Baptists Against Racism

Baptists Against Racism

Jerry L. Summers

Edited by Denton Lotz. McLean, Va.: The Baptist World Alliance, 1991. 192 pages.

The Beeson Divinity School of Samford University has distributed this book, the proceedings of the International Summit on Baptists Against Racism and Ethnic Conflict, which met in January 1999 in Atlanta, Georgia. Denton Lotz is president of the Baptist World Alliance.

The book samples the international Baptist thought on racism. In the plenary addresses, John Kinney and Douglas W. Waruta focused on the theological and socio-historical bases of racism and on healing through resources of the Holy Spirit. Calling for repentance and true progress to reconciliation, Richard Land was a welcome voice from among Southern Baptists. Denton Lotz evoked the dream of Baptists committed to reconciliation.

Anne Wilkinson Hayes, Wallace Charles Smith, Cawley Bolt, and Karl Heinz Walter provided Bible studies emphasizing gospel partnership amid diversity, the challenge of global justice, cross-bearing to change racist culture, and God’s kind of social integration. Other regional and special reports noted racism through Hispanic eyes (Osvaldo L. Mottesi), the struggles of indigenous peoples of Latin America (Jorge Lee Galindo), Caribbean racism (Horace O. Russell), and North American racism, economics, and conflict resolution. Readers must ponder the roots of pervasive racism noted in each article. All arguments were strong, including those of C. T. Vivian (chairman, BASIC, Atlanta) on North American racism, Forrest E. Harris Sr., on how economic injustice blends with racism, and John N. Jonsson (in a submitted paper) who reveals the racism embedded and perpetuated in Western societies, even in Christian personal piety.

Taken all together, the presenters adjudicate racism and all that fosters it, even among well-meaning Christians otherwise ignorant of their part in it. As such, the book exemplifies all criticisms justly laid particularly against white Westerners by members of other cultures; however, these critics–brothers and sisters in faith–call us to account biblically, faithfully, to reveal the racism so obvious to themselves, but not to others.

Included are brief speeches from the Baptist World Alliance Atlanta Rally, statements by Jimmy Carter and Billy Graham, and the Atlanta Covenant: “A Call to Baptist Churches to oppose racism and ethnic conflict and to actively work to establish a united witness for Christ and His Kingdom” (p. 170). The findings of the summit and proceedings–spreading the gospel and racial justice–are inseparable. The venues, participants, and themes evoked historic memory, most prominently the Ebenezer Baptist Church which has been so much a part of the civil rights movement. As a white, Baptist Christian, I cannot help wondering whether seeing, for example, First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, in the program as one of the host churches might have been equally significant. Surely this volume represents commendable efforts to urge our churches to be inclusive bodies, delightful to God, and Christ-like counter examples to institutions restricted by racism.–Reviewed by Jerry L. Summers, Sam B. Hall Jr. Professor of History, East Texas Baptist University, Marshall, Texas.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Baptist History and Heritage Society

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning