Saturday, April 5, 2008

Celebrating with Brothers and Sisters

The Baptist General Convention of Missouri held our Annual Meeting yesterday and today at Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis. Fee Fee is the oldest protestant church still in existence west of the Mississippi River. The church was founded in 1807. Fee Fee is also the place where the BGCM was organized six years ago. Randy Fullerton, pastor of Fee Fee, and the congregation acted courageously and with vision to host the organizational meeting. It was wonderful to experience their gracious hospitality as we gathered for this year's meeting.

While there was no overt reference to the 40th anniversary of the untimely and tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we marked the anniversary by having two outstanding Black pastors speaking at our Annual Meeting. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, Sr., recently retired Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City and Vice-President At-Large of the National Baptist Convention of America, spoke during our Friday afternoon session. He had to leave immediately after his message to participate in a special event marking the anniversary of Dr. King’s death at the church where he was pastor for 40 years. His son, Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, II, followed him as Senior Pastor.

We also heard Dr. Ronald L. Bobo, Sr., Senior Pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis and past President of the Youth Department of the Baptist World Alliance, during our Friday evening session. The Berean District Choir from St. Louis and the Contemporary Choir from Dr. Bobo’s church joined with the choir and praise team from Fee Fee to lead us in worship. We had a great time of worship together.

We were also blessed by the Annual Convention Sermon delivered by Dr. Scott Harrison, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit, the President’s Address by Dr. Harlan Spurgeon, and the two messages (on Friday evening and Saturday morning) by Dr. William O’Brien, former Executive Vice President of the Foreign Mission Board.

A great many people from both White and Black congregations talked with me following our Friday sessions about the blessing they received by gathering for worship and fellowship together. Slavery and the countless crimes against African-Americans that grew out of it have left scares on our nation and our world. Segregation was a terrible injustice to our Black brothers and sisters and was often supported by “Christian” people. Many have rightly acknowledged that Sunday morning may still be the most segregated hour in our nation. I believe segregation was not only an injustice to our brothers and sisters; but, it was propagated at a terrible loss to our predominately White congregations. I believe we have a great deal to learn from our African-American brothers and sisters about effective ministry in our communities, engaging our people in worship, empowering leaders, and many other areas. We need the humility to acknowledge that we need each other.

We are a long way from making right the many injustices and crimes committed against our brothers and sisters. Racism and the evils it brings into our lives and communities still exists. We have a long way to go in our journey, but I was encouraged by the time of worship and sharing. I am encouraged by the signs of hope which are coming out of the New Baptist Covenant held in Atlanta earlier this year. Dr. King’s dream has not been realized, but I believe many more share the dream today than did 40 years ago. If we are serious about reaching our world for Christ, it is time for us to unite with all God’s children as we stand for justice, peace and love.

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