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Symposium encourages dialogue about racial reconciliation

Bryan Loritts (right), lead pastor of Fellowship Memphis, and John Bryson, the church's teaching pastor, speak at Union's Black History Month program Feb. 27. (Photo by Jacob Moore)
Bryan Loritts (right), lead pastor of Fellowship Memphis, and John Bryson, the church's teaching pastor, speak at Union's Black History Month program Feb. 27. (Photo by Jacob Moore)

JACKSON, Tenn.March 5, 2013 – Eliminating more than 200 years of racism won’t be accomplished easily, but it’s still a goal for which Christians should strive, according to Bryan Loritts and John Bryson of Fellowship Memphis.

Loritts and Bryson were the featured panelists for Union University’s sixth annual Black History Month symposium Feb. 27.

Fellowship Memphis is a multicultural church recognized for leading racial reconciliation efforts in the city of Memphis. The idea to form such a church came from Bryson, who felt compelled to bridge the racial gap and bring races together.

“We felt that we could ignite hope,” said Bryson, the church’s teaching pastor. “If in the second most segregated city of America, a gospel-preaching, Bible-teaching, disciple-making church erupted, that was made up of multiple ethnicities and bringing African-Americans and whites together, it would be bigger than itself and remove excuses from other cities [to reconcile races.]”

Loritts and Bryson focused on the theme “From Every Tribe: A Dialogue on Church, Campus and Community,” as they addressed the diverse audience of black, white and Latino students, faculty, staff, local and state leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other members of the Jackson community.

Loritts, lead pastor of Fellowship Memphis, said the discussion of diversity churches in necessary “because we are not being actively aggressive to bridge the [racial] gap and come together.”

“Ninety percent of African Americans are in African American churches,’” Loritts said, “and only 25 percent of churches are classified as multi-cultural churches, which really shocked me from an African American’s standpoint.”

As a Southern city with involvement in the civil rights movement, Memphis has played a key role in black history. Loritts and Bryson said they recognize that through their work, they could create something monumental and historic in Memphis.

“By God’s grace, we want to rewrite the narrative of Memphis over the next four years,” Loritts said. “We continue to pick our leadership by looking for someone who has high cultural intelligence and can push their white or African American brothers and sisters without running them over.”

Through their work, the men said they hope other churches will get a vision for similar action.

Frank Anderson, director of the associate of divinity program and associate professor of missions and ministry at Union’s Stephen Olford Center in Germantown, served as the facilitator for the panel discussion. This was the first time the program had a panel, as previous Black History Month programs featured only a single speaker.

The event was sponsored by the Vocatio Center for Life Calling and Career and the MOSAIC student organization.

By Alana Hu (’14)

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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