By / Apr 2

From the 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit on "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation"

By / Mar 27

All people are created in the Image of God and that changes everything. It changes how we view and interact with others, as well as the issues that we care about as believers. Every lives matters because every life is created in the image of God.

By / Mar 13

Increasing numbers of evangelical Christians are beginning to address the topic of race and the church in a public and biblical way. Actually, for the first time (that I can remember), there are not only workshops devoted to the topic, but entire conferences.

Many of the entities hosting these conferences are comprised predominantly of white men and women, which could be a cause of skepticism for some. I tend to closely scrutinize the speakers, topics and intentions of such events. I’m looking for signs of how dedicated a ministry and its leaders are when it comes to racial reconciliation. Applying the gospel to the wounds of racism in the church is costly and exhausting work. This labor has a way of inviting such conflict and criticism that many shrink back once they experience it.

In addition, it’s always hazardous for those from the majority to address issues that require minority perspectives. If the leaders haven’t had extensive cross-cultural interactions or they fail to see all the implications of the gospel for racial healing, then the event can easily do more harm than good. 

So why am I excited about the ERLC’s Leadership Summit on racial reconciliation? 

1. Thrilling topics

Scroll through the topics and speakers for the Summit. They are thrilling. It’s hard to choose when you have seminars such as:

  • “Firing Line: How Racism Cost My Father His Pastorate But Rescued my Soul”
  • “The State of Racial Reconciliation in America: Ferguson, Eric Garner, and Your Community, Pop-Culture”
  • “Racial Reconciliation: Hip-Hop Sports, and Everyday Life”

2. Trusted speakers

A peek at the speakers for this event is reason enough to register for the Summit.

  • Tony Evans will be doing a plenary titled, “Oneness Embraced: Racial Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and Justice.” 
  • I’m excited to hear Fred Luter, the first African-American president of the SBC, talk about racial reconciliation and the kingdom of Christ.
  • My friend and RAAN Board member, Trillia Newbell, will share her wisdom about racial unity in the church and in friendships.
  • And, the storied and still fiery Civil Rights leader, John Perkins, will talk about the status of the Movement after 50 years.
  • The assemblage of godly and wise speakers at the ERLC Summit on racial reconciliation gives me great confidence about its quality.

3. A recognized urgency 

The main reason I’m excited about the ERLC Summit on racial reconciliation is that the leaders recognize the urgency of the issue. This year’s Summit wasn’t always going to be about racial reconciliation. The original topic was “The Gospel for Life,” which would address the pro-life movement and related issues. This theme will be integrated into a 2016 event in conjunction with the March for Life. 

Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, and his staff thought it wise to pivot their focus for this year’s Summit. The events in Ferguson, Mo., concerning Mike Brown and in New York City with Eric Garner, as well as several other fatal encounters between African-Americans and law enforcement officials, compel Christians to pointedly address issues of race. I appreciate the ERLC’s commitment to racial reconciliation, but I appreciate them even more for recognizing the topic must be addressed now. 

Christians, especially those in the racial majority, must quickly and decisively move to foster greater racial unity in the church. While I am grateful that more evangelicals seem to be paying attention to race in this country, that’s not enough. Four centuries of segregation and racism is enough. Tomorrow is too late for racial reconciliation. Unity in the church must commence immediately, broadly and biblically.

As an African-American, it sends a clear message to me that an organization is committed to racial reconciliation if they are willing to change plans to address it. I hope more churches and ministries learn from what the ERLC has done. Racial harmony is not a social issue, it is a gospel issue. That should be all the motivation a Christian needs to take action now. 

By / Dec 18

NOTE: The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015. To learn more go here.

Russell Moore explains the Bible's teachings on the equality of all men.

Moore is president of the ERLC. In this role, he leads the organization in all its efforts to connect the agenda of the kingdom of Christ to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the mission of the gospel in the world.

By / Apr 22

Liberal Christians often champion themselves as facilitators of deep, authentic dialogue about the cultural issues facing America’s faithful. But when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) gathered together yesterday for their first-ever leadership summit to genuinely discuss a myriad of sexual morality topics–including same-sex marriage and sexuality, the premier cultural conundrum facing the Church–unexpected kickback erupted on social media.

Unsurprisingly, non-Christians and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & Queer (LGBTQ) community was less than nice in their commentary surrounding the ERLC’s biblical perspective on God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman. What the ERLC didn’t anticipate was women’s rather off base resentments launched at the summit and its mission.

Ladies in the Twitterverse had this to say about the summit:

Hannah Lewis ‏@hishtaphel @pr3130girl:

@SBCvoices I was raised Baptist. They’re not all like this. This #erlcsummit is like all the Baptist Stupid put in one room.

Rachel Held Evans ‏@rachelheldevans:Since it probably won’t be said at#erlcsummit: Abuse at church *must* be reported to authorities, not just handled “in house.”

dana ‏@thedanasmith:i once lived that hell. i was once a product of your air of superiority and hatefulness. i am so grateful to be free from it #erlcsummit

Hannah Wright ‏@wrightinthecity:

I’m doing my best to ignore the #erlcsummit tweets because the stuff being quoted? Absolute insanity. Lord help us.

Hannah Lewis ‏@hishtaphel:

If you are at the #erlcsummit and you are a woman, you don’t have to live in shame or fear or guilt about your body. U are not the problem.

Thank you, Hannah for your concern. But as a 20-something single working woman who was in attendance at yesterday’s summit (the first day of a three day event, mind you), I witnessed neither patriarchal superiority, insanity, avoidance of abuse, nor hatefulness.  Nor did I feel shamed or guilty for wearing a hemline above the knee without a blazer and  pantyhose.

If I had witnessed “hatefulness” or male oppression and privilege, then I’d be the first to publicly address my outrage. But relying on tired stereotypes instead of thoughtful analysis and participation is not exactly the communication strategy we should be implementing to make our female voices heard.

Choosing to “lean in” and participate, I didn’t hear patriarchy and oppression. Instead, I heard keynote speaker Heath Lambert, Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College, say, “I am praying for a movement among the church to fight for and protect women from being consumed” by pornography.

Believe it or not, same-sex marriage was not the focal point of yesterday’s discussions. Pornography in the church was the first topic addressed by Heath Lambert. Raising the question, “What type of young men are we creating?,” Lambert noted that twelve is the average young boy’s age when first exposed to pornography.

During a breakout session, Pastor Scroggins talked with youth ministry leaders, including myself, about how to talk honestly with teenagers about sexuality and marriage, not just same-sex dispositions.

“Sexual information is pursuing your kids. It’s everywhere,” said Scroggins. But he also addressed why the culture (including many within the church) “view marriage as a capstone, instead of a cornerstone.” Next he talk about how 60 percent of evangelical kids are having sex before graduating high school. Finally, Scroggins highlighted the effects of a radical autonomous ethos and divorce among Generation X and Millenials. In other words, he discussed all present-day concerns that everyone in the church should be talking about, not just the self-appointed progressives.

Actually, the tone from keynote speakers regarding sexual immorality of all types is noticeably different than even I expected. “We have to reject redneck theology in all of its forms,” reminded Pastor Jimmy Scroggins during a panel discussion on homosexuality and the Gospel. “No Adam and Steve jokes.”

In the past Southern Baptists have not always gotten it right. But they appear to be working to rebuild trust and respect with non-Christians. “We need to take the courageous gospel message of love to a broken culture and proclaim freedom from sin!” proclaimed  Lambert.

While I would have appreciated more female voices within the panel discussions and breakout sessions, it cannot be disputed that the ERLC’s tone is shifting in a genuine attempt to mirror the Gospel and balance a message of grace, respect for all women and men, repentance and reconciliation in a troubled post-modern world.

Christian women whose theology doesn’t completely align with the SBC should not dismiss their brothers and sisters in Christ so quickly and harshly.

If evangelical women want their voice to be represented louder at SBC events such as the ERLC Summit, perhaps next year my fellow sisters in Christ can step away from the Twitter feed, chose not to dismiss an event because it is labeled “Baptist,”  and join in the authentic face to face dialogue.

These are hard discussions, but the brokenness of humanity should drive every Christ-following woman and man to engage when it is not convenient nor easy. As Heath Lambert said well, “It is not hateful to call people to repent. It is not loving to let people exist in their sin.”

By / Apr 22

The following is a sampling of media coverage from the 2014 ERLC Leadership Summit:

Southern Baptist summit has frank talk on sex

Heidi Hall, USA Today

The nation’s culture war is over when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Southern Baptist leaders said Monday, but now it’s up to the church to stand firm on its principles despite what the majority believes.

ERLC Leadership Summit: How Should the Church and Local Congregations Respond to Today’s Sexuality?
Morgan Lee, Christian Post

Those participating in the three-day Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Summit beginning today plan to address the Gospel and human sexuality in an effort to equip pastors and church leaders on critical issues such as broken marriages, pornography, and homosexuality.

Baptists Tell Pastors At Sexuality Summit: No More ‘Adam And Steve’ Jokes
Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio

Fewer jokes and check your facts – those are two of the tips on handling homosexuality shared with Southern Baptist pastors gathered in Nashville.

Women, Sexuality, & the ERLC Summit
Chelsen Vicari , Juicy Ecumenism

Liberal Christians often champion themselves as facilitators of deep, authentic dialogue about the cultural issues facing America’s faithful. But when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) gathered together yesterday for their first-ever leadership summit to genuinely discuss a myriad of sexual morality topics–including same-sex marriage and sexuality, the premier cultural conundrum facing the Church–unexpected kickback erupted on social media.