Last month the annual EFCA Theology Conference was held in San Antonio, Texas. Entitled The Gospel, Compassion and Justice, and the EFCA, the conference featured six speakers who addressed the theme from various angles, with a notable and welcome emphasis on racial reconciliation. (Click here for a pictorial glimpse of the conference.)
Five of the speakers were persons of color. To Biblical attentiveness and a constructive tone they added a powerful personal perspective to their talks, making their messages particularly incisive, humbling, and inspiring. John Perkins, elder statesman of reconciliation in the evangelical church, reminded us of the simple but profound and powerful truth that persons made in the image of God are created to be loved. At the foot of the cross, all of us are on level ground in need of repentance. Jarvis Williams taught us about the reconciliation of sinners with each other in the new humanity Christ created through the cross. Doug Sweeney put our American evangelical heritage in perspective by pointing out the uneven commitment of our forbears to justice and compassion. Our history is a mix of bright examples and dismal failures. Carl Ellis brought us perspective from the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Danny Carroll taught us Biblical principles of justice and compassion in immigration issues. Peter Cha outlined a practical pathway for taking incremental steps forward in matters of justice. He reminded us that justice is not an event, but a journey.
Was this a historic conference for our movement? Very possibly so. The significant diversity represented in the room, the uncompromising and helpful teaching, the overall spirit of humility and learning, and the feedback voiced by many suggest that this event was something significant, influential, and promising in our history. The potential fruit flowing from the conference is huge. Yet most attendees would agree with Greg Strand’s exhortation to us all: this must not be a mere event. It is an ongoing conversation, an ongoing journey, an ongoing series of changes in mindset, relationships, and actions—all contributing to an EFCA in the future that expresses more clearly and widely true compassion, justice, and reconciliation, all shaped by the gospel. In the current EFCA Update, Joshua Smith captures the significance of the conference and describes a simple but profound basic response that will carry us all forward.