FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – January 18, 2021)
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and his prophetic witness, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) calls upon the global family to pray and continue to pursue racial justice today.
Cassandra Jones, Chair of the BWA Commission on Racial, Gender, and Economic Justice, said, “Across the United States, actions of the first two weeks of this year as well as throughout 2020 are stark reminders that the sin of racial injustice continues to cause many in the church and in society to stumble. We recognize this is not limited to any one country as racial profiling, systemic injustice, and extrajudicial police violence remain far too common realities that urge us to join in the biblical call for prophetic engagement. Now is the time for our global Christian family to lead our local communities to engage in conversations that foster healing, courage, and hope.”
In light of these ongoing realities, the BWA launched a special Racial Justice Action Group in October 2020 with unanimous affirmation from the BWA Executive Committee. The Action Group is co-chaired by BWA General Secretary Elijah M. Brown and BWA First Vice President Karl Johnson from Jamaica.
“The need to be relentless against the sin of racism is impatient of debate. Wittingly, or unwittingly, the stridency required to call out and combat this iniquitous enemy against humankind has too often been lured into complacency – perhaps due to perceived gains in the battle. Our generation has been awakened and summoned to the urgent need to strengthen our voices and advocacy in the struggle for racial equality and equity,” said Johnson. “The formation of this Action Group communicates our obedience to the call of God to stand up for racial justice as did our forebears and to play our part in ensuring that the Gospel values of equality and equity take root in our Baptist family even as we work toward them also becoming a reality in the world. We shall not resile from it!”
Given a two-year mandate, the Racial Justice Action Group will engage around a number of critical issues today including:
- Focusing the BWA Annual Gathering in July 2022 around the theme of racial justice – featuring keynote speakers, the work of all 14 BWA Commissions, pilgrimages, and other points of prayer and action
- Theological reflection on the call for racial justice today within society and within the church
- Special consideration on the subject of reparations
- Developing tools for ongoing engagement within the BWA, BWA Member Bodies, and Churches so that the pursuit of racial justice will remain an ongoing priority
Alongside the Co-Chairs, inaugural steering committee members of this Action Group include Cassandra Jones (Chair of the BWA Commission on Racial, Gender, and Economic Justice, USA), Everton Jackson (BWA Director of Integral Mission, Jamaica), Michael Okwakol (Founder and President of African Church Empowerment Ministries,Uganda), and Silvia Rapisarda (Pastor of Chiesa Battista di Catania, Italy). This steering committee will be leading in close connection with relevant BWA Commissions and wider sets of key stakeholders, experts, and leaders.
“There is an urgency to recommit ourselves to exorcizing racial injustice and to holding to a vision of human dignity rooted in the image of God in all people and a prophetic hope anticipating a Kingdom of God found in its fullness only as all people from all places are welcomed and embraced as sisters and brothers,” said Brown. “Even as the BWA continues to build upon a legacy of advocating for racial justice, the time is now for each one of us to engage in intentional prayer and in the words of Deuteronomy 16:20, ‘Follow justice and justice alone.'”
To further call us to a corporate solidarity in prayer, the BWA joins with Warren H. Stewart Sr., Pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church (Phoenix, Arizona, USA), in asking each Baptist around the world to unite in prayer this week. Focus areas are outlined below.
Monday: Praying in thanksgiving for racial justice globally, inspired by the Biblical prophets, Jesus Christ, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Tuesday: Praying in confession and repentance for all the ways we have committed the sin of racial injustice globally.
Wednesday: Praying in faith for the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and that God will use them to lead the United States of America and the world in racial justice.
Thursday: Praying for reconciliation globally between those who have been victims of racial injustice and those who have been victimizers of racial injustice.
Friday: Praying for restoration to those who have lost so much as a consequence of racial injustice globally and that it may be evidence racial justice is being achieved.
To download the prayer guide for distribution or for more information about the Racial Justice Action Group, visit BaptistWorld.org/racial-justice.
Anslem Warrick, Chair of the BWA Commission on Human Rights, Peacebuilding, and Reconciliation, voices a prayer for racial justice in recognition and remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.