NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and National Baptist Convention President Jerry Young authored a joint CNN editorial today (Nov. 9) urging pastors to proclaim racism a sin and initiate conversations on racial unity.
“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,” the leaders wrote. “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.”
Floyd and Young urged racial reconciliation at Mission Mississippi’s annual racial reconciliation summit Nov. 4, and also promoted racial unity at an Aug. 25th service held at First Baptist Church in Jackson to honor the witness of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the site of a massacre of nine blacks at a Bible study in June.
Floyd, who pastors Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and Young, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., continue to emphasize the leadership role of pastors in racial reconciliation.
“As we move forward, we do not presume that this discussion can be brief or easy. It requires us to look inward, to shine a light on things we would rather keep hidden from ourselves and from God. It demands the courage of honest testimony and sincere forgiveness,” the pastors wrote. “It will rely on clergy all over this nation who are willing to step up, speak out and urge their congregations to begin community conversations about racial unity.”
The two described racism as the nation’s “deepest national wound,” and said it “creates between us a false division” and “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,” they wrote, “a perpetuation of the lie that only some are made in God’s image, and the rest are disposable.”
Fostering unity will require truthful dialogue, the two leaders noted.
“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,” they wrote. “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.”
While racism has been seen in tragic, public events, there are also private, unpublicized realities that are troubling, the pastors noted.
“You can’t turn on the news today without hearing about another incident of racial tension: a shooting here, an aggression there,” they wrote. “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.”
The two used the Bible as a foundation in calling racism a sin.
“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,” they wrote. “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.”
At 7 million members, the National Baptist Convention is the second largest Baptist convention in the nation, with the SBC counting about 16 million members.