel identity. This unity is encouraging to those sharing in the fellowship, and it is compelling to those observing from the outside.

Applied theology

So how does all of this discussion relate to contemporary American churches and their approach to addressing ethnic tensions? From the outset, I hope it gives us a confidence in three things:

  1. We are all sin-stained and in need of reconciliation to God and then to one another as God’s people.
  2. The community of believers draws confidence in the work of reconciliation to one another that comes from a shared reconciliation to God.
  3. The secular world is attempting to manufacture human unity without a compelling reason to believe it is possible.

Yet as they observe the Church manifesting and enjoying a unity amidst diversity, they have to stop and marvel. It will take intentional work, but the result will be an embodied apologetic that supports the gospel claim to make one new humanity in Christ. The work and effort that it will take is worth it—both due to its theological foundation and its missiological impact. 

Adapted excerpt with permission from Hope for American Evangelicals by Matthew Bennett. Copyright 2023, B&H Publishing.

By / Feb 27

Racism is an inescapable fact embedded in America’s historical narrative. Long considered the “original sin” of the United States and the American colonies, racism and racial prejudice have plagued the hearts and minds of citizens and churchgoers for centuries, and inflicted lasting wounds on whole people groups. It was and is a sin of epidemic proportions, inscribed even in the earliest iterations of our Constitution.

But while racism may be America’s original sin, it’s not a sin that originated in America. The record of racism is a thread that runs the length and width of human history. From time immemorial, the seed of racism has pervaded human nature and the human experience. Far as the curse is found, so far can racism be found. 

As deep and wide as the scourge of racism runs, it can feel ambitious even to ask the question, “What is racial unity?”. We’ve seen too many lives lost, read of too much injustice, and heard too many racial epithets to imagine, even for a moment, a world in which racial unity is a remote possibility. But, as Christians read in our sacred text, racial unity is not only possible, it has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the king of a now and future kingdom. 

The Bible’s vision of racial unity, past, present, and future

Many of us may balk at the assertion that racial unity was accomplished once and for all in Christ. Our experience of life in this broken world tells us otherwise. How can we suggest that racial unity is a reality that’s not only feasible but achieved? Racial unity, the Bible asserts, was accomplished in the past, is a certain reality in the present, and will continue forward everlastingly. 

Past: “But now in Christ Jesus,” the apostle Paul writes to his Gentile readers, “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Eph. 2:13–15, ESV, emphasis added).

Present: “For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ,” Paul again says. “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, CSB, emphasis added).

Future (and present): “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, Who is seated on the throne, And to the Lamb!” (Rev.7:9–10, CSB).

In Christ, racial unity has been achieved—it is a past, present, and future fact. By the power of his death and resurrection, his ascension and heavenly session, and his sending of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ has created for himself “one new man,” “a chosen race . . . a people for his own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). It is done. And while we can agree with the biblical witness that unity is accomplished in Christ, as we look around today, we should recognize that something is woefully amiss, both inside (sometimes) and outside the Church. The racial unity that has been purchased and applied to us in Christ, has yet to be fully, or even nearly, realized. 

So, if racial harmony is real and operative for those who are in Christ, why are we often so bad at it? What can we do to bring it to bear in our lives, our homes, our churches, and our communities? We can begin by defining what it isn’t and what it is.

What is racial unity?

There are many misunderstandings about what racial unity is and what it entails. We might think, for example, that unity means uniformity, or sameness. But that would be incorrect; the “one new man” Christ has created for himself is composed of a “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language,” as we’ve already highlighted. 

Or, we might assume that unity requires minority groups to assimilate to or be wholly subsumed into the majority culture, surrendering their own God-given distinctives for the sake of unity. This, too, would be an error—Gentiles didn’t have to assimilate into Jewish customs and culture to experience unity with Jewish Christians. The unity that Christ has accomplished for us doesn’t require uniformity or assimilation; it is a constitutional reality that we can either embrace by the Spirit or ignore in our flesh.

Instead, racial unity is the reality by which members of every nation, tribe, people, and language, having been redeemed by Christ, adopted by the Father, and sealed by the Spirit, are bound together in Christ as “one new man” and welcomed into the family of God together as brothers and sisters.

It is the recognition that we are one body made up of many parts and that our differences are good. We are not strangers or foreigners, but citizens and members of God’s household. And we are a temple made up of many stones. Racial unity is built on humility and gratitude and bears witness to the wisdom and glory of God. It is a gift. 

On earth as it is in heaven

In the heavens, at this very moment, a unified group of diverse men, women, and children are standing before the throne of God shouting praises to “God . . . and to the Lamb.” There is no bias there, no injustice, and no division. Instead, in union with Christ and one another, their hearts are flooded with gratitude and, you have to imagine, as they look around at the crowd of worshipers, filled with an overwhelming sense of awe. In Christ, God has put to death everything that divides us and has bound us together as a family. In heaven, this unity has been fully realized. 

On earth, we’ve got some work to do.

So, how can we make this heavenly scene more indicative of the communities we belong to now? In the SBC, one step we’re taking is through the Unify Project, an initiative led by pastors Fred Luter and Ed Litton that “provides simple, practical, and effective resources that can be adopted by churches across the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.” If you’re unsure where to begin, the Unify Project is a great place to start.

Our churches are yearning for unity, but often struggling to bring it to fruition among their congregations. Our communities are scarred and in turmoil. Our society, in some ways, is as divided as it’s ever been. What are we to do? Where are we to look for help? It is the Church—the people of God, the bride of Christ, the residence of the Spirit—to whom racial unity has been conferred, and by whom racial unity can be displayed and, through the Spirit, offered to a watching world.

So, may we humble ourselves and pray to the one true God, through the only begotten Son, by the power of his Spirit that the unity of God’s heavenly kingdom would be on display in our churches and be on offer for those who are so weary of our divided society and so weighed-down by its effects. May it be, on earth as it is in heaven. 

By / Feb 10

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay talk about racial unity in the SBC. They also disucss a recap of the State of the Union address, the devastating earthquake in Turkey, and J.D. Greear’s article responding to comments Andy Stanley made about homosexuality. 

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