WASHINGTON (RNS) —Sen. Raphael Warnock urged the Progressive Baptist National Convention to continue fighting to protect voting rights as the historically black denomination holds its annual meeting.
“If we don’t check what they are doing in Georgia, they will be able to nullify the votes and the votes of the people once they have already been cast,” Warnock, Georgia’s first black US senator, said in a 4 banquet speech at the 60th Annual Virtual Gathering.
“It’s the delta variant of Jim Crow’s voting laws. The only inoculation is federal law, and the only way to do it is for the people of God to arise. So thank you, Progressive, for standing up. Thank you for bearing witness to the love of God and to the righteousness of God in the world.
The Progressive Baptist National Convention is considered the “spiritual home” of Martin Luther King Jr. and formed as a splinter group of the National Baptist Convention in 1961 after NBC opposed the sit-ins and other civil rights protests.
In addition to serving in the United States Senate, Warnock is also pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a prominent church in Atlanta where King was once co-pastor.
Ahead of Warnock’s remarks, the denomination awarded former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams its Freedom Award for “shameless, unwavering, unwavering and undeniable courage in the face of extreme hostility to protect rights. vote of all ”.
The other two laureates were Jacqui Burton, president of the Conference of National Black Churches, and Harvard University historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of The black church: it’s our story, it’s our song.
Meeting addresses social justice issues
The denominational gathering featured a number of discussions on social justice, including not only voting rights, but also concerns about fair wages and debates on critical race theory.
“The minimum wage in 1968 had more purchasing power than the minimum wage in 2021,” Warnock said in his speech, noting how people who clean church and hospital floors have been deemed “essential” during the pandemic of COVID-19. “Well, if they’re essential workers, someone should be paying them essential wages. “
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In a panel hosted by the convention’s Social Justice Commission, several churches countered white evangelicals, including some Southern Baptists, who opposed Critical Race Theory, an academic theory of systemic racism.
Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes said black Christians shouldn’t “drink the Kool-Aid of white evangelical theology” that might make them think they can’t emphasize their race as well as their religion. She and her co-pastor husband lead an August sermon series, “Critical Race Theory & Black Faith,” at their church, Double Love Experience, in Brooklyn, NY.
“Your identity as a black Christian says a lot about our history,” she said. “And about what we’ve been through, thought, and theorized, and still being a Christian after what they’ve done to us, that’s a bold and prophetic statement in itself.”
Earlier in the week, Pastor Frederick Haynes III of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, joined other Texas clergy at the Supreme Court to protest his 2013 ruling that he said “Gutted” the voting rights law, freeing states like his “to do the filth they are doing right now.”
The 2013 ruling struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act, whose 56th anniversary is Friday, which would prompt a mandatory Justice Department review of new electoral regulations in states with a history of discrimination in the country. vote.
“Texas must always be under due diligence, because the children of the parents of those who did not want certain people to vote are now in power, and they have made a commitment that not everyone will vote,” he said. he declares.
Jack Jenkins contributed to this report.