Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — At least two Baptist associations in Tennessee joined forces with other churches in their communities to pray for racial injustice and reconciliation.
Bledsoe Baptist Association
Bledsoe Baptist Association, based in Hendersonville, recently combined on a joint statement with East Fork District Baptist Association (a National Baptist association that includes several Middle Tennessee counties) and the Gallatin United Ministerial Alliance regarding the recent death of African American George Floyd, racism and the current crisis in America.
The statement said, “Comprised of African-American, Anglo, and multicultural churches, we unite together to declare our unity in the love of God and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, one family. We also declare and affirm the dignity and value of every human life, and we condemn in the strongest terms the taking of the life of Mr. George Floyd. We pray for and express compassion, empathy, and love for his family. May God grant them abundant grace and peace.”
The statement also condemned “in the strongest terms racism in all its forms and will work to address this long-standing and deep-rooted issue. We condemn the violence surrounding the death of Mr. George Floyd.
“We acknowledge the deep pain and heartache that has resulted from his death. We affirm the right of peaceful protest and demonstration. We do not support, however, violent demonstration, the destruction of property, or the taking of other innocent life.”
The three groups also called “for sincere and intentional conversations concerning racism. Out of these conversations, we pray that greater relationships and deeper friendships are established to collectively confront the sin of racism.”
The statement was signed by Thomas Staten, moderator, East Fork District Baptist Association; Barbara Crawford, president, Gallatin United Ministerial Alliance; and Michael Pennington, association mission strategist, Bledsoe Baptist Association.
Pennington noted that one of Bledsoe’s churches (Gallatin First on Winchester) also is a member of East Fork District. He added that the church’s pastor (Derrick Jackson) also assisted in preparing the statement “We have worked for at least three years on racial reconciliation,” Pennington said.
Pennington and Jackson led a Ministers-Led March and prayer vigil to the city hall in Gallatin on June 5.
Hamilton County Baptist Association
Hamilton County Baptist Association, based in Chattanooga, also joined forces on June 5 with other churches of different races and denominations, for a prayer rally at Mount Canaan Baptist Church in Chattanooga, led by pastor Ternae Jordan.
Dennis Culbreth, director of missions for Hamilton County Baptists, estimated more than 1,000 people attended the rally. Attendees were encouraged to remain in their cars or wear masks while observing social distancing guidelines.
“It was a unifying time together as churches of all races came together for unity in the body of Christ,” Culbreth said.
In a statement leading up to the prayer rally, local pastors and church leaders called on citizens “to prayer, repentance and unity. The answers to the racial strife and divisions that have plagued our nation for centuries, can be found when we bow our knees, and lift our eyes, to our Father in Heaven, who made all races and desires that we follow the example of Jesus in ‘loving our neighbors as ourselves.’ ”
The leaders also asked for “equal justice for all Americans, regardless of skin color.
“During this solemn time, we are calling our community to examine our hearts for any wayward thoughts or motives that would prevent such racial justice from being realized,” the leaders said, “and then to seek God’s leading regarding what role He desires us to play in such reconciliation.”
Culbreth said the turnout which included many churches, both large and small, from HCBA, as well as other churches in the area. Several of the association’s pastors were among ministers who gave brief challenges, including Jordan, host pastor.
Culbreth praised the churches and leaders in HCBA for all they have accomplished during the pandemic, a tornado and now in race relations efforts after the death of George Floyd. “They have been amazing,” he observed.