In 1970, evangelist and author Tom Skinner delivered an iconic speech entitled “The U.S. Racial Crisis and World Evangelism” at InterVarsity’s Urbana student missions conference, held that year in its namesake Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.
The Harlem-based speaker brought with him a soulful worship band and drew hundreds of black students to the mostly-white gathering. During his remarks, Skinner boldly held the church accountable for racial injustice. He delineated the country’s racial history, charging that “there is no possible way you can talk about preaching the gospel if you do not want to deal with the issues that bind people.” His speech is remembered as a groundbreaking moment in the history of Urbana and of American missions—a Christ-centered call to see our racial realities through a gospel lens.
The most recent Urbana conference, held last week in St. Louis, was reminiscent of his powerful message in 1970. This time it was speaker and minister Michelle Higgins who put out a call for a new generation of Christians to stand up for racial justice and declare that Black Lives Matter.
As a blogger focused on Christianity and race, I’ve spent the past few years following evangelical responses to racial injustice and the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement. These recent events have challenged Christians to reexamine what it means to love thy neighbor and “do good; seek justice, correct oppression” (Is. 1:17). At Urbana, 2015 came to a close with one of the strongest statements I’ve seen on the topic from an evangelical organization.
Early in the conference, the worship team took the stage wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts, and I could tell ...1
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