LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – As the global spotlight keeps its glaring aim on Louisville after almost two consecutive weeks of daily protests, Todd Robertson said this time feels different to him.
Real change - a change of the heart – could be on the horizon, he said.
Robertson, the associational missions strategist for the Louisville Regional Baptist Association, said he has been encouraged by church leaders and others who are “coming together to speak their mind” on issues.
“I’m encouraged that there’s a broad diversity of people who are coming together to speak their mind,” he said. “I’m encouraged in this moment that there are more church leaders who are stepping up to speak out on these issues. I think it very likely could be a very important tipping point. It feels different to me than in the past. I’m prayerful, hopeful, for genuine change in individual hearts and perspective of the church in these issues.”
Some of the churches in the LRBA participated in a vigil the family of Breonna Taylor hosted on Saturday at the courthouse steps one day after what would have been her 27th birthday. Taylor, an unarmed black emergency medical technician, was shot and killed in her own home by police during a no-knock drug search warrant on March 13. No drugs were found in her home.
The three Louisville Metro Police personnel involved in the shooting of Taylor are on administrative reassignment, pending an internal investigation by the department.
The death of Taylor and George Floyd in Minnesapolis at the hands of police and the that of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have reignited claims of police brutality toward the African-American community and sparked worldwide protests.
“Because of our connection through the Central District Baptist Association we were invited to participate with other faith groups for Breonna,” Robertson said. “We met together as churches of LRBA. We walked from our offices and kind of used it as an opportunity to prayer walk to Jefferson Square.”
Robertson also suggested a time of fasting and prayer from sundown Sunday to sundown Monday if churches wished to participate.
“I’m not in a position to call people to do anything, that’s the church’s role,” he said. “Our role is one part catalyst, one part resource, and we could join in this way (with prayer and fasting).”
Robertson said the barriers are being broken down as relationships with the African-American community are being built stronger, and that can bring about systemic change.
“We’re not looking for this to be a flash in the pan,” he said. “We are in a unique position. The Baptist Fellowship Center has existed for over 100 years. It’s a rare jewel in ministry. I don’t know if there’s any other ministry like it in the country where, for over 100 years, predominantly black and white Baptists have shared ministry like this. We’ve been in the journey a long time together through BFC. What we’ve realized, in this moment, doesn’t always mean we’ve gotten the kind of relationships we should have (with the African-American community). Our desire is to step in more deeply, not to just share ministry together or a site together, but to share in relationship together. And to serve the Lord together and see a Kingdom impact for the long haul. We’re committed to that and committed to stepping into Central District. We want to step in for the long haul to see systemic change.”
The issues have sparked a fire and it needs fuel to keep burning for the kind of long-term change that is needed, Roberton said. “It’s a moment in time, that’s a spark. We will continue to fuel that change.”
Robertson said it has been challenging as an association with churches and individuals having varying opinions.
“My heart is for this not to be another thing that divides us because we politicized the issues,” he said. “We are in genuine loving relationships with our African-American brothers and sisters and we know that something is deeply wrong. The gospel compels us with our love for image bearers and our love for one another. It compels us to step into the moment and not be afraid of it, to say we’re with you and we love you and we want to be part of the change that we need to see.”
Robertson said being part of the vigil on Saturday was a way of being physically present to say ‘’we’re here and we’re with our brothers and sisters and we’re with our community, the city that we love. It’s a God-honoring thing to care about other people.”