Wow, what an amazing day at the SBC yesterday! In the morning I started with mixed emotions. On the one hand I felt positive about the direction of our denomination. I was thankful for both the substantive Executive Committee Report on Racial Reconciliation, and for my friend Alan Cross who brought the task force motion to the floor last year and followed through throughout the year. On the other, I was frustrated by what some of what I saw in the report, namely, the slowness of the progress we’d made toward shared leadership with our non-Anglo brothers. While the report had several helpful recommendations, they were in no way binding on the Convention nor was there any way to make them so. Even if the recommendations were followed, it could be another 10-15 years before we really saw a leadership reflective of the diversity of our denomination. I remembered what I’ve heard from so many of my friends about their own frustrations of not feeling truly welcome in our Convention because our sentiment was slow to result in real change. I whipped out a quick post from my iphone calling for what have blogged in the past — for decisive, deliberate, aggressive action to make shared leadership and racial reconciliation an urgent priority in our Convention. I did not expect what I would see the rest of the day.
Yesterday, we saw real evidence of a genuine and earnest desire for racial reconciliation, shared leadership, and true partnership across racial and ethnic lines. Our President, Ronnie Floyd, has led the way this year in moving us exponentially forward in this area. I knew that he had intentionally appointed a diverse committee on committees. What I did not expect was a report from the committee on committees and nominations that resulted in 16% of newly elected trustees and 27% of the committee on nominations being non-Anglo, a representative reflection of the diversity of our churches. Well done!
Further, the theme of racial/ethnic unity was not a theme touched on and then moved on to other things. It was a prevalent theme throughout the day in the presentations and actions we took. We passed another substantive resolution on Racial Reconciliation. We heard from the executive committee about their commitment to shared leadership. We saw many faces of Convention leadership and platform personnel that were non-White. And then, in a very powerful prayer service (hard to overstate what am awesome service that was), we spent extended time in prayer as a Convention and in small groups to repent of racism and racial division, and to pray for unity, peace, and partnership together for the gospel. Today, we will vote to commend the EC’s report and its recommendations in a motion made by Alan Cross.
Yes, the annual meeting and the progress toward a diverse partnering Convention was not at all what I expected. We saw the kind of decisive, deliberate, aggressive action I assumed that we would not but hoped that we would. What I lamented that we could not require from our leaders, they did anyway. Again, well done!
Surely, there is more progress to be made. Over the next few years we will still need to see non-Anglo brothers elected and appointed to Executive Leadership as State Executive Directors, Entity Heads, and Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention. The progress made this year must be sustained over the long term so that leadership is shared at every level consistently. We will still need to listen to one another, especially us White Christians listening to the hearts of our non-Anglo brothers on the issues of racial justice and systemic problems in both nation at large and our own Convention. We will still need to strive for true friendships and partnerships among believers and churches at the local church level. But if yesterday was any indication, our heart is there and we are beginning to put action behind our sentiment.
I am greatly encouraged! It’s a new day. Let this trend continue and let us all do our part to truly be one people of God and together make Christ known.