MLK50: Price to be paid for racial unity
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP) – Evangelical Christians must be willing to pay the price to gain racial unity, speakers said April 4 on the final day of a conference
commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
The conference, MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop, was held as Memphis, and the country,
remembered King, who was shot April 4, 1968, in the Mississippi River city. The two-day event – co-hosted by the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and The Gospel Coalition (TGC) – took place in conjunction with many remembrances of King, including a ceremony at the Lorraine Motel, where he was killed, that conference participants were able to attend.
In the evening session, attendees gave an offering of more than $16,500 for the Memphis Christian Pastors Network, a multi-ethnic coalition seeking to foster racial unity and meet needs in the city. Earlier in the day, conference hosts unveiled the MLK50 Dream Forward Scholarship Initiative, which will enable minority students in Memphis to receive financial aid to attend participating Christian colleges, universities and seminaries and has already raised more than $1.475 million.
White pastors must address the issue, Dallas-Fort Worth area pastor Matt Chandler told conference attendees.
“You have got to say something,” Chandler told white pastors in the audience at the Memphis Convention Center and watching by live stream online. “There is no way forward if white pulpits won’t talk.”
Quoting King, the pastor of The Village Church said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
He had a difficult time sleeping the night before because he knew what he was asking of some of them, Chandler told pastors. They might be criticized, bullied and fired, he acknowledged.
Chandler encouraged them to begin by preaching on the Bible’s view of ethnicity and unity. “Ethnic harmony is one of the great themes of the Bible. This is the refrain of the Bible over and over and over again,” he said, adding, “Jesus consistently confronted broken thinking about ethnicity.”
Veteran pastor Crawford Loritts, an African American pastor of a predominantly white church, said during a panel discussion at the conference that the question is not so much, “Where do we go from here?” but “Why haven’t we gone from here?”
The need is courage, he said. “This issue is going to cost us.
“Are we willing to pay that price? Love is expensive, and commitment is expensive.
“And I think God is standing back and saying to the church: You all know what to do here. You really do know what to do,” said Loritts, senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga. “It’s the courage and will to do it and to be it and to pay that price.”
John Piper, author and Desiring God founder/teacher, said racial unity is for the glory of Christ.“It is because we still see who we are that the unifying insignia of Christ shines so brightly with His glory,” Piper said.