WITH the protests in Ferguson, Mo., the Black Lives Matter movement and the massacre of black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., on their minds, the presidents of the nation’s two major Baptist groups — one predominantly white, one predominantly black — decided it was time for a bold gesture. The Southern Baptist Convention, founded by slaveholders and their supporters before the Civil War, is now the nation’s second-largest Christian denomination after the Roman Catholic Church. Black Baptists formed their own churches and in 1880 founded what eventually became the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.
Late last year, the leaders each invited 10 of their pastors to join in a public conversation on racial reconciliation in Jackson, Miss. The Rev. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Rev. Dr. Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., visited The New York Times recently to discuss the Jackson meeting, and the goals behind it. An edited version of their conversation follows.