On Tuesday evening at the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, we witnessed a beautiful and moving scene as thousands of messengers knelt in prayer for revival and a great awakening. Spiritual leaders from Anglo American, Hispanic, Korean, Native American and African American churches prayed together for an end to racism and prejudice, embraced each other, and pledged to work together “as one family.”
President Ronnie Floyd began by urging Southern Baptists, “The only thing that can ultimately reshape America is a spiritual awakening and a great movement by God.” Floyd asked messengers: “When was the last time you gathered thousands of people on a Tuesday evening and prayed for spiritual awakening?”
Plano pastor Jack Graham then issued a call for personal repentance. “God is calling us to brokenness and humility,” he said. “The greatest sin is pride.”
Paul Kim, of Cambridge, Mass., said Asian American churches join him in calling for “racial reconciliation and healing in our land.” Kim observed, “What we do here can lead the entire nation.”
K. Marshall Williams, an African-American pastor in Philadelphia, prayed for racial reconciliation. “The Bible calls us to be in unity,” Williams exhorted. “It’s skin; not sin. Come together. Stand up and be the people of God. Rise up!”
Pensacola Pastor Ted Traylor told how some of the same people in his church who taught him as a boy to sing “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight,” left the worship service when a black man started attending.
David Galvan, a Hispanic pastor in Dallas, confessed, “Early in my ministry, I had to come to the realization that I had misunderstood the Great Commission. I thought that I should only be reaching Hispanics for Christ. I had to come to the point of repentance and ask God to forgive me for what I’d done.”
Timmy Chavis, a Native American pastor in Pembroke, N.C., said, “I am so glad that God has brought our convention together to be the spearhead of not just a national effort, but a global effort to let all people know that we stand together as God’s people…. We have one Father, there is one Lord, we’re going to one Heaven, we have one faith and one baptism and are one people.”
Atlanta pastor Robert Wilson said his prayer was for real unity. “We’re not about just trying to be segmented, but we want to ask God to take our hearts and really meld them together, so that when the world sees us as Southern Baptists—black, white, red, yellow, brown—they see us as one.”
In a terrible twist, the following night was marred by a horrific demonstration of racist hate and of our nation’s dire need for a spiritual awakening. A young man, tragically warped by a racist ideology of white superiority, ruthlessly shot nine worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Yet, what was meant for evil was transformed to good as Charleston churches—and, most notably, the son of one of the victims—testified to the world: “Love is stronger than hate” (see story, p. ) In the following guest viewpoint, Baptist Courier Editor Rudy Gray shares how real-world Christians have chosen to respond with “what seemed like unbelievable love and forgiveness.” Their “shining” example convicts us with the truth of 1 Corinthians 13:1: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”