Black and White Baptist Convention Pastors: It’s Time to Talk About Racial Injustice

Ronnie Floyd, left, and Jerry Young say it's time for pastors to talk about racial injustice.
Ronnie Floyd, left, and Jerry Young say it’s time for pastors to talk about racial injustice.

Ronald Reagan once said that “all great change in America begins at the dinner table,” and we agree. But, as ministers, we also believe that great change can’t happen unless someone sets the table for tough conversations. That’s where the pulpit comes in.

Recent events have poured salt in our deepest national wound: the injustice of racism. You can’t turn on the news today without hearing about another incident of racial tension: a shooting here, an aggression there.

But, it’s the incidents that don’t make the news that trouble us, too: the passed-over promotion, the crude comment, the suspicious stare.

We lead two of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations, each with their own complicated pasts and experiences with this issue, and we see the adverse effects of racism in our respective churches every day.

Racism is all around us. You might even say it’s in our national DNA, because in a way, it is: Sin is in our DNA, at the heart of the human condition. Prejudice against our fellow man is one particularly visible and egregious example of this.

Because the Bible teaches that all men and women are created equal, we know that the sin of racism is not simply a violation against one but a crime against humanity.

Racism creates between us a false division; it fosters the illusion that those of different ethnicities, who share the divine imprint, are instead our enemies. It is a sin founded upon fear and ignorance, a perpetuation of the lie that only some are made in God’s image, and the rest are disposable.

As religious leaders charged with shepherding the faithful, we are resolved to address this tragedy together. Now, as ever, pastors across America must stand before their congregations and call racism for what it is: ugly, unwarranted and un-Christian in all its forms.

Last week in Jackson, Mississippi, we did just that. Each of us invited 10 pastors from our respective denominations to gather for a summit we described as “A National Conversation on Racial Unity.”

We trust that when people of faith come together in peace, compassion and humility, seeking nothing but truth and freedom, the scene is set for dialogue. Not political dialogue, mind you, nor an argument, a thread of Facebook comments or even a sermon but rather an authentic exchange of perspectives and a genuine petition for our nation.

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Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Jerry Young is president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, the nation’s largest predominantly African-American denomination. The views expressed in this column belong to Floyd and Young.

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