Almost 40 different faith leaders have been speaking and discussing racial reconciliation at the Gospel and Reconciliation Summit, hosted by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which will be taking place from March 26 to 27 in Nashville, Tennessee, to "equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches," according to the event website. The ERLC is a portion of the Southern Baptist Convention that specifically addresses the moral dimension of the gospel and equipping the church to handle moral and social and policy issues.
"While culture navigates complex questions about race, the Bible presents racial reconciliation as a gospel issue: our reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ should transform our relationships with others, regardless of their ethnicity," it goes on to say.
The first speaker to start off the conference was Russell Moore, the president of the ERLC, who spoke on Ephesians 3:1-13. Moore encouraged the church to take steps toward reconciliation because of three main reasons.
First, Moore said that a lack of effort and steps toward reconciliation is "leaving consciences in sin," and that a lack of effort is a statement in and of itself from the church regarding these racial issues.
"If you're in 1845 Georgia, and you preach against drunkenness, theft, and adultery, but you say nothing about human slavery, you have said something about human slavery," Moore said. "If you are preaching in 1925, and you preach against gambling, and animal fighting, but you say nothing about lynching, you are saying something about lynching. When we live in a culture today when we have division all around us, and hatred is all around us, and if we say nothing, or if we speak only in such vague generalities that we will not offend the power brokers in our communities, it is not only that we are being unfaithful to this mystery to the whole council of God. We are leaving consciences in sin, we are empowering the devil."
Second, Moore said, the church must work towards reconciliation because the church ought to be a representation of the kingdom of God.
"If you want to know what the kingdom of God looks like, Paul says, you ought to be able to see it in the church," Moore continued. "The kingdom of God is not about co-existence, it is about reconciliation ... The church is a gathering together by Jesus Christ ... and demonstrating what he plans to do in the fullness of time with the entire universe."
Lastly, it's important that the church becomes such a representation of the kingdom of God, united as one under Christ, because the church "is the manifold wisdom of God revealed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms," he said, referring to Ephesians 3:10.
"The makeup of our churches is not just about the witness we give to the outside world -- although it is," Moore said. "Paul says the church is a sign to the rulers and authorities of this present darkness. Racial reconciliation is not just about making sure that we all get along with one another. Racial reconciliation is spiritual warfare."
"When Satan sees a group of people who are gathered together with the dividing wall torn down, who have nothing else in common except the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the devil trembles."
Moore went on to say that the organizers of the summit do not have any specific 'program' or solution to reconciliation, but that reconciliation starts with preaching the gospel and being the church, "praying with one another, for one another, serving one another, being led by one another," and asking God for wisdom as Solomon did when he was appointed as king.
The first day also included panels and sessions with other speakers including David Uth, the senior pastor of First Baptist Orlando; Tony Evans, the lead pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship; Robert George, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF); and Thabiti Anyabwile, one of the council members for The Gospel Coalition.
The remaining portion of the conference will discuss issues such as racial diversity within the church; the Southern Baptist Convention's history and progress in racial issues; immigration reform; leading the next generation into racial reconciliation; and how pop culture affects racial reconciliation, among other topics.
For more information and to watch the live stream, visit live.erlc.com.