Racism is a sin problem permiating America and churches must combat this darkness and decay with the full force of the Gospel, a prominent African-American leader told members of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday.
Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, told those gathered at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, that racism "is, without question, a sin problem. And since the church is the only salt and light in town, if there is darkness and decay in America, it appears to me that the church must be guilty."
"Here is the problem with America: It is because in the church we have contaminated salt and concealed light. That's the problem."
Young also told those gathered at the SBC's panel discussion on racial reconciliation, "A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America" that he was "absolutely, totally convinced" that American churches are not doing enough to combat racism.
"I am convinced that what needs to happen in America is precisely what Dr. Floyd argued a moment ago," continued Young. "Somebody needs to pass the salt and turn on the lights."
In addition to Young, Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, gave remarks before taking part in a panel conversation with several pastors of diverse racial backgrounds.
In his speech, Blalock talked about how last year's racially charged massacre at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church brought home the harshness of racism for many white Christians like himself.
"For so many years, white people have not really been able to capture and understand the true pain, the true hurt of racism, at least not experientially," said Blalock.
"But racially motivated murder hurt all of us. The white community for the first time, in some ways, would experience the depth of the pain; for the first time, beginning to understand, it was our church that was attacked, our people, our brothers and sisters, our neighbor. Our city was made one by grief."
Racial reconciliation has been a major theme for SBC President Ronnie Floyd, who has participated in events alongside Young focused on this topic.
"The Southern Baptist Convention is one of America's most multi-ethnic, multi-lingual denominations," said Floyd in advance of the panel. "It is our responsibility to have this historic conversation today for our present and for our future."
This is not the only time that the SBC annual meeting has dealt with the issue of race. On Tuesday afternoon the body voted to approve a resolution calling on Southern Baptists to stop flying the Confederate battle flag.
"With full respect of the autonomy of the local church, we call brothers and sisters in Christ who display the Confederate battle flag as a memorial," read the resolution. "We urge fellow Christians to exercise sensitivity so that nothing brings division or hinders the unity of the Body of Christ to be a bold witness to the transforming power of Jesus."
In 1995, the SBC passed a "Resolution on Racial Reconciliation on the 150th Anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention" which acknowledged "Our relationship to African-Americans has been hindered from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention." ... and sought "forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters, acknowledging that our own healing is at stake."