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Historic meeting sets forward the task of interracial cooperation

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Paige Patterson, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention joined hands Nov. 30, on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, symbolizing the desire of the two conventions to work together to spread the gospel to every nation.

The mostly African-American National Baptist Convention and the mostly white Southern Baptist Convention have grown closer in recent years as demonstrated by this unprecedented visit between Shaw and Patterson and by Patterson’s invitation for Shaw to address the students and faculty in chapel.

“This is the first time, as far as I know, that the president of the National Baptist Convention ever appeared on campus here,” said Paige Patterson, Southeastern president. “It is deliberately an effort on Dr. Shaw’s part, and on my part, to set forward the task of interracial cooperation and bringing an end, if we possibly can, to the racism in this country.”

While he said nothing official has been planned for future ventures together, Patterson did say the two groups have talked openly with one another in hopes of working toward cooperation.

“In which ways we are to join hands has not yet become apparent,” Patterson said. “But I think that both of us are thinking in those kinds of directions.”

Patterson said Donaldson Jones, pastor of Great Commission Baptist Church, Burlington, N.C., was instrumental in arranging a meeting between the two presidents after Shaw was elected president of the convention in September 1999. Shaw was accompanied to Southeastern by about eight National Baptist pastors.

Shaw, pastor of the White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia for 43 years, leads the National Baptist Convention, USA, with 8.5 million members, one of the five largest denominations in the United States, numbering 33,000 churches. The two conventions combined hold a membership of over 24 million and count over 70,000 churches.

Encouraging his audience to lay aside personal differences in order to serve Christ fully, Shaw titled his message to Southeastern: “The Post-Resurrection Agenda.”

Shaw directed attention to Acts 1:6, when the apostles had gathered around Jesus to hear his words concerning the kingdom before His ascension into heaven. Instead of listening to what Jesus saw as important, Shaw said the apostles asked him one question: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Shaw observed that the question should be more readily translated, “Master, are you finally going to put us in charge?”

“If one looks at the record of faith, you’ll come to the conclusion that Satan … can’t stop the kingdom movement,” Shaw said. “He can’t stop the church. So what he does is try to write the agenda, because then he’s still able to achieve his own ends.”

Shaw said this is a continual struggle of the faith enterprise. “Most of our struggles in the kingdom, in the church, and in our relationships have to do with who’s in charge.”

Instead of directly answering the apostles’ question, Shaw said Jesus gave them a “post-resurrection agenda” to follow. First, in verse 8, Shaw said Jesus asked the apostles to “proclaim” Him by taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Second, Shaw said Christians are to be witnesses unto Him, “not only to proclaim [Him], but to presence [Him].”

Shaw said “presencing” Jesus was accomplished by others observing the works of the Lord in the believer’s life. Shaw said believers should “presence” the Lord in personal relationships and the world.

“If people look at your church, or they look at mine, if they look at our denominations, would they see the reality of God’s presence in the world?” Shaw asked. “Or would they have a … distorted vision of what He’s all about?”

“Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit were one,” Shaw said. “If we be in Him, ought we not be one in spite of the particularities of our own existence?”

Third, Shaw said if we “presence” the Lord in our commitments, then we will inevitably be moved to “praise” Him just as the apostles praised Him.

“The devil is still trying to change the agenda and in so many instances he’s succeeded,” Shaw said. “Proclaim [Him], presence [Him], praise [Him]. Don’t give the devil the authority to change what is the divine agenda.”

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  • Melissa King