By Bob Allen
Top leaders in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship endorsed Black Lives Matter Sunday, a campaign mourning the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner during worship services Sunday, Dec. 14, sponsored by the Progressive National Baptist Convention.
“We invite the Fellowship to stand in solidarity with our African-American Baptist sisters and brothers bearing witness through prayer and vigil this Sunday,” CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter and Moderator Kasey Jones said in a statement Dec. 11.
Paynter, who is white, and Jones, an African-American, said the 1,800-church Fellowship is committed to pursuing racial reconciliation through “covenants of action” pairing black and white congregations in hands-on mission projects through the New Baptist Covenant, a network that includes both the CBF and the PNBC spearheaded by former President Jimmy Carter.
Paynter and Jones, who serves as senior pastor at National Baptist Memorial Church in Washington, encouraged Fellowship Baptists to consider attending the upcoming New Baptist Covenant Summit, Jan. 14-15 in Atlanta. Scheduled speakers include Amy Butler, pastor of Riverside Church in New York City; Luis Cortez, president and CEO of Esperanza; Professor Mary Foskett of Wake Forest University; and Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Ebenezer, home church of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., entered a covenant of action earlier this year with Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta, where CBF field personnel Jennifer and Trey Lyon serve as community ministers.
James Perkins, president of the PNBC, asked church members to wear black this Sunday “to mourn the deaths and verdicts of young African-American males.” He also asked churches to designate a special time during the service “to pray over our children, especially our boys, and to ask God’s covering on their lives, our families and our communities.”
“We cannot afford to hold our peace in the face of this growing atmosphere of injustice,” Perkins said in the bulletin.
Paynter and Jones invited the Fellowship to join the PNBC and other African-American denominations in praying “for God’s deep peace to be experienced by all” and “that it would be the undercurrent running beneath all that is said and done.”
“Pray that God’s desire that we may be one would lead to relationship building, of seeing ourselves in the other, and therefore into forgiveness, healing and reconciliation,” they said. “Pray that through God’s love we can become a reconciling people.”