June 24, 2016
By Blake Tommey
GREENSBORO, N.C. — “Take your faith and exercise it for the cause of justice,” Michelle Higgins told Cooperative Baptists at a Friday event on civil rights hosted by the New Baptist Covenant and CBF Advocacy at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum at Greensboro, N.C.
“Your whole story is full of people who don’t look like you, but because God’s imprint is on each of them, their history has a deep impact on yours,” Higgins said. “Can you show the joy of the Lord as a resistance to the mass oppression of people on the margins?”
Higgins, who serves as director of worship and outreach at South City Church in St. Louis and is an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke about racial justice with more than 100 attendees at the site of the historic Woolworth’s sit-ins of the early 1960s in Greensboro, exploring how Cooperative Baptist churches can focus on the fight for justice and reconciliation.
On some of the very ground that young Christians resisted racial oppression during the 1960s, Higgins called attention to the stark disparity between the twenty-first century church and the Black Lives Matter movement. The two should be one and the same, Higgins stressed.
“The story of the church in recent years is that that we have failed to be the Black Lives Matter movement,” she said. “So we must bear the reproach of confessing to people on the margins that we care more about building new buildings, moving out of dangerous neighborhoods, creating state-of-the-art children’s centers — that the people of God have abandoned God’s covenant and demand, God’s sweet and precious gift of caring for the oppressed.”
NBC Executive Director Hannah McMahan and CBF Advocacy Coordinator Stephen Reeves both expressed the crucial task of engaging Baptist churches in the journey toward justice and reconciliation. Reeves said his hope for CBF churches is to “be more welcoming of all community members and engaged in what is going on around them.”
McMahan said that perhaps now more than ever before is the time for the church to live out NBC’s central calling — to combat and heal the racial divides and injustices that persist between Baptist communities in the United States.
“The sin of racism is an ever-changing and adapting ill,” McMahan said. “To overcome our division, it is important to understand not only our current context but also what history precedes us.”
The civil rights event also included a preview of the new documentary “The Ordinance” by Deidox, an Austin-based nonprofit film company focused on the church’s response to predatory lending. Deidox’s new film highlights how people of faith have responded to the crisis of predatory payday and auto-title lending in their community through direct ministries, mission work and public policy advocacy. “The Ordinance” examines the cross-racial elements of this issue and follows the process of adoption of a local lending ordinance in Temple, Texas, and includes interviews with CBF leaders including Reeves, Steve Wells of Houston’s South Main Baptist Church, as well as NBC leader Freddy Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.
CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.
The New Baptist Covenant is a CBF partner organization and an informal alliance of more than 30 racially, geographically, and theologically diverse Baptist organizations from throughout North America that claim more than 20 million members. Representatives of these Baptist organizations have reaffirmed traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality, as well as their obligations as Christians to fulfill the biblical mandate to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.