Supernatural unity of the heart is the key to racial reconciliation, speakers said at a day-long event sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Mississippi College.
As part of Mississippi College’s annual Evangelism Lectures, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley and Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, spoke on unity for the sake of the Gospel in the morning chapel service.
“We very naturally seek out people like us. Division, separation is natural,” Kelley said during a panel session with Weathersby.
But, Kelley noted, “Community is supernatural — that is built by the Lord.”
Weathersby, a Mississippi College graduate and a Jackson, Miss., native, pointed out that even if a local church is not multi-ethnic, the “church of Jesus Christ is.”
“We are to be making disciples among all ethnic groups,” Weathersby said. “It doesn’t matter what color they may be…. God looks at the heart.”
The Feb. 27 event at Mississippi College’s campus in Clinton included a dinner the previous evening for alumni, donors and students in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of NOBTS’ founding. An afternoon panel discussion and breakout sessions with pastors from multi-ethnic congregations in New Orleans and NOBTS professors followed the morning dialogue.
Kelley challenged the audience not to make the mistake of overlooking the need for racial reconciliation if they personally hold no grudge or anger against others.
“It isn’t about that. It’s about community,” Kelley explained. “The problem the Gospel came to address was the brokenness of the community of man, and to form out of all that brokenness, a community of all of us, not just part of us.”
Kelley said he learned after becoming NOBTS president that the seminary had founded a separate school for African Americans in the 1930s, furthering segregation. The action by NOBTS — named Baptist Bible Institute at the time — caused resentment and lasting “deep divisions,” he said.
“That’s when I understood that even though I wasn’t mad at anybody and I didn’t know anybody was mad at me, we did not have community in the body of Christ in New Orleans,” Kelley said.
Though the decision to establish the separate school for African Americans was not of his doing, Kelley stated, the responsibility to repair the damage was.
“I’m happy to tell you the situation is much different now,” Kelley said. “But it took work to rebuild that relationship.”
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Source: Baptist Press