Scripture teaches us that it is good for brothers to dwell together in unity. Different races should be able, by God’s grace, to live with mutual respect for each other. I don’t see racial reconciliation as the goal, but the product of God’s people walking in obedience to His Word.
National Baptist Convention president Jerry Young said during the June Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis that the problem was the church not being what God has called the church to be. “The problem is contaminated salt, concealed light, whereby we do not express the love of Christ nor extend His light,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest story coming out of the SBC’s annual meeting was a resolution against the Confederate flag. The resolution itself was strengthened through an amendment made by James Merritt, former convention president. His impassioned speech roused many of the messengers. His amendment and the resolution, as amended, both passed overwhelmingly. Merritt wrote on his blog following the vote: “Our nation, in some ways, has come full circle from Ferguson to Charleston to St. Louis, [but] many still harbor racist attitudes. It has become a barrier to even considering the Christian faith among many African-Americans. But, as a Christian, I know that every Confederate flag in the world is not worth one human soul of any race.”
The resolution made headlines across the country. In the body of the resolution, South Carolina’s leaders and the leaders of the South Carolina Baptist Convention were praised for influencing our state to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse following the Emanuel 9 murders. Then, SCBC president Tommy Kelley and interim executive director-treasurer Richard Harris issued a statement calling for the removal of the flag. All seven SCBC institution presidents supported removing the flag.
On July 6, 2015, the South Carolina Senate voted 37-3 to remove the flag from the Statehouse grounds, and the House followed suit in a 94-20 vote. Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill banishing the flag from the Capitol grounds, and on July 10 it was taken down in a public ceremony and placed in the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum about a mile from the Capitol building.
Former governors Dick Riley, David Beasley and Jim Hodges joined Gov. Haley at the bill signing. Beasley, a Southern Baptist who lost his re-election bid to Hodges — in part because of his support for removing the flag — was there to watch the flag-removal ceremony. He said that he always believed he would live to see the flag taken down one day. “I didn’t know when, and obviously God’s own time is not my timing, but it was worth the wait,” he said.
The Southern Baptist Convention, following the action of South Carolina, has now passed a resolution urging Southern Baptists to refrain from flying the battle flag. For South Carolina and for the SBC, the disavowal of the flag was a big issue.
But now a bigger question remains. Will these actions motivate and inspire us to build the kind of healthy racial reconciliation that can only come through the strength of God and the wisdom of His Word? Let’s pray that the love of God dwelling inside us will be greater than the prejudices that all of us have felt at one time or another.
When we seek first His kingdom, we will work toward racial acceptance, and we will judge no one by the color of his or her skin. When that happens, it will touch our world in an unforgettable way as people witness the work of God’s transforming grace in us. Let us pray that genuine racial reconciliation will happen in our denomination, our state, and our nation — not because our goal is racial reconciliation, but because of our obedience to God, which will bring racial reconciliation and so much more.