Published April 18, 2017
NASHVILLE — A racial unity conference on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. has been announced by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition.
The event — ”MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop” — will be held April 4, 2018, in Memphis, half a century to the date of King’s slaying in the city. Announced Tuesday April 4 at TGC’s National Conference, the event will focus on the status and pursuit of racial unity in the American church and culture.
The diverse lineup of speakers includes:
- Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
- H.B. Charles, pastor-teacher of Shiloh Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Fla.
- John Piper, founder and teacher of Desiring God.
- Benjamin Watson, tight end for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.
- Don Carson, TGC co-founder and research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
- Crawford Loritts, senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga.
- Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and president of the Acts 29 Network.
- Jackie Hill Perry, poet, rapper and speaker.
- Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia.
“The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. should remind us of what can happen when one speaks to the conscience of the culture and to the conscience of the church,” Moore said in a news release announcing the event. “Fifty years after Dr. King’s assassination, it is shameful that the church often lags behind the culture around us when it comes to issues of racial justice, unity and reconciliation. We should be leading the way.”
Moore said, “The gospel that reconciles the sons of slaveholders with the sons of slaves ... is a gospel that reclaims the dignity of humanity and the lordship of God. It is this gospel that Dr. King appealed to, and it is this gospel that belongs to the church as much right now as it ever has. My eager prayer for this event is that it will bring a word of gospel hope, repentance and unity to many brothers and sisters in Christ.”
In an interview with Baptist Press, Loritts recalled the devastation and uncertainty he felt as an 18-year-old African American when King was assassinated. Having a gospel-focused conference on the 50th anniversary is “hugely significant,” he said.
“It’s happening at a very strategic time in our country, where issues of race and division and the need for unity are front and center again,” Loritts said. “I think that in the providence of God this celebration, this looking back and commemoration of this extraordinary life that God used could be a step toward healing, a step toward revisiting those issues, taking a look at where we are today, how far we have come, the need that we have to go even further.”
Loritts hopes evangelicals “will pray that God will use this event to bring healing and wholeness, also an environment in which the gospel can be heard clearly with great integrity.”
“(M)y greatest hope is that the church of Jesus Christ will begin modeling the desired destination at which the culture needs to arrive,” he said, “and we have a lot of work to do.”
“MLK50” will be held from 1 to 9 p.m. next April 4 at the Memphis Convention Center. Registration and other information on the event is available at http://mlk50conference.com.
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