A Black Lives Matter advocate fired a shot across the bow of Baptist churches, challenging them and other Christians to embrace Christ’s calling to care for society’s most oppressed.
“The story of the church in recent years is that that we have failed to be the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Michelle Higgins, director of worship and outreach at South City Church in St. Louis. “So we must bear the reproach of confessing to people on the margins that we care more about building new buildings, moving out of dangerous neighborhoods, creating state-of-the-art children’s centers — that the people of God have abandoned God’s covenant. …”
Higgins made her comments last week at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, N.C. Her presentation was hosted by the New Baptist Covenant and Cooperative Baptist Advocacy, and coincided with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly.
More than 100 attended the event, which was held at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter — site of historic civil rights era sit-ins and now the centerpiece of the museum’s display.
On some of the same ground that young Christians resisted racial oppression during the 1960s, Higgins called attention to the stark disparity between the 21st century church and the Black Lives Matter movement. The two should be one and the same, Higgins said.
“Take your faith and exercise it for the cause of justice,” she told Fellowship Baptists.
“Your whole story is full of people who don’t look like you, but because God’s imprint is on each of them, their history has a deep impact on yours. Can you show the joy of the Lord as a resistance to the mass oppression of people on the margins?”
NBC Executive Director Hannah McMahan and CBF Advocacy Coordinator Stephen Reeves both expressed the crucial task of engaging Baptist churches in the journey toward justice and reconciliation.
Reeves said his hope for CBF churches is that they “be more welcoming of all community members and engaged in what is going on around them.”
McMahan said that perhaps now more than ever before is the time for the church to live out the NBC’s central calling — to combat and heal the racial divides and injustices that persist among Baptist communities in the United States.
“The sin of racism is an ever-changing and adapting ill,” McMahan said. “To overcome our division, it is important to understand not only our current context but also what history precedes us.”
The civil rights event also included a preview of the new documentary “The Ordinance” by Deidox, an Austin-based nonprofit film company focused on the church’s response to predatory lending.
Deidox’s new film highlights how people of faith have responded to the crisis of predatory payday and auto-title lending in their communities through direct ministries, mission work and public policy advocacy.
“The Ordinance” examines the cross-racial elements of this issue and follows the process of adopting a local lending ordinance in Temple, Texas. It features interviews with CBF leaders including Reeves and Steve Wells of Houston’s South Main Baptist Church, as well as NBC leader Freddy Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.
This story was originally published at cbfblog.com.