“We don’t go there.” My mom told me this when I told her I was going to a local Southern Baptist church in my hometown for the first time. I knew what she meant. She meant that the church had a history of restricting black people from their services. She meant you would not fit in there. She meant people would look at you as if you didn’t belong there. Despite her warning, I said, “Well, I am going.”
Southern Baptists have a sinful past. Convictions about slavery resulted in the formation of the SBC. Our denominational leaders defended the right to own black people as property. We have a history of excluding African-Americans from our churches. Southern Baptists opposed and/or didn’t support the Civil Rights Movement.
There are still churches where African-Americans are not welcome. Churches continue to fire staff because of the church’s racism. Many churches are still reluctant to speak up for equality and injustice. In the past, we thought racial reconciliation was a social issue. We willingly gave the task to the secular world. Racial Reconciliation is a Christian issue, but more than that it is a Gospel issue.
The Gospel Speaks to Racial Reconciliation
In Antioch, Peter began eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles. Then the Jews came to town and Peter changed. He began to withdraw from the Gentiles. He feared his circumcised brothers, which even caused Barnabas to act hypocritically. They were afraid the Jews would think they were associating with Gentile sinners.
Paul was so outraged by Peter’s behavior that he rebuked Peter in front of everyone. Paul comments about their conduct saying their “conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel,” (Galatians 2:14). This comment implies the Gospel speaks to racial reconciliation and racism.
The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14) and now we are fellow citizens of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). God has provided us with a message that brings together even those who have a history of hating one another. No philosophy or secular idea has the power of our Gospel. We have a message that reconciles. It reconciles people to God and people to one another.
In 1996, Southern Baptist resolved “to pursue racial reconciliation in all our relationships, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ.”  Racial Reconciliation begins with listening to brothers and sisters in Christ from various ethnicities.
Listen to learn.
One conversation is not the final solution, but one of many can help in discerning it. Are we resolved to do so? Church, we can’t change yesterday, but we can set the pace for tomorrow. We can’t allow the past and cultural differences to prevent the unity of God’s people.
When my mom said “We don’t go there” she wanted the past to prevent me from going to that church. After the warning, I attended that church. That day I had the opportunity to see an African-American deacon preach. I could have missed seeing someone who was once not allowed in the services preach there. We must remember the past but not let it prevent unity.
I know the SBC used to prevent my people from membership in their churches. I know they fought for the right to have slaves.
But I refuse to let that prevent the unity of the Body of Christ. I am resolved to pursue racial reconciliation. I urge you to join me in the pursuit of uniting God’s people through the power of the Gospel. This must be an intentional effort or it could be said about your church, ministry, or seminary that “We don’t go there.”
Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention Atlanta, Georgia – 1995
Originally Posted on Geaux Therefore