As protests loom, Tenn. Baptists denounce racism

By Lonnie Wilkey

Published: October 31, 2017

Randy Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, speaks during a press conference held Oct. 25. (Photo by Corinne Rochotte)

FRANKLIN, Tenn.—With white supremacist rallies scheduled for this weekend in the state, a mix of ethnically diverse Tennessee Baptists gathered in a display of unity in Franklin on Oct. 25 to publicly denounce the white supremacist movement and racism.

“We don’t call press conferences very often but we believe it is impossible to stand silently by while the white supremacy movement plans to invade our state and perpetrate its evil Saturday (Oct. 28) in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro,” said Randy Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, during a press conference at the TBMB’s Church Support Center.

Earlier this month the Nationalist Front, a self-described “umbrella organization to bring unity and solidarity to the White Nationalist Movement in North America,” announced plans to hold anti-immigration rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro.

“As Tennessee Baptists and as Southern Baptists, we are categorically opposed to the white supremacy movement and any movement that diminishes the dignity of any human,” Davis said.

The rallies, he said, are planned to oppose immigrants and refugees living in Middle Tennessee. “If history holds true, the intent of these groups gathering is to fear monger and fan the flames of racial hatred,” Davis noted.

“This bigotry has no place in our American society and it certainly has no place in the life of anyone who is a follower of Jesus,” he said.

Davis said the “movement is evil and is contrary to everything we are called to be as followers of Christ.”

He cautioned Christians to be on guard because “this movement preys upon people’s fears and the temptation is to buy into the rhetoric, especially since this group is targeting those who feel under-represented and disenfranchised.”

The Tennessee Baptist leader stressed that “we are not making a political statement today. That is not our intent. We are, however, prayerful that our governmental leaders will write laws that both offer security to America and are fair to all who seek shelter within her borders.”

The rallies also provide an opportunity to remind all Christians “that we are commanded to love our neighbors and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone, regardless of their race,” Davis said.

Davis stressed that Tennessee is a mission field, not a mine field. “We believe God has brought the nations to Tennessee that they might hear the gospel. It is our responsibility to share that gospel with every man, woman, and child living in our state regardless of race or immigration status.”

Jay Wells, pastor emeritus of Simeon Baptist Church, Antioch, and a director of the TBMB, said he rejoices in the diversity of Tennessee, with more than 145 different nationalities living within state borders. “Diversity is good … because it is God’s idea, not ours,” he said.

The African-American leader acknowledged that there are good and bad people in every race. “I am reminded that the Bible says that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. Because we have all sinned we all need to be liberated from the sinful nature that is in us,” he said.

“It is the sinful nature in us that makes us want to hurt each other and makes us want to devalue one another,” Wells noted, stressing the need for forgiveness.

Thi Mitsamphanh, pastor of International Community Church, Smyrna, came as a representative of one of many ethnic churches across Tennessee. “We are brothers and sisters in Christ who represent many nations, cultures and languages from all parts of the world. We love the same Jesus and serve the same Lord,” he said.

Mitsamphanh said the white supremacist movement and the planned protests in Tennessee “stand in opposition to the message of Scripture. This movement spreads a message of hate, not love,” he stressed.

“The Gospel affirms that every person is created in the image of God, that the Good News of Jesus is for all nations, cultures and languages, and that we should love all our neighbors,” he said. “Now is the time for the church to stand in unity for the Gospel and against this evil and hateful agenda.” (BP)