As SBC Marks Racial Reconciliation Sunday, Nevada Baptists ‘Being Proactive’

Las Vegas pastors Vance Pitman (right) of Hope Church and Robert Fowler of Victory Missionary Baptist Church encouraged racial unity last summer at a joint worship service of the two congregations. Screen capture from Vimeo
Las Vegas pastors Vance Pitman (right) of Hope Church and Robert Fowler of Victory Missionary Baptist Church encouraged racial unity last summer at a joint worship service of the two congregations. Screen capture from Vimeo

Nevada may not be the first place that comes to mind when the topic of racial reconciliation arises.

After all, the latest U.S. Census data reveals more than three-quarters of the state’s population is white. Plus, the Silver State is more than a thousand miles removed from the South — the region of America most known for its need to overcome a heritage of racial prejudice. But Nevada’s Southern Baptists say God is uniquely at work there breaking down racial and cultural barriers.

Two years ago, the Nevada Baptist Convention elected its first non-Anglo president; one of the convention’s largest churches has made secular news headlines for its ministry of racial reconciliation; and the convention’s Ethnic Study Ad Hoc Committee has helped develop new ways to assist ethnic pastors in reaching their communities.

“It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that as a result of being proactive in this area of racial reconciliation, I see great things coming in the future,” NBC President Greg Fields told Baptist Press. “I see a stronger convention. I see greater participation and a desire to come alongside our brothers regardless of race, ethnicity or even location within the state. We see that it’s Christ that has drawn us, and He is our focus.”

Fields, an African American who pastors the multiethnic Nellis Baptist Church in Las Vegas, became the first non-Anglo to serve as NBC president when he was elected in 2014. He said he was not elected solely because of his race, yet race was among the reasons he emerged as “the best man for the job.”

“To have someone of ethnicity, such as myself, serving really opened communication [and] brought to the Nevada Baptist Convention a greater hope for serving among those of ethnicity,” said Fields, who was reelected in 2015. “… In conversations and different meetings, I’m hearing excitement about the direction that Nevada Baptists have taken as a result of my being able to serve as president.”

Nevada Baptists, Fields said, have been for several years working to overcome pain and division stemming from past “injustices” and “the perception of privilege for Anglos [over] non-Anglos” in Baptist life and elsewhere.

“Now that there’s more of an emphasis that there isn’t a preference or privilege within the convention,” Fields said, some Nevada Baptists find it easier to view one another as “my brother” or “my sister regardless of ethnicity.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach