I am addressing this publicly to you because of public comments you made on SBC Voices yesterday. You were upset by some comments a couple of our regulars made and you responded with your normal incisive and direct words. You have a powerful manner of speaking and articulating your points. I would not want to enter a debate with you – it might be like trying to counter a bazooka with a pop-gun!
But I have something I want to say to you. And I want to say it publicly because I think a lot of us feel the same way.
I’m on a brief sabbatical at my church and while I’m managing this blog and doing a little writing when the spirit strikes me, I’m not paying as much attention to SBC Voices, so I did not enter into the conversation much yesterday. Besides, my New York Yankees are trying to earn the right to deliver a spanking to the Texas Rangers and I had a game I was compelled to watch.
But you made statements within those comments that bothered me. I hope you will hear my appeal to you today. My concern has nothing to do with the flow of the conversation yesterday. It has to do with something I read into your comments – a growing frustration with the Southern Baptist Convention, with our sometimes culturally insensitive and hidebound ways, and with the slow pace of change on racial issues.
Here is some of what you said.
Your comments quoted above are perhaps the very reason African Americans and minorities are absent, askance, skeptical and distant from the SBC. That’s the reason those who are a part of the SBC give only 1% to the Cooperative Program.
If your feelings about a riot expresses the majority sentiments of SBC people regarding those who live in urban downtown areas, God help the SBC. They need a lot more than a name change; they need a heart change.
This is what bothers me. When you spoke of the SBC, you said, “they.” Not us. They. You write about the SBC as an outsider. I can understand that – it can’t be easy to be an African American pastor who addresses racial issues in the SBC. There is still racism out there (from stories you have told me in our conversations – storieds that anger and sadden me) and there is the frustrating attitude of many who seem to think that a public apology and some resolutions at the SBC mean that the problem has been solved and the SBC should be completely absolved from its racist past. I cannot imagine the frustration that you feel.
Now, here is my plea. Don’t give up on us. We need you. We need black pastors to endure the frustration, the aggravation, the discouragement, even the insults, and continue to point the SBC in the direction of racial equality and opportunity.
Last night, Curtis Granderson made two amazing catches to help the Yankees win. That would not have happened if a very special man named Jackie Robinson had not endured abuse sixty-four years ago in breaking the color barrier in baseball. But the pain and suffering he endured has produced positive results today.
Let’s look sixty-four years into the future. Maybe, just maybe, the process will be advanced and in 2075 the SBC will be a convention that reflects the entire population of the USA, not just one segment of it. By staying with us now, you can help make that a reality. You may not see the fruit, but you can plant the seed.
You are not alone as a black pastor in the SBC, but you are among the more prominent. And you have had your share of injuries. What happened to you at Southwestern, while not racial in nature, certainly must have left you feeling like something of a theological outsider. The refusal of the convention to vote your motion in Orlando was understandably frustrating. Perhaps the most annoying problem must be dealing with people who simply do not admit that a problem exists anymore.
But we need you. We need men of God who are black to continue to call attention to our inconsistencies and failings. We need men just like you.
I am asking you to do a hard thing – stick it out. Your investment in the SBC may mean rewards for others in the future. I know that we will benefit from it. If you were to choose to disengage, no one could really blame you. But I am hoping and praying you do not do that.
It should not be your burden to carry the torch of racial equality. The majority should never demand that a minority earn its way to acceptance and full participation. Inclusion is the burden of the majority, especially if it has previously and sinfully engaged in exclusion. And I honestly believe that there are more of our leaders who have a genuine desire not just for toleration of racial diversity in the SBC, but desire to tear down all the walls. We are moving in the right direction.
Progress is being made and men like you have had a part in that. We need you to continue with us and help us speed the process.
The SBC is changing. In my first pastorate in a Deep South church, active racism abounded. That racism would no longer be tolerated in the vast majority of SBC churches. Most have rejected active racism and discrimination. But sometimes we are insensitive about racial issues. We assume that since we are not actively racist or discriminatory, we have reached the destination.
You can help us see the progress that is still needed. You can help us see when our comments are insensitive or exclusionary. You can call us to account when not only the floor but the podium of the convention is lily white. You can use your greatest gift – your powerful preaching – to call us to greater things.
Don’t give up on us, brother. God is doing a good work in the SBC on racial issues. It may be slow, sometimes imperceptible. And there will be injuries and insults along the way. But there is progress being made and you have had a role in that.
The Southern Baptist Convention needs Dwight McKissic. I hope you will hear my heart.
We need you to be part of what God is doing among us!