KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There’s a call to action from the Southern Baptist Convention. Leaders are preaching that integrated churches can be a powerful force in racial justice in our society.
From Wednesday night bible study to Sunday morning worship, historically, most Southern Baptist Churches have had a sea of white faces in their congregations.
But the Southern Baptist Church Convention wants to make that change.
Reverend Russell Moore leads the organization’s ethics and religious commission.
He says when black and white Christians begin to worship together, they will also stand up together.
Dr. Chris Stephens, senior pastor of Faith Promise Church, says he agrees, but thinks many southern states will be slow to move forward.
“When I was saved and began a relationship with the Lord and came to church, I was shocked that the most segregated hour in America was 11 o’clock on Sunday,” said Stephens. “It really hasn’t changed much. People attribute that to a lot: styles of worship, all that kind of stuff. I think racism is still alive and well.”
The President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, Randy C. Davis, says he is mos excited, not about a racial, diversity program, but by a growth of a community among Christ-followers that is “more concerned about a person’s soul and heart and needs than the color of their skin.”
“Our network of Baptist churches across the state is beginning to look more and more like the culture we live in is far as it’s ethnic diversity. For the first time in our Convention’s history, we elected an African-American Pastor, Michael Ellis of Memphis, as our president last November,” said Davis. “And just today, one of the largest Black churches in the South, Brown Missionary Baptist Church became part of our network. While too many of our churches still look like the church did 50 years ago, it’s changing.”
Pastor Charles Darden heads up Greater Warner Tabernacle AME Zion Church.
He says changes in our culture may lead to changes in who’s sitting next to each other in the pew on Sunday morning.
“Many of our churches in the South need to come on up and embrace that different cultures coming together,” said Darden. “I think as more bi-racial couples, as more Hispanics move in, I think it’ll all begin to mix and color won’t matter.
But both leaders agree, it’s going to take some time.
“I don’t see a lot of it in some Southern states, but I think that we need to be moving toward that even in our faith and walk with Christ,” said Stephens.