Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Panel Spotlights Racial Reconciliation

Jarvis Williams (left), moderates a panel discussion on race with Kaitlin Congo, Matthew J. Hall, Felipe Castro and Curtis Woods. SBTS photo
Jarvis Williams (left), moderates a panel discussion on race with Kaitlin Congo, Matthew J. Hall, Felipe Castro and Curtis Woods.
SBTS photo

Southern Baptists must consider racial reconciliation as important as abortion and same-sex marriage, said leaders and pastors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during a Feb. 17 forum.

“Southern Baptists got [race issues] so wrong for so long that we have to deal honestly with it, because we do not have credibility,” said Matthew J. Hall, vice president for academic administration and assistant professor of church history. The forum, which was held at the seminary’s campus in Louisville, Ky., followed the SBC’s Racial Reconciliation Sunday, Feb. 14. “Southern Baptists were not just implicated in racial injustice, we were directly feeding it. We have blood on our hands so we can’t try and address other issues of injustice and kind of leap over this one.”

Hall participated in a “What’s the Word” panel discussion on racial reconciliation hosted by the ONE student group, which says it seeks to reconcile ideas across race and gender lines through cross-centered conversations. Other participants included Felipe Castro, director of Hispanic initiatives at Southern Seminary; Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations at the Kentucky Baptist Convention; and Kaitlin Congo, member of the leadership team for the Arise City Summit. Jarvis Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation, moderated the discussion, which focused on the historical and biblical issues surrounding racial reconciliation.

“We want to talk about justice for the unborn or whatever your issue is and ignore racial justice, but we do not have that luxury,” Hall said. “If you care about life in the womb, but you do not give a rip about life in the hood or anywhere else then you will not have any credibility.”

Scripture commands Christians to pursue all forms of reconciliation, but many people do not understand the need for it because they view racism as individual acts of prejudice, panelists said. But, they noted, racism affects systems, not just individuals, and when people grasp the full extent of American racism then the need for Christian reconciliation will be obvious. Reconciliation begins with seeing the image of God in all people.

“The Bible mentions groups of other people and that is how we need to see race,” Congo said. “Christians need to desire groups of others and unlikely people coming together, because this is at the root of the Gospel.

“This is not just different skin colors, but also includes different genders and disabled people,” she said. “What Jesus ultimately does is bring groups of unlikely people together to display the power of the Gospel to transform hearts and causes us to desire relationships with Christians who do not look like us.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Robert Chapman