Together at the Feet of Jesus
August 14th, 2017 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments
In 1968, as I entered my sophomore year at Wossman High School in Monroe, Louisiana, three African-American teenagers enrolled to attend classes. Within two years, an African-American school in the city was closed, and the students were sent to predominately white schools. Wossman went from zero African-Americans to forty percent in these desegregation efforts, and racial tensions ran high. A bi-racial committee was formed of students and teachers to help navigate a way to bring normalcy to the school. It was my privilege to serve on that committee as the vice-president of the student body.
I was saved my senior year of high school, and a few months after graduation I answered God’s call to the ministry. Upon attending a Baptist college that fall, one of the first friends I made was an African-American ministerial student. We were from the same town but knew nothing of each other. We traveled together several times going home.
Later as I pastored, racism reared its ugly head. We had a special outreach emphasis one Sunday in the church where I was serving, and An African-American family visited that day. I had a church leader tell me not to give an invitation because “they” might come forward. I told him the ground was level at the foot of cross and gave the invitation as usual.
I was weary of many of the trappings of a typical church and wanted to do something different. A church only 18 months old began to consider me for their pastorate, and in my self-righteous smugness, I told them I would not consider it unless they had an open door to all people. They told me the vice-chairman of deacons was in an inter-racial marriage. I had to check my own heart to see if I really meant what I was saying. For seven years I pastored a multi-racial congregation reaching all kinds of people.
When I became executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, I made every effort to pursue Hispanic, Asian, African-American and multi-racial involvement in the convention. About 600 of the 2,600 affiliated SBTC congregations are non-Anglo. We have worked hard to have a diverse staff, and elected leaders reflect that diversity as well.
Last fall I was privileged to perform a marriage ceremony of a bi-racial couple. Since the African-American groom lost his mother a few years back, he has called my wife “mom.” If this gets me in trouble with the “Alt-Right White Supremacists” and the KKK, so be it. I renounce their anti-Semitism and racism.
As a white man I cannot experience the feelings held by those of other races. I am still a work in progress. All I can do is seek to submit my heart to the Lord Jesus and love people unconditionally like he did. The only racial reconciliation that will be permanent is when we are at the feet of Jesus. He is the great equalizer. Let’s stay close to Jesus; then we will be close to one another.