Voicing "agreement in spirit and in substance" with the resolution on racial reconciliation approved at the 1995 Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC Inter-Agency Council (IAC) named a task force "charged to work toward strategy and implementation of full racial and ethnic reconciliation." The IAC, composed of the chief executive officers of all SBC entities, unanimously approved the move, saying racial reconciliation was a "priority issue."
Richard Land, Christian Life Commission president, will chair the new task force. Land said a strong case can be made that "we've about reached the limits of what public policy, apart from a gospel message of changed hearts, can do" in regard to racial reconciliation. "There is no substitute for the spiritual healing and the reconciliation that is brought about by the gospel when it is properly applied to this area of human sin," Land said, adding, without a doubt, racism is a product of human sin.
In establishing the task force, the IAC called for SBC agency heads "to strive for representation on our boards of trustees, our staffs and faculties, and all other bodies, based on biblical qualifications and embracing the ethnic diversity of the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches."
The IAC action also asks the SBC Committee on Nominations to "set a priority to nominate persons representative of all ethnic groups to our boards of trustees." The committee further asked that those nominated be "persons who will be careful stewards and trustees of our institutions, and who will stand with Southern Baptists in their Great Commission commitment, theological integrity, institutional accountability, and Cooperative Program support."
E.W. McCall, pastor of St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church, La Puente, Calif., and president of the Southern Baptist African-American Pastors' Fellowship, applauded the IAC's move, noting the leadership of the Convention must quarterback the drive to "full ethnic and racial reconciliation."
Fearful that the resolution that was passed during the Atlanta convention might languish, Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the current IAC chairman, said the Inter-Agency Council realized it had an obligation and an opportunity to profoundly influence progress toward racial reconciliation within the SBC. The SBC resolution called for Southern Baptists to "commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry."
"As the IAC reflected on the resolution made last year on racial reconciliation and as we listened to the thoughts and the counsel of a number of our fellow Southern Baptists of African-American ethnic background, we decided it was essential that we take a direct leadership role in putting actual feet to the resolution," Patterson explained.
It is past time for talking, McCall agreed, saying, "I wouldn't want another study committee that says, 'In five years we'll get back with you.' We don't need to study; we need to 'do.'"
Calling the IAC's move "an expression of bold leadership," Gary Frost, SBC second vice president and pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church, Youngstown, Ohio, called on "Southern Baptists everywhere to 'pray without ceasing' ... to bring about a biblical, practical and visible unity of all parts of our great Southern Baptist family."