We received this letter from a friend of the NOBTS community. It was addressed to the faculty of NOBTS which was circulated around noon yesterday. After receiving the letter we contacted Dr. Dew for permission to post it here. Upon our request and our encouragement to him that this is an important statement which we believe could be a healing salve in the midst of our family strife he gave us permission to do so.
Dear NOBTS & Leavell College Faculty,
Greetings and Merry Christmas to you all. I hope that you are having a restful break and that you are enjoying your time with family and friends this holiday season. I continue to be grateful for each of you and your dedication to the work that God has called us to.
These are interesting and challenging days in the SBC, and yet, I remain hopeful for what we might build for God’s Kingdom, and prayerful for the part that we are called to play in that work. I envision a day when the broken are healed, the lost have the Gospel preached to them, and the church is strong. I envision a day when God brings restoration and reconciliation to His children on earth. My hope for us as a denomination, and for our school more specifically, is that we would humbly devote ourselves to this work and spend each day seeking that which is pleasing to our Lord and good for His people. Because I have that hope, I want to offer a few words to you, the faculty, about what is, and is not, in my heart related to some of the racial discussion of late in our denomination. I also want to let you know what our doctrinal commitments will be under my leadership as president.
As you have likely seen by now, last month I joined my colleagues on the Council of Seminary Presidents in a statement that reaffirmed the BF&M 2000, condemned racism, and said that CRT is incompatible with the BF&M 2000. Since then, the statement has been widely discussed and debated on social media and in the media at large. Knowing that you may likely be getting questions from your peers, students, alumni, and the churches we serve, I want you to hear from me on these important matters directly.
Over the past three weeks I have had nearly 50 conversations with African-American pastors, students, and alumni. After listening long, it is clear that for many of our African-American brothers and sisters, our statement came off as insensitive and hurtful. For some, the statement left the impression that we do not fully appreciate the historic struggles of African-Americans in the United States, both in the past and in the present.
This was certainly not my intention. I regret that this caused pain or that I gave the impression that I am aloof to concerns and struggles of our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope that a few words of clarification will be helpful and healing.
One question I have received is: “Why speak to this issue, and why now?”
This is a fair question. I recognize that it wasn’t immediately clear what prompted our statement, and as such, a wide variety of speculations have been offered about my motives in affirming it. In short, each of the presidents has received a countless number of questions over the past 18 months about where our institutions stand on CRT. I have been asked by pastors, students, and trustees in recent months about our doctrinal fidelity in this area. In addition to this, in November, several state conventions took up the issue and passed resolutions speaking to it.
As the President of an institution that exists to serve the churches of the SBC, I am accountable to answer those questions. I am also accountable to uphold and teach according to the BF&M 2000. Therefore, in our annually scheduled meeting for the Council of Seminary Presidents, I felt obligated to answer the question as straightforwardly as possible. We were not pressured from any outside group to do so. For my part, it was simply a good faith effort to respond to the honest questions of the people I am accountable to serve.
I do have deep theological concerns with the ideology of CRT. My prayer is that those concerns might be heard, without my African-American brothers and sisters feeling as though I do not sympathize with the struggles they have experienced throughout their lives. Since some of you have asked what those concerns are, I will simply mention three quickly: (1) CRT comes from a family of ideologies that deny the possibility of objective/universal truth claims, (2) CRT locates oppressive and destructive motives in one race of people as opposed to the whole of humanity, and (3) I fear CRT’s understanding of human nature has detrimental effects on important doctrinal affirmations.
As I have explained these concerns to my African-American brothers in recent days, they appear to have understood those reservations and many of them share those concerns with me. In the end, it seems clear to me that many of my brothers and sisters of color, are not particularly concerned with defending CRT ideology. Rather, they have simply wanted assurance that we do indeed recognize their significant struggles through the years.
Another question I have been asked is if I truly understand the struggle of our African American brother and sisters.
While I have not shared their experiences, I have worked hard throughout my career, especially in recent weeks and months, to learn and listen well, and to hear the concerns of my brothers and sisters. I am often asked if a rejection of CRT entails a denial of the historical struggles of African-Americans in our country. I want to be clear that it does not. As any basic survey of our nation’s history makes clear, racism—both individual and systemic— has been a cancer in our society for centuries, infecting both people and the fabric of society. That is, when the sin of racism is in the hearts of people that shape society, its laws, and its customs, there will be systemic and structural harm for the marginalized.
We have made progress in our country. But, as recent events have made clear, we are naive if we think that things are now where they need to be. We still have a long way to go and I am committed to helping do everything in my power to fix remaining problems. Recognizing these concerns and the need for further progress does not commit one to CRT ideology. Nor does rejecting the worldview of CRT entail a denial of these historic struggles for minorities. As Southern Baptists, since at least 1995, we stated in our “Resolution On Racial Reconciliation” at the 150th gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“That we lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest, and we recognize that the racism which yet plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past; and . . . That we apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously (Psalm 19:13) or unconsciously (Leviticus 4:27); and . . . That we hereby commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry”
There are other questions that some will surely have. For now, however, I wanted to share my heart with you in the event that you have questions, or that you have been asked some questions about where my heart is. My prayer moving forward is that each of us would be able to navigate the difficulties and questions of our day in a way that is pleasing to our Lord, and helpful for His people. As a way forward, I offer myself to humble dialogue with brothers and sisters of various perspectives and concerns. As we have been instructed by God’s word, I pray we will be “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19).
I love you brothers and sisters. And as always, if I can do anything for you, please let me know. I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas!