American Baptists pledge support for refugees and against racism

By staff writers
July 12, 2009

American Baptists have achieved the resettlement of more than 100,000 refugees since their cooperative effort with the ecumenical Church World Service began after World War Two.

This is what the recent American Baptist Church (ABC) convention heard. ABC is one of a number of Baptist denominations in the USA, with a membership of some 1.3 million in its congregations.

The landmark has been achieved through ABC National Ministries’ Direct Human Services office. At their biennial luncheon, those present heard evidence of the impact of their work from Htoo May, a Karen refugee resettled in Omaha, Nevada, who expressed thanks for help she received after years in a refugee camp following displacement from her home.

A litany led by Pastor Ronald Charles of Chin Baptist Church, West Allis, Wisconsin, reminded participants: “In providing for the poor, the hungry, the sick and the homeless, God’s people have ministered to them as unto Jesus. In caring for these refugees, we have entertained angels.”

Adapting a quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Baptist pastor the Rev Dr Al Staggs reminded those gathered that “the church is only the church as she lives for others.”

The event, entitled 'Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism', also focused on the DVD of the same name produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics.

In the panel discussion that followed, the Rev Katie Choy-Wong, pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, Castro Valley, California, said that in modern America racism is not dead, just less overt.

“Internalized racism affects you on the inside, makes you feel ashamed, hating your own race,” she declared. “The Bible teaches that we need to not only love God and neighbour, but ourselves.”

Dr Juan Martinez, associate professor and assistant dean, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, asked those assembled, “What is our aim, what would the Kingdom look like in practice without racism? We can’t create what we can’t imagine. What is our image of the future, our vision of the Kingdom, our dream?”

Fuller is a leading US evangelical seminary.

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