Racially segregated churches ‘blasphemy,’ SBC leader says

Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told participants at “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” summit that Southern Baptists “must repent, not just rebrand.” (ERLC video image)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BNG)—God is giving the Southern Baptist Convention a second chance to atone for its racist past, but “in order to do that, we must repent, not just rebrand,” Russell Moore told a conference in Nashville, Tenn.

“Our heritage is one that comes to us, we’ve been told, through a trail of blood, but not all of that blood is the blood of Christ’s cross,” Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said during a two-day summit titled “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation.”

panel interracial church425A panel on the interracial church, including David Prince (moderator), Josh Smith, H. B. Charles, D.A. Horton and Juan Sanchez, met during the ERLC summit on “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation.” (ERLC video image)Moore based his sermon in the New Testament book of Ephesians, where the Apostle Paul mediates between quarreling Jewish and gentile Christians by reminding both groups they “are united in one body through the gospel.”

“The problem when we come to this text, when we’re talking about issues of racial reconciliation, is that white people inevitably assume that we are the Jewish Christians in this text, and that black people and Hispanic people and Asian people and others are the gentiles,” he said. “We’re the regular people who are supposed to be here, and you all are welcome.”

However, “there aren’t any white people in Jerusalem in First Century A.D.,” he said.

“The fundamental problem that we have when it comes to this issue in the American church, even when we understand that there is a problem, is that those of us who are white, born-again Christians tend to assume that the Body of Christ is white with room for everybody else,” he said. “White people are normal, and the others that we minister to are ethnic.”

Ignoring race is ’empowering the devil’

If preachers do not address race, “we are leaving consciences in sin” and “empowering the devil,” he asserted.

“We are not the state church of the Confederate States of America,” said Moore, a native of Mississippi. “We are not inheritors of a lost cause but of a new creation. The cross and the Confederate battle flag cannot coexist without one setting the other on fire.”

Southern Baptists need not just conservatism, but “the sort of conservatism that knows what to conserve,” he insisted.

“If what we’re conserving is 1950s Dixie, then we’re conserving something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we will be fighting God, and we will not win,” he said.

“For a people who have all the marks on our history that we have, it seems to me that God is working, and God is giving us another chance to get this right. In order to do that, we must repent, not just rebrand.”

A true picture of the kingdom of God

The problem is not that black, white, Hispanic and Asian churches are openly hostile toward each other or cannot come together in a meeting or joint worship service, Moore said, but the message that worshipping separately sends to unbelievers.

“The problem is that Sunday morning, when we are signifying to the rest of the world, ‘Here is a picture of the kingdom of God,’ we gather with the same people we would gather with if Jesus Christ were still dead, and that’s blasphemy,” he said.

This marks the second year the ERLC has held a summit for pastors and church leaders on pressing social issues facing the church. Moore originally planned to address race at next year’s leadership summit but moved it up after the deaths of black men killed in clashes with police in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

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