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President Address

This weekend I attended the American Baptist Churches of the Central Region Annual Gathering.  As the president of the region, I had the responsibility o giving the presidents address.  The address was based on our theme for this year, and it focused on unity.  This is a portion of that address.

Our theme for this year is Finding Unity through Faith, the text is from Galatians 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In our current climate, it is difficult to take on unity as an issue of importance, and I will admit to you my friends that there have been times when I have been extremely discouraged.  In the beginning part of this year, I determined that attempting to foster unity was a lost cause, a waste of time.  It was something that I was not going to waste any more of my efforts on.  Luckily in times of discouragement, self-pity, and downright stupidity, God will send people with words of wisdom into your life.  In my case, the person with those words of wisdom was my wife who simply said “get up off your butt and go and do what God called you to do. Nobody ever said it would be easy.” After those kind and soothing words from my wife, I got over being discouraged and continued promoting unity.

Now you must understand that when I speak of unity I am not talking about a shallow worldly unity that does not acknowledge the truth.  I am talking about a Godley unity, a unity of the Spirit.  Unity is something that Christians must be willing to work toward.  And it’s not going to be easy.  The question that we have to ask is. Is it worth it?  The answer is yes.  We must be willing to stand up for unity.  We must be willing to fight for unity.  We must be willing to sacrifice for unity because it is the will of God that his body is unified.  On more than one occasion the Bible says to us that we are one body.  Our theme text tells us that it doesn’t matter what our race, culture, or ethnicity is we are one in Christ.  Our theme text tells us that it doesn’t matter your social economic status, we are one in Christ, the text tells us it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman we are all, each and every one of us is one in Christ.  This does not mean that we don’t have differences.  This does not mean that we don’t have disagreements.  We can and we will have disagreements.  And yes we are different.  We have to be honest about that.  People in rural America see the world through a different lens and people in urban America.  People with liberal leanings see the world somewhat differently than people with conservatively leaning.  A black men raised in inner-city Detroit is going to have different life experiences than his sister or brother in Christ who was raised in a suburb of Kansas City Kansas, however; It is important to understand that even though we have different experiences, even though we may be looking at the world through different lenses we are all looking two the same cross.  We are all saved by the blood of the same savior.  We were all created by the same creator, and we are all members of the same body, the body of Christ.

One of the most disheartening things for me in promoting unity, the thing that almost pushed me over the edge was the fact that people will get excited about the prospect of unity.  They will talk about how they are on board with the concept of unity, but the more and more you discuss unity there is always someone that stands up and says yeah but.  My friends, my fellow sisters, and brothers in Christ NO MORE BUTS.  Either you are on board with attempting to unify the body of Christ or you are not.  The fact is we can always find reasons to fight.  This secular world will always give us something to fight over, as Christians we must remember that we have something even greater to unify over and that is the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.  So NO MORE BUTS.  We’re not going to focus on reasons why we can’t unify.  We are going to focus on the things that we can do to unify.

That being said, on February 15th and 16th   ABCCR in cooperation with ABC-USA and the National Institute for Civil Discourse will offer a workshop for clergy entitled Glorifying God By Pursuing Meaningful Dialogue Through Active Listening.  You will be getting more information on this workshop in the weeks to come, for right now I would simply ask that you set aside those dates and come to join us in Emporia on February 15th and 16th.   In addition to this workshop, I hope we can find even more opportunities to come together, to work together, and to worship together.  I encourage each of you within your areas, your clusters, and your churches to look for opportunities to come together in unity.   We don’t have to look far to find reasons to fight The body of Christ is made up of a diverse group of imperfect human beings and we are going to have disagreements, in some cases very strong disagreements.  We cannot allow those disagreements to sow discord and disunity within the Body of Christ.

Our theme is finding unity through faith.  It is in our faith that we must find unity.  It is a faith in a God who is the creator of the universe.  It is a faith in a God who loved us so much that he gave all he had to give so that we might have an opportunity for salvation.  It is not a faith in a dead teacher or philosopher, but it is a faith in a resin savior.  “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” I wonder if the text were being written today what would it say?  There is no black or white,  no yellow or red.  There is no liberal or conservative, there are no Protestants or Catholics.  The are no Americans, or Canadians, or Chinese, or Russians for we are all one,  We are all one, We are all one in Christ Jesus.  AMEN

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