July 8, 2016
DECATUR, Ga. — In the aftermath of the police-involved shooting deaths of two African-Americans — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Saint Paul, Minn., — and the deaths of five police officers in Dallas overnight, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter has asked Cooperative Baptists and their congregations to join in prayer for peace through justice in their communities and to stand shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of racial reconciliation.
The devastating officer-involved shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Saint Paul, Minn, and more recently, the deaths of five Dallas law enforcement officers overnight Thursday, have served as the latest in an all-too-common rash of violence in our nation. Even while details as to the perpetrators, motivations and victims of the Dallas attacks are still unfolding, our nation is reeling from the latest police-involved shootings of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota, which are rooted in real disparities and inequalities that continue to impact our society.
As Cooperative Baptists, Christ’s love compels us to practice the Great Commandment, that is, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” As a people, we continue to struggle with the sin of racial injustice. Out of love for God and neighbor, we are commanded to seek peace through justice.
Seeking peace through justice is what we strive for as a Fellowship and what we will redouble our efforts to do in the future. We are moved to act with efforts of reconciliation and compassion. The church is a convening place. In every community, churches can join with others to host community forums including representatives of the community and law enforcement. Reach out to African-American churches in your town and be a partner congregation in convening the community. We know that dialogue and resolution at times can begin and flourish in a sanctuary beyond what we can achieve in the streets. When Jesus felt the touch of a woman in a crowd and said “who touched me?” he saw her and heard her and healed her for a new day. This stewardship of his power in service of her needs is a call to us as the convening and caring church. We can respond in like manner by truly hearing our neighbors and be active toward engaging the community in conversation.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is committed to pursuing racially-reconciling efforts with our congregations and partners. Through our partnership with the New Baptist Covenant since 2008, we have worked to build connections that break down barriers of race among Baptists to fulfill Jesus’ mandate in the Gospel of Luke to proclaim the good news and set the oppressed free. Through the New Baptist Covenant, congregations across the Fellowship are entering into “covenants of action” with other Baptist churches to seek reconciliation in their communities through cooperative missions and advocacy. Many other congregations in CBF are working in partnership with African-American churches. Sign up here to enlist your congregations in a Covenant of Action.
In the face of violence and fear, movement toward a beloved community takes real work. It also takes prayer for a landscape of grace. “Grace, before it is anything else, is the crack inherent in the otherwise ironclad, unbreakable laws of nature and history. Grace is the capacity for unchangeable things to change…,” George Williamson writes in his book Born in Sin, Upended in Grace.
My prayer is that the love of Christ that abounds in our lives will be shown in the countenance of our faces and the work of our hands as we move out into our communities to put our faith to action to spread forgiveness, peace, healing and reconciliation throughout our land.
CBF Executive Coordinator