DIVERSITY & Southern Baptists try to diversify churches – but will it work? #ReMIX

by Heidi Hall | February 23, 2015.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) How tough is it to create a racially diverse denomination? Consider a recent luncheon organized by the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

About 100 Nashville-area evangelical leaders accepted invitations to a lunch hosted by the denomination’s policy arm, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. On the agenda: a pitch for a spring summit and a short discussion by ERLC President Russell Moore about the need for churches to become more racially diverse.

The number of African-Americans who showed up for the lunch? Four (two of them denomination employees)…

Black church leaders are greeting news of the summit with reactions ranging from polite skepticism to hopeful support.

It can’t come soon enough for Erskin Anavitarte, a Southern Baptist pastor-turned-musician who attended this month’s luncheon. Anavitarte, who is African-American, said he finds resistance when even suggesting white privilege exists.

“People who talk about Ferguson (Mo.) and say that justice was served — most of them don’t even have a grid to make those statements they’re making,” he said. “They don’t even have friends who are African-American.”

The Southern Baptist denomination was birthed in 1845 when it insisted its members had the right to own slaves. The denomination didn’t formally apologize for its stand on slavery until 1995. Four years ago, the SBC considered a name change to move past that split and increase opportunities for expansion outside the South.

Moore, a Mississippi native, opposed the rebranding. Earlier sin needs to be kept out front, he said, lest members forget it. One of his earliest Sunday school memories convinced him of that.

“We had a substitute teacher, and I put a quarter in my mouth,” he said. “She said, ‘Don’t put a quarter in your mouth, because a colored person might have touched that.”’

Moore said the teacher probably never examined her own belief system around race.

But his proposed solution to that — diversifying worship spaces — will take some work. Of 50,500 Southern Baptist congregations, 3,502 identify as predominantly African-American, or about 7 percent, a 2013 denominational report shows…

Read more at … http://www.religionnews.com/2015/02/23/southern-baptists-try-diversify-churches-will-work/