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“A Time to Speak” Panel Discussion Recap

John Richards

The National Civil Rights Museum is located just a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River—one of North America’s largest rivers. Five decades ago this museum was known as the Lorraine Motel. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on the hotel’s balcony. King was the dreamer who had an insatiable desire to see “justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty river”. Tragically, he was the dreamer whose life was cut short less than a mile away from a mighty river.

Culturally, as much as we’ve inched closer to that mighty river, recent events in Missouri and New York have reminded us that we’re further away than we think. These events have led us to question whether we’re even on the river’s banks, our toes inches away from immersion in justice and righteousness.

Today, the museum was the site of the “A Time to Speak” dialogue on race, as Bryan Loritts—pastor of Fellowship Memphis—co-sponsored a panel discussion on race, the church and where we go from here.  The panel was moderated by Ed Stetzer. Panelists for the discussion included John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, Voddie Baucham, Darrin Patrick, Matt ChandlerBryan LorittsAlbert Tate, Trillia Newbell, Eric Mason and Derwin Gray. Many of the panelists are reformed voices who have either appeared on RAAN’s Pass The Mic podcast or contributed to content on our site. The dialogue was both edifying and insightful. Here are some of the more poignant moments from each of the panelists.

John Piper

On God’s transcendence:
“Only God can handle the knowledge of all the pain in the world & not be destroyed by it.”

Advice to pastors about speaking on race (and other issues):
“Preempt the issues on abortion, on racism, and others, biblically. Go there first, and capture the vocabulary.”

On recent events: 
“In the 21st century, when we can land on the moon, surely we can find a way to disarm someone without killing them.”

On race:
“[Race] is not a social issue. This is a blood issue.”

Thabiti Anyabwile

On African American “scholarship”:
“It’s African Americans who have had the best theological anthropology.”

On systematic injustice:
“I think it’s ahistorical and close to willfully ignorant to argue there are no systematic injustices in this country.”

On law and the gospel:
“When you land on ‘you reap what you sow’ you land on the law, not the gospel.”

“[Race] is not a social issue. This is a blood issue.”

Voddie Baucham

On putting individuals names on shirts (to the exclusion of others):
“I take issue with lionizing individuals that don’t deserve to be lionized.”

On law and the gospel:
“There’s a difference between the lack of gospel content and lack of gospel conclusion [in writing]. There is no understanding of the message of the gospel without the law.”

On systemic issues:
“[I believe you can talk about] personal responsibility issues without talking about systemic issues.”

“There is no system that is inherently just…Do I believe the system is inherently rigged against black people? No, I don’t.”

Darrin Patrick 

On ministry in Ferguson:
“We are taking responsibility for the brokenness of our city.”

On preaching in racially tense atmosphere:
“Jesus entered [the Samaritan woman’s] heart through a wound. Jesus [was] addressing the other. And I said to our people, this is our example.”

On race conversations:
“My brothers and sisters who are black, they say, we’re already talking about race. Thanks for coming into our conversation. So I feel like we’re being invited in by our brothers and sisters.”

Matt Chandler

On white privilege:
“Looking across the narrative of the Bible, God seems to be pretty dialed into the human heart…the privileged class is going to have the tendency to…protect its privilege and perks.”

“When I saw how easy [fundraising was for Anglos I found] it is way easier for a white guy to plant a church…regardless of where he’s planting, than an African American or Latino to do the same thing.”

“The privileged class is responsible to understand and responsible to help.”

Bryan Lorrits

On token relationships:
“You need relationships with minorities who don’t need you.”

On living Ephesians 2:
“Let’s live all of Ephesians 2, not just a few verses. Historically, we’ve stopped at verse 10.”

On community:
“If you don’t have proximity [to others] you won’t have empathy.”

On the Civil Rights Movement:
“While the civil rights movement could change laws, it couldn’t change hearts.”

Albert Tate

On Christians:
“We’re all recovering racists.”

On progress:
“We’re here at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King got assassinated, not because we got it right, but because we got it wrong.”

On reconciliation:
“We have to build churches where we push disciples toward one another.”

On knowing other cultures:
“I have to know white culture by default. I can’t get a GED without having to understand white culture. But a white person can get a Ph.D. and never know black culture.”

Trillia Newbell

On social media and activism:
“Don’t assume that because someone isn’t on social media that they’re not speaking [on race].”

The gospel’s impact on racism:
“I believe wholeheartedly that the gospel breaks down barriers and we can have this conversation. And we need to have this conversation.”

On our “neighbor”:
“I believe we’re family. If we understand our adoption…it makes a difference…For us to not step into someone else’s shoes who is different from us is really denying our family.”

Eric Mason

On color blind theology:
“If we make our theology colorblind then what happens is we discount the narratives of people.”

On progress:
“We’ll know we’ve made progress when large numbers of Whites can submit to Black leadership [in the church].”

On social justice:
“Social ministry is not the issue if you keep it rooted in who Christ is.”

Derwin Gray

On the importance of diversity in the God’s kingdom:
“At the the heart of the gospel is that there is a new king, who has a kingdom, who has brought people into that kingdom by his grace.”

On identity:
“My blackness doesn’t define me, my CHRIST-ness does!”

On lack diversity in gathered faith communities:
“Isn’t it hypocritical for Christians to talk about race when 90% of our churches are homogenous.”

We’re grateful for all of the panelist and their perspectives. We pray this conversation—and the move toward reconciliation—continues as we inch closer to the streams of justice and righteousness.

Did we miss anything? Any other statements that stuck out for you? Let us know.

2 thoughts on ““A Time to Speak” Panel Discussion Recap

  1. John Richards

    Sure Hannah. You might want to check out Piper’s book, Bloodlines, but here’s a quote that might help with contextualization.

    “The bloodline of Jesus Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. The death and resurrection of the Son of God for sinners is the only sufficient power to bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross.”

    Link to DG page on Piper’s Bloodlines: http://www.desiringgod.org/books/bloodlines

  2. Hannah

    What does Piper’s last quotation mean? I’d appreciate a little context. No idea what he means by a “blood issue.”

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