A South African Baptist Response to Racism

Our Response to Racism

An explanation and call for adoption of the Statement on Racism by the Baptist Union of Southern Africa at its Annual Assembly, 2 – 6 October 2017, in Port Elizabeth.

Following the command of our Lord Jesus Christ that we should love one another, and the Biblical teaching that we should love our neighbor as ourselves – the summation of the law of God – the Baptist Union of Southern Africa delegates meeting for its 2017 Annual Assembly at Port Elizabeth condemns racism in any form or shape as being incompatible with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recognizing that cultural and ethnic differences can too easily lead to prejudice, hatred and malice towards people of other colour, ethnicity, culture or religion we confess our own sins where we have been guilty of this and pledge ourselves to strive towards developing an attitude of respect, love and sympathy to all people, recognizing this diversity as a gift of God.

We, as servants of Christ, therefore pledge and resolve to continue to preach and teach against all forms of racism from our pulpits and in our communities, to be intentional in bringing about cultural and racial diversity into the leadership structures and membership of our churches and ministries especially where this is not a reflection of the cultural diversity in our immediate communities. We will stand in sympathy and serve in advocacy as far as possible of those who suffer as victims of racism and to continue implementing practical means of promoting and engaging in cross-cultural inclusivity.

Our Motivation to Love, the Centrality of the Gospel

2017 Assembly, racism

Following the command of our Lord Jesus Christ that we should love one another, and the Biblical teaching that we should love our neighbor as ourselves – the summation of the law of God – the Baptist Union of Southern Africa delegates meeting for its 2017 Annual Assembly at Port Elizabeth condemns racism in any form or shape as being incompatible with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Love is a central characteristic and perfection of God. We know the one who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8). God’s love isn’t some kind of inanimate thing, a conceptual concept. God’s love manifests, it works itself out, it demonstrates itself, and so God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8).

From God’s love our love must flow. Jesus commanded Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39b), and He summarise part of the Law as whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them (Matthew 7:12). Paul, in light of who the Gospel is intended for and the Gospel’s power to save them in particular, says there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27-29).

Racism in any form or shape is incompatible with this message of the Gospel we have heard and believed, the love that we have been called to demonstrate, the love that we have experienced, the love which is the essence of who God is.

Our Sin of Racism, the Pledge towards Development

2017 Assembly, racism

Recognizing that cultural and ethnic differences can too easily lead to prejudice, hatred and malice towards people of other colour, ethnicity, culture or religion we confess our own sins where we have been guilty of this and pledge ourselves to strive towards developing an attitude of respect, love and sympathy to all people, recognizing this diversity as a gift of God.

Peter’s conduct as recorded by Paul in Galatians 2 is so helpful to consider. Here is a man, a disciple, an apostle, who needed to be opposed to his face because he stood condemned (2:11). And what was the great sin in Paul’s eye? He had regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party (2:12). Cultural and ethnic differences can too easily lead to practices which discriminate on colour, ethnic, or cultural lines demonstrated in this text by the rest of the Jews who joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy (13). It is important to note that primarily and at its essence this dispute was a deviation from the truth of the gospel (14) yet this deviation found it’s expression in the context of cultural schism.

Peter, in another place of God’s Word, gives excellent commentary on God’s heart towards ethnicity, God does not show favouritism (Acts 10:34). James writes I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism (James 2:4).

The diversity of the Church is not an accident but by design. At the start of the Church Peter declared to the Jewish converts the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off (Acts 2:39), bringing the Jews and Gentiles into one organisation, the Church. God’s sovereign control extends even to the many tribes and nationalities in our great nation South Africa as from one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live (Acts 17:26).

Our diversity is a gift. Where we’ve failed to respect, love and sympathise we’re called upon to set our minds on things above and strive towards a higher calling.

Our Path towards Healing, the Call to Confession and Forgiveness

2017 Assembly, racism

Too many in our land have been embittered by traumatic experiences of violence, hatred and contempt. We plead for understanding, forgiveness and patience. We pray that the Lord in his mercy will heal our land so that we can live together in peace and harmony.

We live in a land with violent past and present, often filled with hatred and contempt. It is wise to remember that our God executes justice for the exploited (Psalm 146:7b)… … and raises up those who are oppressed (Psalm 147:8b). Jesus calls upon His people to both ask for forgiveness and to forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 9:12). A such we call upon all those in the faith to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ (Ephesians 4:32).

Whilst we recognise that we are called upon to confess personal our sin according to God’s Word our desire and trust is that God may hear from heaven, forgive [our] sin, and heal [our] land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Racial harmony in our land will not be achieved through programmatic reconciliation but by restoration to God first and then our fellow man. In this only the Church can lead.

Our Resolve as Ambassadors, as People of the Book

2017 Assembly, racism

We, as servants of Christ, therefore pledge and resolve to continue to preach and teach against all forms of racism from our pulpits and in our communities, to be intentional in bringing about cultural and racial diversity into the leadership structures and membership of our churches and ministries especially where this is not a reflection of the cultural diversity in our immediate communities. We will stand in sympathy and serve in advocacy as far as possible of those who suffer as victims of racism and to continue implementing practical means of promoting and engaging in cross-cultural inclusivity.

And so, the Baptist call is to:

1.) Preach. Consistently present the truths of God’s Word in our churches to God’s people across our country.

2.) Develop. By exercising our leadership intentionality within our local church communities as the Lord affords us opportunities to do so.

3.) Rally. Exercising a prophetic voice in the midst the world according to the divine mandate without fear of man and in fear of the LORD.

4.) Engage. As far as we are able gently with those that are hurting and boldly those that need to understand God’s will and His way.

20171006 Racism

Press Kit

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The Christian Concern Network of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa

The Christian Concern Network of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa is tasked by the Baptist Union of Southern Africa to give leadership in matters of personal and social ethics; Helping churches of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa with information on current issues, and making representation on social issues with others, and in its own name, to the relevant authorities.

The Steering Committee of the Christian Concern Network

M Penrith (Chairman), G Ngamlana (Vice Chairman), G Harold, K Roy, H Wetmore, L Rinquest, A Scheerpers.

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa is a voluntary organisation comprised of more than 620 churches and 7 regional associations which prescribe to Christian tenants of belief and Baptist distinctives. The South African census of 2001 recorded that out of a population of 44,819,774 citizens 691,235 people identified themselves as Baptists in South Africa.

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Mark Penrith
Mark serves as a full time elder focusing on teaching. He is married to Liezl and has three children, Kaitlyn, Kathryn and Thomas. Mark was saved in the 90’s in Midrand Chapel, Gauteng. He previously served as an elder at Midrand Chapel and was sent out from that church as a missionary in 2010. Mark studies theology at the Baptist Theological College. He became an elder at Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni in 2010.
Mark Penrith

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