By Diana Chandler
JACKSON, Miss. (BP) — Racism is from Satan and his demonic forces, and the only hope for its defeat is the church of Jesus Christ united across societal divisions, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd told a culturally diverse group of Baptists in Mississippi Nov. 4.
“I believe that the issue of racism is from Satan and the demonic forces of hell,” Floyd told hundreds gathered at Mission Mississippi’s racial reconciliation celebration at the Jackson Convention Center. “Racism is completely opposite from the message of Jesus Christ; it is completely opposite of the message of love, it is completely opposite of the message of dignity, value and the sanctity of human life. It is completely opposite of the message of reconciliation.”
Floyd spoke to Southern Baptists, National Baptists and others at the event aimed at exhorting and energizing pastors and the church to demonstrate the love of God in ending racism in Mississippi and the nation.
“One of the reasons I came to this city was to notify Satan and his demonic forces that … enough is enough,” Floyd said. “The power of God is greater than the forces of evil, even the evil of racism, because greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.”
He called pastors to action, shunning passivity and silence.
“It is now [that] the church of Jesus Christ must rise; we must rise together as one,” he said. “We are not black churches, we are not white churches, we are not Latino churches, and we’re not Asian churches, and we’re not any other kind of church. We are the church of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s who we are and our hope for racism to end in this country is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ
“It is the church who must be for the city of Jackson and whatever city you’re from, it must be the church that is for the city,” he said. “Each pastor must rise up and be the prophetic voice relating to the issue of racism, calling it what it is, praying against what it really is, and if the price is high, price is high.”
Floyd and Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., delivered joint keynote addresses following a panel discussion with 20 additional pastors (10 Southern Baptists and 10 National Baptists). The NBC is the largest group of black Baptists in the U.S. with as many as 7 million members.
Young joined Floyd in calling the church to action.
“I believe that it is God’s providence that has brought us here today,” Young said. “I am absolutely prayerful that when we leave this place, that those of us who are here will have decided that we’re going to spearhead a movement in this country that is relative primarily to the church, that we will no longer be satisfied to be persons who will simply declare the Gospel with our lips, but we’re going to demonstrate it with our lives.
“Because in the final analysis, … Jesus says that the church … [we] alone are the salt and the light of the world,” Young said. “And if the church is not light, and if the church is not salt, then the world itself is left to nothing but darkness and decay.”
Young called Floyd a friend, a “tremendous brother” and a “courageous leader” who led in convening the pastors from across the U.S. for the event.
“It has been a tremendous delight of mine and perhaps one of the greatest blessings and privileges God has bestowed upon this country preacher, when He allowed me to meet Dr. Ronnie Floyd,” said Young, who grew up on a plantation in the Mississippi Delta. “This gentleman is the real deal. He is an outstanding Christian gentleman.”
Floyd presented the church as one body of Christ, descended from one man and comprising one race.
“Mississippi, in America, there is only one race, the human race. We all come from one man, Adam. Every nationality comes from Adam. Every ethnicity on this earth comes from Adam,” Floyd said, referencing Acts 17:26–28. “The Scripture says from one man He has made every nationality to live on the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each of us. For in Him we live, and move and exist.”
Floyd quoted lines from the late Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which King lamented a “deep fog of misunderstanding” and “dark clouds of racial prejudice” in America.
“Sadly and regrettably, after 52 years since that letter was written, this deep fog, filled with racism, subsequent injustices and misunderstanding has not lifted fully,” Floyd said. “In fact in the last 18 months in our country, it has become like a fire that has received a fresh blowing mighty wind. And rather than the fire coming from heaven from the power of the Holy Spirit on our churches, the fire is raging from the DNA of our hearts.”
Event host, Mission Mississippi President Neddie Winters, joined Floyd and Young in calling the church to action.
“It is time for the Christian community, for the church of Jesus Christ, to do what it professes to do,” he said. “Stand, and live, and act like Christians, and be the salt and light for our society. Too long have we been silent on this issue as a church, and as a community.”
The nonprofit Mission Mississippi presents itself as working “to encourage and demonstrate grace in the Body of Christ, across racial lines, so that communities throughout Mississippi can see the practical evidence of the Gospel message.”