“Our congregations need to be on the frontlines, because we see passages [like Micah 6:8] that say ‘do justice, love mercy,’” Jeremy Everett, executive director at the Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, said during his session at the 2020 Micah 6:8 Conference, hosted by the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission (CLC) and Howard Payne University (HPU). “It’s a part of our faith to help others.”
On Oct. 26-27, attendees of the Micah 6:8 Conference gathered in-person and virtually to learn about engaging with hot-button issues, such as racial inequalities and gender gaps, from a Biblical perspective. The event took place on Oct. 26-27 on the HPU campus and through online streaming.
Adjusting to the pandemic and commissioning David Sanchez
In the opening session of the conference on Monday, Dr. Katie Frugé, director of Hunger and Care Ministries, explained all the ways that the CLC and churches around Texas have stepped up to face the difficult challenges that have happened in 2020. She explained that the CLC was born during a crisis of racial reconciliation during the Civil Rights Movement and that it has returned to its roots, reacting to the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She also told of the important COVID-19 relief work the CLC has been a part of, including the distribution of food to over 1.3 million individuals through the Hunger Offering.
Texas Baptists has also hosted almost 4,000 Zoom meetings and 174 webinars to guide pastors and churches in reacting to the pandemic’s challenges.
“We learned that, while physically distant, we needed to remain emotionally close to each other and the CLC needed to meet the needs of emotional connection for people,” she said. We have confidence that the work of the CLC will continue to be relevant and powerful.”
Dr. David Sanchez, director of Ethics and Justice for the CLC, was commissioned to his new position on Monday night. Sanchez, a graduate of HPU, spoke of his call to ministry and his journey to becoming the Director of Ethics & Justice.
“There were times I was sure God was pulling me in one direction, only for Him to open a door somewhere else,” he said. “As long as I’m sure God is going to use me and I’m moving in that direction, God will steer me in the right direction.”
Charges for Sanchez were given by Daniel Sanchez, David’s father and the distinguished professor of Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Cory Hines, president of HPU; and Gary Gramling, dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies.
“God has called him and given him a vision to minister to people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds,” Daniel Sanchez said. “So it’s my privilege to introduce to you, Dr. David Sanchez.”
Seeking social justice biblically
On Tuesday, speakers talked about social issues and how Christians can address them from a Biblical viewpoint, with a particular emphasis on how COVID-19 has affected them. All called for unity and a commitment to God’s will over politics and personal identity. Speakers included Mark Grace, chief of Mission and Ministry at Baylor Scott & White Health; Kathryn Freeman, former CLC director of Public Policy; Everett; and Gus Reyes, CLC director.
Grace, discussed disparities in health care and the deepening divide in healthcare, explaining that providing for the health of others should not be a controversial issue for believers.
“It seems that often racial, economic and linguistic lines are more important to us than the example that the Gospel gives us,” he said.
He encouraged conference attendees to examine their own privileges, whether they be racial, economic or otherwise, and ask how they can lift up others who do not have those privileges.
During Everett’s session on hunger in Texas, he also encouraged Christians and churches to look for ways to help others and move past social and economic differences. He explained that it is only through everyone’s cooperation that large issues, such as hunger, will be solved.
“We have to realize that no one organization can end hunger. Some people think it’s the church’s job, or the government’s job, or the non-profit’s job. We all need each other to end these big problems,” he said.
Reyes closed the conference by summarizing some of the upcoming issues the 87th Texas Legislative Session will address, including COVID-19 policies, payday and auto loans, and race relations. He encouraged those in attendance to seek out their representatives and make their voices heard.
Above all, Reyes urged conference participants to stick to the principles of Micah 6:8 and see beyond politics to the people behind them.
“I hope you will be kind in your heart to people who do not agree with you. I have a friend named Samuel Rodriquez who says that Christians don’t follow the agenda of the elephant or the donkey, we follow the agenda of the lamb. That agenda instructs me to love my neighbor,” Reyes said. “If we’re ever going to pull this country together, we’re going to need to figure out how to follow Jesus’s agenda and love our neighbors.”