Southern Baptist pastor Terry Turner has a newspaper clipping from the early 1900s telling of a family member taken from jail by a mob of southern whites and lynched, never tried or convicted of a crime.
Turner’s memory of growing up as an African American under Jim Crow segregation laws in Guthrie, Okla., partly fuels his support of Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd’s racial reconciliation initiative launched today (Dec. 15), calling for Southern Baptists to repent of racism and unite in love. Twenty other Southern Baptist pastors signed the appeal, including leaders from the white, black, Asian, Native American and Latino communities.
The appeal, titled “The wounds run deep: racism and injustice must end and let grace and love begin,” is on Floyd’s online SBC President’s Page and addressed to Southern Baptist pastors, churches, leaders and laypeople. Floyd wrote the post “under conviction of the Holy Spirit that I must do something as a Christian, a pastor and as the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said, and was prompted to hold a conference call with four black and two white pastors Dec. 10.
“The time is now for us to rise up together and cry out against the racism that still exists in our nation and our churches, and the subsequent injustices,” Floyd wrote. “We are grieved that racism and injustice still abound in our nation in 2014. All human beings are created by God and in His image. The dignity of each individual needs to be recognized and appreciated by each of us and by all of the 50,000 churches and congregations that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Floyd referenced 1 Corinthians 12:26 in calling for Southern Baptists to understand and work to alleviate the pain of racism and injustice within the body of Christ.
“With heavy hearts, we recognize the deep pain and hurt that has come to many of our African American brothers and sisters. The recent events in America have reawakened many of their greatest fears. Their wounds from the past run deep,” Floyd wrote. “Without relationships and conversations, we will never understand one another. Because you hurt, we hurt with you today. We are a part of the same body of Christ, His church, which is to be a picture of the multi-faceted wisdom of God.
“We are not black Christians. We are not white Christians. We are not Latino Christians. We are not Asian Christians. We are not Native American Christians,” Floyd wrote. “We are Christians! We are followers of Jesus Christ.”
Floyd encouraged Southern Baptists to combat racism as the convention has fought other sins.
“Southern Baptists have always been a prophetic voice crying out against matters such as the evil of abortion, the persecution of Christians around the world, the tragedy of human trafficking, or the sexual sins from adultery to homosexuality,” Floyd wrote. “All racism and injustice [are] sin. All ethnicities are capable of committing the sin of racism. Pastors, churches, leaders, and laypeople of the Southern Baptist Convention, the time is now for us to repent personally and collectively of all racism and injustice. Silence is not the answer and passivity is not our prescription for healing.”
Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, and a former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, participated in the conference call and signed Floyd’s declaration. Without racial reconciliation, the U.S. will not experience the revival for which Southern Baptists have long prayed, Turner said.
“We’ve come to a point where, if we’re going to have revival in our country, then our convention will have to address the issue of racism that has been prevalent in our country since the 1600s and has kept us as a people divided,” Turner told Baptist Press. “Until we can come together as a unified people of God … [and] deal with that issue, true revival can’t come, because it won’t provide the oneness that God requires of His people.”
Racism has been America’s shame for generations, said Turner, who recalls having to enter the back doors of restaurants and not being allowed to ask for a seat, simply because of his race. The sin of racism has hindered the U.S. as a whole, he said.
“I believe that [racism] has been the nemesis and the shame of America, because when it came to difficult positions of where we stood, we didn’t have a clear understanding of biblically what racism was doing to us, even in the days of slavery,” Turner said. “The Civil War was started over the issue of where the Bible stood on slavery, and even today, many people are still dealing with unregenerate hearts that have trickled down from the Jim Crow laws as well as from the days of slavery.
“Until our convention comes together, and really learns to reach across racial lines, and love our brothers of different ethnicities, revival won’t come, because oneness won’t be there in the body of Christ,” Turner said.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press