For pastor James Dixon, the anniversary stirred reflection on the past and energy for blacks to continue in their God-given purpose.
McNairy and Dixon, both Southern Baptists, attended several conferences and seminars during a week of commemorative activities and they planned to walk the last leg of the 1.6-mile march that began at 8:15 a.m. today (Aug. 28). McNairy is the founding director of the Urban Fusion Network in Lawrenceville, Ga. Dixon is pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.
During the 1963 March on Washington that pumped national energy into the Civil Rights Movement and drew 250,000 to the Lincoln Memorial, McNairy was just a toddler, growing up in a southern family too poor to travel to D.C. to hear Martin Luther King Jr. set forth his dream of economic and social equality for the nation.
"My rationale for participating," McNairy told Baptist Press, "really comes out of what I perceive as a strong biblical worldview. I grew up in the South and that had a big impact on my social perspectives on some things --out of some things that I've heard and I've lived -- and then that with a biblical worldview.
"I've seen so many parallels between ... a biblical worldview and what Dr. King and the whole movement of the '60s was about. It was so much more than a civil rights movement," McNairy said. "It was actually a spiritual movement in this country that showed love."
Dixon voiced a perspective stated by many.
"We've come a long way, but we've still got a long way to go in terms of dealing with that whole dynamic . alone is going to create a moment for me to really reflect on that whole dynamic and, as a black people, to look at how far we've come," Dixon told Baptist Press.
"This moment here ought to bring us as black people more together as well," Dixon said, " the energy to go forward, to work together but also be that bridge by which God can use us to bring His folks together."
Nearly 50 years after King's assassination, Sunday worship is still the most segregated hour in America, Dixon said.
"I don't think we've made a lot of progress in that area," Dixon said. "But I'm a firm believer that if change is going to take place in the Southern Baptist Convention or in the body of Christ, period, it's going to take place among the multi-ethnic community.
"And I firmly believe that black people are going to have to take the lead in that whole effort to bring that about. Because of the struggles and the things that we're talking about right now, with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King March on Washington, with the struggles we've gone through -- and the Lord brought us through these things -- I believe that God wants to use us as a people to lead the whole multi-ethnic community, including white people, to a better relationship with who He is, number one, and a better relationship with each other," Dixon said.
While racism still exists, Christian unity is possible by living out the Great Commandment Jesus gave in Matthew 22:37-39, Dixon and McNairy agreed.
"As we talk about fulfillment of the Great Commission," McNairy said, "one of the strong pieces that spoke through the actions in '63, and I think even comes forth now from the workshops I've attended, is the Great Commandment. So there's no way to consider carrying out the Great Commission if we don't fully embrace the Great Commandment.
"We need to have the part of loving God with all our heart, mind, body and soul together. At the same time there's another part to that Scripture that oftentimes we forget, or we leave out, we just don't live up to. And that's to love our neighbor as .
"The whole movement I think swung 50 years ago from a black movement to a people's movement. And that speaks to so many issues that are going on now in the 21st century, the first being we need to look at the whole immigration debate from the perspective that unless we're Native American, we're all immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants," McNairy said. "That's a stubborn fact. I mean at times ... we talk about immigrants as if they're somebody from Mars.
"We're not in the segregated America that we used to live in," McNairy said. "But neither are we in a post-racial America. Anyone that says we're in a post-racial America is not dealing with reality.
"We're in what I call an urban fusion America, where we are 80 percent urban as a nation. And urban does not equal black, as our mythology tends to lean toward in Southern Baptist life. Urban is much broader than black. And there's this fusion of peoples who have come from everywhere to America, so much so until there's no place on the planet like America. And the worldviews cross-pollinate beyond skin color ethnicity."
Through the Urban Fusion Network, McNairy is working to build a stronger base of Southern Baptist work in urban settings. He formerly coordinated the D.C. church planting efforts for the North American Mission Board and, earlier, was pastor of West Haven Baptist Church in Memphis. He describes The Urban Fusion Network as a national network of Great Commission-minded Christians, churches, fellowships and associations energized in spreading the Gospel, enhancing Christian disciple making and collaborating in urban missions. He said his self-published book, "Missional Urban Fusion: Planting the Gospel in 21st Century America," will be available on Amazon.com in September, with the companion workbook "Christians Responding to America's Urban Fusion Realities" already available.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' staff writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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