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Unify Project, Southern Baptist ethics arm host racial unity event

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The Unify Project is joining with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2023 Annual Meeting to equip pastors in initiating racial reconciliation.

“Simple Steps to Unity: Walking Together Toward a Better Future,” a panel discussion June 12 from 9-10:30 p.m. in the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, will feature The Unify Project cofounders and former SBC Presidents Ed Litton and Fred Luter, and ERLC President Brent Leatherwood, and others.

Tips to build upon existing relationships to spur community unity, navigate challenging conversations about race, foster a community of cooperation, create unity in the church and help the SBC continue to advance racial reconciliation are on tap. Pastors, parents, seminary students and other Christians will benefit from the event slated for rooms R06-R09 on the second floor of the convention center, Leatherwood said.

“This event, in collaboration with the Unify Project, is a great opportunity for Southern Baptists to join together in their commitment to racial unity,” Leatherwood told Baptist Press. “We pray that people will come away encouraged by this ongoing work in our convention to develop a culture of unity brought about as only the Gospel can do. That allows our churches to be a beacon of hope and healing to their communities, which is especially needed in this time of division and despair.”

In addition to Litton, senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., and Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Leatherwood joins panelists Carla Arriola, a Texas church planter with husband Julio; Victor Chayasirisobhon, SBC first vice president, president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim, Calif.; Marcus Hayes, lead pastor, Crossroads Baptist Church, The Woodlands, Texas; Mike Keahbone, senior pastor, Cherokee Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Jon Nelson, lead pastor, Soma Community Church, Jefferson City, Mo.

The Unify Project, a Gospel-centered, ethnically diverse racial reconciliation ministry designed to mobilize Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in unifying their communities, launched in November 2022 after its unveiling at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

“Since then-SBC President Ed Litton first introduced this project in California at the Southern Baptist Convention with the support and input of nationally respected Dr. Tony Evans, the response has been overwhelming and supportive,” Luter said upon the project’s launch. “This project has the potential of unifying the Southern Baptist Convention, which is so desperately needed not only in this Convention but across this nation.”

Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and a noted author, theologian and radio host, has helped shape the Unify Project with resources used in The Urban Alternative ministry he leads, Litton said as the project launched.

“We promised Southern Baptists that we would give simple tools and encourage them, for pastors and leaders in our churches to become leaders in racial reconciliation in their community,” Litton said. “Our hope is it will have a different expression just about everywhere it goes. Our hope is that it will begin to reveal to our communities and to the nation the power of the Gospel to heal old wounds, to unify for the sake of the Gospel, so that our churches will serve our communities together. And we believe it will open doors for the Gospel.”

Registration for Simple Steps to Unity is available here at no cost.

“I urge Southern Baptists to join us for this encouraging event at the upcoming annual meeting,” Leatherwood said in promoting the New Orleans event. “As Christians, we are called to model a better way in this fallen world – a way that reveals the inherent dignity of each individual made in the image of God. Just as the imago Dei influences our work to save the preborn and care for the vulnerable, it also drives our work to advance unity and racial reconciliation.”