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 / 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 / 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 / Jan 25

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Racial Reconciliation Sunday.

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

By / Jan 16

The Bible was central to the thought, rhetoric, and development of the Civil Rights Movement. This was influenced by the essential role of Black churches and preachers in the organization of the movement. Not only was the movement characterized by meetings in churches and the singing of Negro spirituals, it was also marked by biblical themes and biblical rhetoric.

An example of biblical rhetoric

A prime example of popular civil rights rhetoric is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on August 28, 1963. The speech reflected King’s criticisms and hopes for America set in the language of the prophets of the Old Testament. For example, he said satisfaction would not come until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). This was familiar language in the Bible-literate America of that day.

In the conclusion, as King soared into describing his dream, he described a day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” (Isa. 40:4-5).

Furthermore, it should not be taken for granted that the celebrated leader of the Civil Rights Movement was a Black Baptist preacher.

The biblical teaching behind the movement

The central intellectual strain behind the movement focused on the issue of the equality of all humans, since they were “created . . . in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27), whether Black or white. Throughout the Black freedom struggle in American history, the biblical teachings on creation and human dignity were foundational to the arguments being put forth, both by scholars and by everyday people. Even those who were illiterate knew from the rhetoric of the movement that God had created all people from one man (Acts 17:26).

In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail written April 16, 1963, King resorted to biblical examples as a defense when he was accused of being an extremist for participating in demonstrations, sit-ins, and boycotts. He asked whether Jesus was an extremist when he said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). He also cited the prophet Amos and the apostle Paul, asking whether their words and actions were not also “extreme.” Finally, reflecting on Jesus’ death at Calvary, he wrote that “Jesus was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness.”

And in his appeal to white ministers for support, King commonly cited biblical texts and the examples of Christ.

Conclusion

The Bible was central to the pulse of the Civil Rights Movement. In planning meetings, preachers and laypersons read from its pages. In public disputes, everyday people quoted its promises and its truth regarding the dignity of all humanity, regardless of skin color. It truly would not be a stretch to suggest that the Civil Rights Movement would have lacked moral fiber (and one might further say divine blessing) without the underlying truth claims drawn from the Bible.

By / Mar 29

“I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” – Mamie Till-Mobley​

Wrapped in a bronze-colored metal lattice, with a structure fashioned after the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa, the National Museum of African American History and Culture covers five acres on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This Smithsonian museum opened to the public on Sept. 24, 2016, 87 years after Congress approved the project.

I was able to visit the museum with some colleagues on a brisk Saturday afternoon in 2018 after a pro-life event in our nation’s capital. The event fittingly focused on the dignity, value, and worth of all people as rooted in the image of God, or imago Dei (Gen. 1:26-28). The visit to the museum left me speechless. From the intricate design and architectural features to the uplifting yet horrifying stories on display, the museum seeks to “tell the American story through the African American lens.” And it does so in a powerful and thought-provoking way.

Through another’s eyes

The museum tour begins by taking an elevator deep underground as you descend back in time to the 15th century and the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. Each level of the three-floor main exhibit chronicles various historical periods in the Americas through the eyes of African Americans. The bottom level tells the story of how slavery developed from a temporary status not based on skin color, to an industry that ravaged African kingdoms and fueled growth in the Americas at the expense of human dignity. The middle level focuses on the Jim Crow South up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lastly, the top level tells the story of the 1970s through the present.

Through the various exhibits and displays, I learned about the beautiful kingdoms that used to sprawl the African continent and saw their breathtaking contributions to art. I learned how these kingdoms were depleted of their people because an estimated 10–12 million Africans were exported like common goods on slave ships to the Americas.

Multiple displays told the personal stories of enslaved Africans aboard slave ships. As we journeyed through exhibits of old metal shackles and various wooden parts of slaves ships, I was able to better understand the horrors of travel conditions that these men and women were subjected to as they crossed the Atlantic ocean.

While the exhibits and stories gripped my heart, the most influential moment of the entire museum was watching an African American father tell his two daughters that this was their history and that their ancestors lived through these horrors. He explained to his girls how the Emancipation Proclamation made by President Lincoln freed the slaves in the South. He told them that many slaves found out they were free as the Union army marched through the South, carrying with them tiny versions of proclamation that they would read aloud as they entered plantations and fields. So much of this history was unfamiliar to me.

The horrible truth revealed

On the second level, there is a small room tucked away in a corner; a quiet and quaint room. It is the only place in the entire museum that you are not allowed to take photos. There is a security guard posted just outside the room to encourage respectful silence. This room contains the original casket of a 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered in 1955.

Newspaper clippings tell the story of Emmett Till, who was visiting relatives near Money, Mississippi. Till and his family were from Chicago but had been traveling to see family when Till stopped at a local grocery store. While in the store, a 21-year-old married woman named Carolyn Bryant claimed that Till flirted with her. Upon hearing about this incident, Bryant’s husband and his half-brother abducted the boy from his great uncle’s home and brutally murdered him. They beat, mutilated, and shot him. Then they proceeded to tie a 75-pound weight around his neck and throw his body into the Tallahatchie River. Mrs. Bryant recanted her story decades later.

More powerful than our common citizenship in America is our connection as human beings created equally in the image of God.

Mamie Till-Mobley, the boy’s mother, decided to hold his funeral in Chicago with an open casket. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” she said. Emmett Till posthumously became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement as numerous newspaper and magazine stories helped millions to see the crime that was committed against this boy; a crime based largely on the color of his skin.

The museum was given the original casket to put on display after Till-Mobley had her son’s remains unearthed for DNA analysis. Her desire was for the world to remember, through experiencing the exhibit, what was done to “her baby.” She wanted others to see what happened because, through seeing what really took place, she believed that it would move people to action. They would have no excuse if they allowed these horrors to continue.

A knowledge leading to empathy

As I reflect on my time touring this museum, I am struck by my own ignorance of the rich history of African Americans and the stories of these brave Americans. These men and women are integral parts of the American story. Just as Till-Mobley hoped that her son would serve as a visible reminder of the horrors of Jim Crow laws, this museum serves as a visible reminder of all that African Americans have suffered and achieved in their rich history. It is through knowledge and understanding that we are able to develop empathy for one another.

More powerful than our common citizenship in America is our connection as human beings created equally in the image of God. This common humanity is shared by all people from every nation, tribe, and tongue and gives us inherent worth and dignity. We were created equal by God, even if others sinfully deny this truth. And this equality is what drives our empathy.

The stories on display at this museum opened my eyes to the horrors that my brothers and sisters have endured and helped me grow in empathy as I learned about our American history through an African American lens. If you are in Washington, D.C., I highly encourage you to visit the museum so that you might learn and grow in love for those created in God’s image.

Photo credit: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC

By / Feb 22

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 22, 2022—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, will host a special online eventWednesday, Feb. 23 at 11:00 a.m. EST, on the topic of racial reconciliation and the SBC.

Event panelists include:

  • Ed Litton, President, Southern Baptist Convention
  • Fred Luter, Senior Pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La.
  • Missie Branch, Assistant Dean of Students to Women, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 
  • Jon Kelly, Lead Pastor, Chicago West Bible Church in Chicago, Ill. 

During the event, panelists will address questions and topics such as:

  • How to navigate challenging conversations about race;
  • How the SBC has worked together towards greater unity in recent years;
  • What practical steps churches can take to create unity; 
  • How the SBC can continue to advance racial reconciliation;
  • How to pursue racial reconciliation in your community. 

The ERLC is committed to working towards racial unity and has hosted several events and provided training and content to better equip church leaders on this issue.

Below are ERLC past assets calling attention to racial unity:

Event registration is free and available online.

By / Feb 22

In a moment of politicization and tribalism, conversations are always difficult. There are any number of topics today that cause controversy: who to vote (or not) for in the next election, responding to COVID restrictions, and how to think about protests both domestically and abroad. But there are few conversations that are as difficult to have as discussions of race. While Christians should be able to have these conversations because of our shared identity in Christ, we too are prone to avoiding the topic because it can be hard, difficult, and awkward. Isaac Adams wrote his new book, Talking About Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations, to counter that problem. Adams offers hope for how to have these conversations and some guidance on where to begin. 

Alex Ward: You originally set out to write a book about what to do, and instead ended up writing about how to talk about the issue of racism. Why was it essential to make that shift, and why do we need to start there?

Isaac Adams: Often when I teach on race and racism, the question I know I’ll be asked is, “What can I do?” And in so many ways this is a great question. While we Christians aren’t saved by good works, we are saved for good works (Rom. 7:4; Titus 2:14). Yet, as a pastor, I often find people wanted to go and do big things as regards racial justice — they wanted to march down the street; they wanted to maintain unity in their church — yet these same people couldn’t even have a constructive conversation with the person they dreaded seeing at Thanksgiving, much less on Sunday morning. It seemed to me, then, that before we could talk about action, we’d do well to figure out why we couldn’t talk at all. Figuring that out would have us be that much better equipped for the good and right active pursuit of racial justice. 

AW: In the book, you use these fictional characters to unpack some of the common responses to the topic and provide an entry point. Why start with a story? Why not just begin with application and teachings?

IA: There’s something in people that loves a story. We see Jesus use them so often — the parables. Nathan, in 2 Samuel 12, when confronting David uses what? A story! David is sucked into it before he realizes that he is the bad guy. Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, though massive, reads beautifully because it’s told primarily through the lens of story. And so, I landed on a story because a fictional account would help me grasp the complexity that people are. Writing straightforward, didactic stuff, while I do that, doesn’t allow for painting the complexity that you and I so often live in. A person is more than their political opinions, their racial perspective, their racial sins. A story helped me to paint that complex picture more clearly. 

AW: When reading the chapter about the two sisters, Anna Beth and Samantha Lee, I was struck how often I have seen their argument play out, whether in real life or social media. One is more concerned with structural issues and doesn’t think her church and peers care enough about racism. The other thinks an overemphasis on race is part of the problem causing the divisions and anger. So as you look at the state of the discourse among white evangelicals today with one another, what counsel would you offer? 

IA: I try to offer a lot of different counsel in the book, as there are so many things to address. One piece of counsel I would give is to listen to the perspective of non-white evangelicals, and I praise God for many of my white brothers and sisters who do that. That said, often, the things that determine “the race conversation” are the anxieties and burdens of white evangelicals. But it’s important to realize that all people in the kingdom of God have anxieties and burdens that need to be addressed.

AW: One of the main reasons, you write, that we should engage in cross-race conversations about this topic is because “love compels” us. What do you mean by that? And if so, why are we so hard-pressed to have these conversations?

IA: I meant that love ought to be the main motivator behind our conversations. Without this, we could have all racial knowledge in the world and still be a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13). To love God and love neighbor are the two greatest commandments, and so it’s love for God’s glory, love for our Christian witness, love for our hurting neighbors that ought to motivate us — not revenge or power. 

In terms of being hard-pressed, I think it’s easy for many American Christians to have a biblical gospel in name but a prosperity gospel in function — a gospel that says life should always be easy. But, of course, we know that Scripture says quite the opposite. In the world we will have trouble (John 16:33). I say this because I think it’s easy to assume that love should be pain free. But the cross shows us that love can be painful, difficult, messy. And so much of what’s going on in our conversations about race is painful, difficult, messy. So while love is our motivator, it actually presses us further into hard things rather than further from them. Still, those hard things, I’d say, are good and worthwhile things to wrestle with.

AW: The recent COVID lockdowns and the protests for racial justice of the last few years have highlighted the exit of many African Americans from predominantly white congregations. Your book thinks through that process and doesn’t condemn Christians who make a decision to stay or leave. How would you encourage Christians to wrestle with that choice? Are there clear reasons why someone should choose to leave or stay?

IA: I appreciate this question! In the book, I tried to tackle questions like these head on. My main encouragement for Christians wrestling with this choice would be to fear the Lord most in the decision. It’s easy to fear what people will say about you, whether they call you an Uncle Tom for staying or a theological liberal for leaving. It turns out, though, that these aren’t the only two options. What’s more, someone’s opinion of you pales in importance compared to the Lord’s opinion about you. That said, the decision to leave or stay can be so difficult, so painful. As an African American who often navigates white spaces, I felt I had to address The Black Exodus from predominantly white churches. 

Regarding the clear reasons to stay or leave, yes — there are some reasons that are clear, and some that aren’t so clear. I lay that out on pages 32-36 in my book. 

AW: A helpful part of the book is the reminder that conversations about race are not just about the white-black binary, even if it appears to be the most pressing and visible. As you wrote about Jane (Eun-ji) and Luis, what were you hoping Christians would understand about this conversation?

IA: The black-white conversation is obviously an important one, and it’s a historically unique one. However, the kingdom of God is wonderfully colorful; it’s not just black and white. And I wanted to convey that in the book because if we’re going to faithfully follow Jesus amidst race relations, we’re going to have to remember that he bled and died for all tribes, not just ours. 

AW: Throughout the book, I was constantly thinking about the way that tone was essential to the conversations, particularly one of humility and lament as well as a refusal to impute motives to others or respond with sarcasm and condescension. How can Christians go about cultivating that in their own lives and conversations? The lives of their families? Their churches? 

IA: Start with prayer. Ask the Lord to reveal to you your hidden faults (Psa. 19:12). Then, go to a brother or sister from the “other side” and admit to them some things they’re right about. Then pray some more. Apologize for some of the ways you have not conducted yourself helpfully in these conversations. Then pray some more. Then, tell that person some things you are afraid about regarding this conversation. Then pray some more. Confession, humility, vulnerability, prayer — this is how we lower defenses rather than make other people defensive. 

AW: For a topic that is so polarizing, what encouragement would you offer for how to get the conversation started? And what should be our goal in that conversation? 

IA: There’s no better goal than Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The goal, then, is to benefit others. In terms of getting started, you would be shocked at how much talking to God (praying) before talking to that person can help you. After prayer, you might just print out this interview, ask the person to read it, and ask two questions: 1) What did you think of this? 2) Can I please share what I thought, and some of my hopes and fears in this conversation? 

By / Feb 3

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Racial Reconciliation Sunday.

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