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Nation's Largest Protestant Denomination Elects First African American Chairman: How Advocacy Can Change Our Culture


The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was founded in 1845. Slavery played a significant role in its formation, a fact for which the denomination has expressed great remorse.

In a resolution adopted on its 150th anniversary, the SBC stated, “We lament and repudiate historical acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest” and added, “We apologize to all African Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime.”

The denomination further stated, “We ask forgiveness from our African American brothers and sisters,” and then committed to “pursuing racial reconciliation in all our relationships.”

Now the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has taken a significant step in this pursuit. The SBC’s Executive Committee, the group that runs the business of the denomination outside its annual meetings, has elected its first African American chairman.

Rev. Rolland Slade, senior pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, was elected unanimously in what the outgoing chairman called a “wonderful and historic moment.” He was previously vice chairman of the committee and chair of its Cooperative Program Committee.

How Tony Evans and Robert Morris are making a difference

I became a Christian through the outreach of a Southern Baptist church and graduated from a Southern Baptist seminary. While Denison Forum is nondenominational, I will forever be grateful for the contributions made by Southern Baptists to my faith and life.

But I have never been as proud of Southern Baptists as I am today. Nor have I been more committed to their goal of “pursuing racial reconciliation in all our relationships.”

To that end, this week we have been answering Benjamin Watson’s call to respond to racial injustice with awareness, advocacy, and action. Yesterday we discussed awareness, examining the history of racism in American culture and asking God to reveal any vestige of this sin in our lives.

Today, let’s focus on advocacy, defined by Merriam-Webster as “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” We practice advocacy when we use our influence in the service of a value or purpose. The Executive Committee of the SBC practiced advocacy when it elected an African American chairman. Dr. Tony Evans practiced advocacy when he wrote a brilliant article for the Dallas Morning News stating that “the church must address racial, economic, health care, and opportunity inequity, as well as recognize the systems that work against the fair treatment of people.”

Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church practiced advocacy by talking with ministers of different races “to hear the stories from these precious men and women of God of the racism and prejudice that they faced and that their families have faced, their parents, their grandparents.” He adds that their tragic stories “will break your heart.” His church’s website states, “We acknowledge the evils of racism and discrimination fighting so hard to tear us and our nation apart at the seams.” It adds: “While these issues can be difficult to talk about, we want to keep talking about them and empower you with resources to help you in your own conversations.”

Three steps to justice and truth

The Bible calls Eve “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). We are all created by the same Father and descended from the same parents. How can you and I be effective advocates for the value of every human being of every race as created in the image of God?

One: Identify your platform

God has given you resources, abilities, and spiritual gifts that are uniquely yours. Ask the Lord to help you define your mission and influence in our culture today. (For more, see my latest Faithwire article“Are There At Least 36 Intelligent Civilizations in Our Galaxy? Why Our Uniqueness Is Relevant to COVID-19 and Racism Today.”)

Two: Pray for God’s words and God’s heart

Human words cannot transform human hearts, but God’s word spoken in the power of God’s Spirit will advance God’s kingdom in our culture and impact others for eternity. Ask the Lord to lead you to the biblical truth he intends for you to share with grace (cf. Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 3:15). (For more, see my latest Stream article, “How to Talk about LGBTQ Issues and Racism: Speaking the Truth in Love.”)

Three: Use your influence to stand for God’s inclusive love

God called his prophet to “run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her” (Jeremiah 5:1). There is no justice that is not built on truth, and no truth that does not lead to justice.

Once you know your platform and you have prayed for God’s leading, look for ways to advance truth and justice in the lives of those you influence. And know that, however they respond, your obedience will bear eternal significance (Matthew 25:23).

The urgent question of the hour

The hymn, God is Love, closes with these words:

Sin and death and hell shall never
O’er us final triumph gain;
God is love, so Love for ever
O’er the universe must reign.

What part of the “universe” will you influence with God’s love today?

Publication date: June 18, 2020

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Rawpixel

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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