New leader of statewide ministry seeks to bring unity across racial lines

The incoming president of Mission Mississippi cast his vision for the ministry during a visit to Tupelo

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – The new leader of a ministry known for its work bridging racial and denominational lines said the church needs to lead the way when it comes to racial reconciliation.

“This group, this audience, Jesus is praying for us and saying that they may be perfectly one,” said Pastor Brian Crawford.

During a lunchtime meeting at Tupelo’s Harrisburg Baptist Church, Crawford, the incoming president of Mission Mississippi, said there’s no escaping the call to unity found in the Bible for Christians of different ethnic and social backgrounds.

Bringing churches together across racial and denominational lines has been the goal of Mission Mississippi since it was founded 30 years ago.

Crawford, who is pastor of the ethnically diverse City Light Church in Vicksburg, said true unity doesn’t mean people will agree on everything, but it does mean having open and honest dialogue about issues that many are uncomfortable discussing.

“What we want to do is find areas we do agree, and dig in and find that common ground and then areas we disagree, be more respectful of one another’s opinion, more patient, as we navigate the disagreement so we can try and find agreement in those areas as well,” Crawford said.

The incoming leader of the ministry also wanted to get more young people involved in the mission of racial reconciliation.

Members of the local Mission Mississippi chapter said the church is commanded to show true unity across all racial and other barriers.

“Our common ground is we are made in the image of God and our love for the Lord and for one another. It should always transcend everything,” said Harrisburg Baptist Church Pastor Rob Armstrong.

“We say we are believers and we say we believe in Jesus and we’re trying to make things better, we should try to come together and make things better,” said Temple of Compassion and Deliverance Pastor Clarence Parks.

Without a doubt, having tough conversations about race and other issues is hard work, but Crawford wants Mission Mississippi to find those pastors and church leaders across the state who have a desire for racial unity, and to move toward that goal, one step at a time.

Crawford will replace longtime President Neddie Winters who is retiring. The Tupelo Chapter meets once a month for breakfast and dialogue.

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