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Floyd, NBCUSA talk racial unity in NY Times

NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and National Baptist Convention President Jerry Young are featured in a Jan. 24th New York Times article on their continued efforts to bring racial healing in the U.S. through the Gospel of Christ.

Still working on goals the two Baptist leaders established in November 2015 at “A National Conversation on Race in America” in Jackson, Miss., the men sat down with New York Times writer Laurie Goodstein to discuss their hearts’ desire to heal wounds that for some run as deep as the SBC’s 1845 founding to uphold the rights of slaveholders.

“I can’t do anything about what happened in 1845, but I can do a lot about where we are today in 2015,” said Floyd, senior pastor of the multisite Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “My church has a lot of people that are not white. We live in the homeland of Walmart, J. B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and the University of Arkansas. And with the growth of those companies, our whole region has changed. And in order for us to reach our region, we have to be able to reach all people.”

Young, who leads the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., formed in 1880 by freed blacks, told the New York Times that the historical dichotomy between the two conventions still surfaces today.

“I’ve never said this to Dr. Floyd, but I’ve had fellows in my own denomination who called me and said: ‘What are you doing? I mean, are you not aware of the history?'” Young said in the interview. “And I say, obviously I’m aware. They bring up the issue about slavery and that becomes a reason, they say, that we ought not to be involved with the Southern Baptists. Where from my vantage point, that’s reverse racism.

“I do understand the history, and I understand the pain of the past,” said Young, who pastors New Hope Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss. “But what I’m also quite clear about is, if the Gospel does anything at all, the Gospel demands that we not only preach but practice reconciliation.”

The leaders of the nation’s two largest Baptist denominations convened 10 pastors from each group in November to find concrete ways to achieve reconciliation between the groups and foster national healing.

“I am convinced that if we don’t get this racism issue right in the church, I don’t think there’s any way we can do it in the culture,” Young said. “The church has a checkered past, even now, with racism, no question. And that’s not just white racism. It’s racism period.”

The men pointed to pulpit exchanges as a next step.

“We’re going to encourage our pastors to swap pulpits, get them in uncomfortable or at least different environments than they’re used to,” Floyd said.

“Fellowshipping is what he’s talking about,” Young added. “We’ve agreed to that. He’s absolutely correct: Suspicion, fear, distrust, all that stuff is there. How do you get beyond that if you don’t get to know people?”

The full question-and-answer style article can be read at www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/opinion/sunday/race-history-and-baptist-reconciliation.html?_r=1.

Floyd and Young are promoting racial reconciliation in the midst of national turmoil expressed in such movements as Black Lives Matter, and the forgiveness exhibited after the June 2015 massacre of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Following the Charleston massacre, Floyd and Young promoted racial unity at an Aug. 25th service held at First Baptist Church in Jackson to honor Emanuel AME’s witness. The two men have dialogued multiple times since the Nov. 4 Jackson, Miss., summit hosted by the nonprofit racial reconciliation group Mission Mississippi, Floyd told Baptist Press.

Floyd has described the Mission Mississippi event as historic.

“I want to remind all of us here today, this meeting is somewhat historic,” Floyd said at the November event, “not simply because we have people from all ethnicities talking about this issue, but these are called men of God, leaders of local churches and ministries, who’ve come together in the common name of Christ, and we are representing the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is a fresh wind to this conversation in the United States and far, far, far overdue.”

Also this past November, the two men voiced their passion for racial reconciliation in a CNN editorial.

“As religious leaders charged with shepherding the faithful, we are resolved to address this tragedy together,” the two men said in the joint CNN editorial. “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.”