African-American Pastors Say Racial Injustice In America Won’t Be Resolved Until the Nation’s Clergy Demonstrate “Relationships of Equality”

Pastors Joseph Parker of Austin, Michael Evans of Mansfield and Delvin Atchison of Waco participate in a panel discussion on race and justice. (PHOTO / Rachel Hendricks)
Pastors Joseph Parker of Austin, Michael Evans of Mansfield and Delvin Atchison of Waco participate in a panel discussion on race and justice. (PHOTO / Rachel Hendricks)

Racial injustice abounds in America, and it won’t be resolved until the nation’s clergy demonstrate “relationships of equality,” a trio of African-American pastors told a multiracial crowd gathered by the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission.

“Let Justice Roll Down: African-American Perspectives on Justice” highlighted the CLC Advocacy Day in Austin April 9. The commission sponsors the event during each Texas legislative session, primarily to educate Baptists on political issues and to allow them to voice their concerns to lawmakers.

But the African-American pastors’ noontime discussion riveted attention on racial currents ricocheting across the country.

Asked to cite “unjust situations” in America, Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, countered: “Where do we start?”

“DWB—‘driving while black,’” he began. “Walking in a store and being watched the whole time. There are 10,000 things. …”

He cited a litany of racial concerns: “Erosion of the Voting Rights Act, the ‘criminal injustice system,’ resegregation of our school systems and the collective amnesia of Americans, who have forgotten this is an immigrant nation.”

“You cannot live in this country if you are African-American without seeing some form of injustice,” reported Delvin Atchison, pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Waco.

“There’s no denying I’m black,” he said. “Being black has carried this idea—not that I’m ‘other than’ (whites), but that I’m ‘less than.’”

The challenge of building self-esteem

Tragically, many African-Americans have bought into that thinking, and when they see white people, they think, “better than,” Atchison added, noting racism has left African-American pastors with the monumental challenge of building self-esteem among their parishioners.

“I learned about justice and injustice long before I knew what the Bible says about it,” noted Joseph Parker, pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Austin.

He recounted growing up in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1950s and ’60s, the only son of a Baptist pastor who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement.

Back then, Birmingham was an “evil, unjust city,” and Parker attended segregated schools through the eighth grade. He was the first African-American from his neighborhood to integrate the nearby high school in ninth grade.

“It was not a good time,” he recalled, telling also about arriving at 16th Street Baptist Church as smoke still hung in the air after white supremacists bombed the building, killing little girls.

Even then, Parker’s father shared pulpits with white pastors, and he saw whites protest for civil rights alongside blacks.

“God stirred up in me out of those experiences a commitment to build up race relations,” he said.

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SOURCE: The Baptist Standard
Marv Knox

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