Texas Baptists express pain, address racial unrest and injustice

Michael Evans, president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, posted a video in which he transparently spoke of his "deep sense of hurt." (Video screengrab)

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The death of George Floyd while in police custody and the outrage it sparked across the nation prompted Texas Baptists to use social media to express their pain and call for justice, peace and prayer.

Michael Evans, president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, posted a June 1 video on Facebook, saying he had “let a few days go by and I tried, the best that I could, to put a rein on my emotions.”

Evans spoke transparently of “the deep sense of hurt that I continue to feel” as the parent of two African American sons. He described instructing his sons how to deal with people in positions of authority.

“I taught them how to say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir.’ I taught them how to put their hands on the steering wheel when they get stopped. I taught them how to put their hands out of the window,” he said. “I taught them how to act when you’re driving while black.”

‘I am hurting … America is hurting’

Evans, who is running for mayor of Mansfield, said he knew his comments likely would cost him votes.

“I am a Black man who has learned how to quote-unquote ‘behave.’ Something is wrong with that,” he said. “I am praying to God for a system that will recognize our humanity. So, no, I can’t be politically correct. I am hurting. My boys are hurting. My community is hurting. America is hurting.”

Evans described his desire “that there might be justice for all and not just justice for the few.”

“America is not America if everybody doesn’t have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

‘Racism is … perfect fear casting out love’

Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, addressed reconciliation and systemic racism in his Pentecost Sunday sermon streamed on Facebook.

Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, addressed reconciliation and systemic racism in his Passover Sunday sermon streamed on Facebook. (Video Screengrab)

“What do you do when the one who needs grace—the one who needs forgiveness—is our whole nation?” he asked.

The previous seven days had been among the most painful days in the history of the United States, Wells asserted. In spite of deaths due to a global pandemic and suffering due to extraordinary levels of unemployment, neither was the headline on Pentecost Sunday, he noted.

“Racism is the consummate expression of perfect fear casting out love,” Wells said. “Therefore, if we are going to overcome racism, we have to have a love that is greater and stronger than fear. Only Jesus offers that kind of love.”

Since the Holy Spirit gave the mission of the church to everybody in the church at Pentecost, that means every Christian has work to do, he insisted.

“Remind yourself that the mission of the church is to bring about a forgiveness that leads to reconciliation, and it makes no sense to be reconciled if you think that the future in front of you looks like the past that hurt you,” Wells said. “Something has to change.”

When it is safe for churches to reassemble as they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wells announced that he and Ralph West, pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, plan for members of their congregations to meet together in small groups around tables for fellowship and meaningful conversation.

“We need to listen with open ears,” he said. “We need to hear how this culture in which we live—in which we have power—has been hurting and even killing people. We need to take responsibility for the way that our blindness and our silence has been complicit in this violence, and we need to make a commitment to change.”

‘Listen more than you speak’

Ellis Orozco, pastor of First Baptist Church in Richardson, likewise posted a Facebook video message in light of the circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd and the response it prompted across the country.

Orozco noted he had waited several days before speaking publicly on the subject to collect his thoughts and allow his own emotions to subside.

Ellis Orozco, pastor of First Baptist Church in Richardson, likewise posted a Facebook video message in light of the circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd and the response it prompted across the country. (Video Screengrab)

He said would address the pertinent issues more thoroughly in a blog article, but in a seven-and-a-half-minute video posted on Pentecost Sunday, he urged his church to reflect on James 1:19.

“I want to ask you to listen more than you speak. … We who are not Black must be quick to listen and slow to become angry,” he said.

Orozco challenged each member of his church to “search your own heart and your own soul before you say a single critical word against anyone.”

“This is not a time for those of us who are not a part of the Black community to point fingers and to accuse,” he said.

Orozco concluded by encouraging his church to “pray like you’ve never prayed before.”

“For now—just for now—I’m asking you to put your own preconceived notions aside. I’m asking you to dismiss for a moment whatever narrative you have chosen to believe,” Orozco said. “And I’m asking you to silence all the voices in your head except one—the voice of God’s Holy Spirit speaking to you. And what the Holy Spirit speaks to you is peace and love and mercy and forgiveness.”

‘Senseless killings’

The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission issued a statement on human dignity May 29 addressed both Floyd’s treatment by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minn., and the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Ky.

The video footage of the police officer who put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes depicted “a cruel and completely unnecessary act,” the CLC stated.

“People are hurting, grieving and enraged by these senseless killings,” the statement continued. “As Christians, we band together and call for justice, regardless of the color of our skin. …

“The Christian Life Commission promotes the love of Christ in all we do. We denounce the racism, inequality and violence that again grips our country. We grieve alongside our brothers and sisters who are hurting. We implore all people of faith to adopt the spirit of solidarity to call out these egregious acts and speak for human life, worth and dignity.”

David Hardage, executive director of the BGCT, tweeted on June 1: “Heartfelt sadness for the family of George Floyd following his senseless death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis…Prayers for justice…Life is precious.”

On May 29, Hardage had posted a brief video and tweeted, “Please join me in praying for justice and peace for our country today.”


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