Throughout the Palmetto State this month, schools, businesses, and media will celebrate Black History Month with heroic stories of technological, social, industrial, political, and religious contributions from the ethnic group that today makes up 26.5% of our state. Our hearts join in this celebration, thanking God for the beautiful, rich diversity we enjoy in South Carolina. 1.4 million African Americans call South Carolina home. And, although we try, the annals of history cannot do justice to the limitless stories of Black South Carolinians that enrich all our lives and inspire hope for today and tomorrow.
L.L. Owens, in her 1971 book, Saints of Clay: The Shaping of South Carolina Baptists, pinned race relations as the most influential social factor of SCBaptist life and ministry throughout history: “No other social issue has influenced South Carolina and South Carolina Baptists as much as the slavery-race question. It illustrates better than anything else in South Carolina history how profoundly religious movements are shaped by their times.”
Today, SCBaptists celebrate the enormous progress our state and culture have made toward racial unity while we acknowledge that, under the sun, we still have a long way to go. That’s why African American Engagement is one of our top priorities in the recently announced 10×10 Plan. Our vision is to more appropriately reflect the beautiful diversity of our state by encouraging, equipping, networking, and reproducing African American pastors and church leaders; evangelizing and discipling African Americans in our communities across the state; and increasing the number of African Americans in our churches, on Convention staff, and on Convention committees and boards.
While the Gospel is not reshaped by the times, our Great Commission movements are. For SCBaptists, increased African American Engagement is a timely Great Commission opportunity to celebrate. So, we join with all Christians this month in acknowledging the graciousness of God throughout the complex history of our great state, in celebrating the worthy contributions of Black South Carolinians that continue to enrich all lives, and in clinging to the hope that is ours in Christ at the foot of the cross—“for he (Christ) is our peace, who made the two groups one,” (Ephesians 2:14).