Recent developments in the SBC have provoked a strongly negative reaction among many Black pastors and other minorities, and many who are currently affiliated with the SBC are considering leaving our fellowship. When they express their frustrations and lament the racial situations in the SBC, they are rebuked, chastised, corrected, and labeled by some.
1. The passionate support of Donald Trump by many Southern Baptist leaders who justify his words and actions which many see as racially insensitive at best and racist at worst causes offense. Whatever we think of Donald Trump, reactions to him are divisive. Many Black pastors see partisan politics differently than we do, and when they hear absolutist statements by Southern Baptists affirming that Christians must support the GOP, they find that offensive. Our diverse life experiences lead us to divergent political positions, and dogmatic views drive wedges.
Are those who do not align with or loyally support the GOP welcome in the SBC?
2. They have seen relentless attacks on Critical Race Theory, which many seem to interpret as an attack on racial reconciliation and racial justice. Many of those who attack CRT with such overweening passion also reject the idea that systemic racism exists in our nation and tend to oppose many of the attempts that have been made at racial inclusion in the SBC. When Black professors have been hounded out of SBC seminaries as a result of this conflict, some have concluded that the war against CRT is racially motivated.
Can we understand why Black pastors might see these anti-CRT attacks as signs they aren’t welcome among us?
3. Many felt undermined by the recent capitulation of the six seminary presidents to those who are attacking CRT. It was seen as a last-straw betrayal. Ronnie Floyd jumped onto the political bandwagon with a screed against progressivism, adding to the division.
Joel Andrew Bowman, Sr. made three statements on Facebook yesterday (Tuesday, December 8) that I find jarring.
I’m done with the Southern Baptist Convention! It took them 150 years to condemn chattel slavery, but only 1 year to condemn Critical Race Theory. It has no credibility on the issue of racism! None!!!
President Obama’s election was historic. However, it did not remove white supremacy from the US. Likewise, Fred Luter’s historic election as president of the Southern Baptist Convention did not remove white supremacy from it.
Many “Reformed” theologians aggressively teach the “total depravity” of Man. Yet, they won’t admit that depraved humans can create racist systems that must be confronted? Such denial is evidence of their own depravity.
Many White Baptists rush to show how wrong-headed Pastor Bowman is, how he needs to rethink his views, etc. Would we be better served to show empathy over judgment and begin to ask how our words and actions are being received? Can we not try to understand why minority Christians feel the way they do instead of just beating them about the head and shoulders with our perceived theological correctness?
Is it possible that our perspectives are not 100% biblical but are shaped by our racial and cultural backgrounds? Is it possible we can learn from the divergent cultural backgrounds and opinions of Black (and other minority) pastors instead of simply telling them they are wrong and demanding they get in lockstep with our views and our culture?
I do not agree with everything that Dwight McKissic says, or that Joel Bowman says. For goodness sake, I don’t agree with everything I have said through the years! We are better off, though, if we listen to one another and learn from divergent cultures. The way that we are acting in the SBC has many wonderful Black pastors on the edge, considering leaving us. These are not liberals or gospel-deniers, but they are not going to serve in a denomination that is a local branch of the GOP, or that demands that they leave their culture and views at the door to adopt ours.
I am convinced this CRT/I war is actually a battle for power and control and it is going to cost us dearly. It risks hamstringing the SBC as we face the future and setting back our efforts at racial reconciliation back dramatically. The seminary presidents and Ronnie Floyd threw gasoline on the fire and now many wonderful Black pastors are considering looking for the door.
Is that what we want?
It is not what I want. I want an SBC that is open to White and Black and Asian and Hispanic and Native American and whatever other ethnic groups minister in the US. I want the SBC to be a place that welcomes GOP loyalists and independents and those with divergent political views, as long as they support our BF&M. I want an SBC that is founded fully on God’s word, led by God’s Spirit, and uses whatever other knowledge we gain under the authority of Christ and his word.
I hope and pray that you, our minority brothers and sisters, will not give up on us. It isn’t hopeless. To be honest, as a white guy, I don’t understand your struggles, but I am trying. Your involvement in the SBC has changed me and helped me and I hope you won’t give up. I know you are frustrated and if you pack up and leave, I will understand. We are a huge aircraft carrier with a motorboat rudder – turning the good ship SBC is a laborious process. I still pray that you will stay the course.
There’s Still Hope for the SBC
I would say the following.
1. We are on the right side of eternity.
It is true that the SBC has a particularly ugly history of racism, we are taking steps and making strides. We have pockets of holdouts but most of us (I hold optimistically to the view that we are a majority) want racial harmony and inclusion. Every effort is resisted but progress – snail-like and frustrating – is still being made.
The vision for a united people, where human divisions do not divide us, where we love one another and accept one another and honor one another as we worship Christ – that vision originates in heaven and will come to pass. God is on our side and those who oppose it are doomed to fail according to Revelation 7:9. Jesus died to tear down the walls and make the two into one, according to Ephesians 2. God, by his Holy Spirit, is working among us to unite us and strengthen us and purify us. The Spirit will prevail. .
It is God’s will that the people of God not be divided by race. The fact that the church and denominations are still mostly segregated is contrary to Christ. We must resist that. I have found that fighting my flesh is hard and giving in is always easier. It will always be easier to give up and retreat to our racially segregated corners, but I hope we will not allow those who embrace the flesh among us to cause us to do this.
I do not think that is what God wants. I think God wants the SBC to be the Great Commission Baptist Convention – not in name only but in reality. Let’s be done with regionalism and let’s be the One Worshiping People of God. It will not be easy, but it honors God.
It is always understandable and easier to retreat into our corners, but the will of God and the future of the church is One Worshiping People. We cannot allow segregation and separation to win.
2. There is a simple solution in the SBC.
The Conservative Resurgence showed us how to change the SBC. It isn’t through resolutions (or rescinding them) but through electing presidents who take their appointments seriously. J.D. Greear made great strides in appointing racially mixed slates of nominees at his first convention, had an equally wonderful slate for last year which will be presented in Nashville along with this year’s slate. He is making progress. In Nashville, we will be THREE years into a solid program of change.
We CANNOT stop now. The presidential election in Nashville may be definitive for the future of the SBC. Our next president must carry on J.D.’s appointment strategy, and then the next one and the next one. The SBC President must make nominations who are loyal to the convention, assent to the BF&M, are racially diverse, and are committed to progress on racial issues, on sexual abuse issues, and on our worldwide gospel mission.
This must be our priority.
The key is to elect presidents who support the vision of racial progress in the SBC.
3. The SBC needs you!
The attacks on CRT are being seen as a message that minorities are not welcome in the SBC. Whatever the seminary presidents, Ronnie Floyd, and those who have made a crusade out of attacks CRT intend, this is what I am seeing over and over again from my Black friends – the sense that the SBC is rolling up the welcome mat and saying that unless they adopt our culture, our politics, and our ways, they just are not going to fit into our convention. I hope that is not what is intended, but I know is what is being inferred.
I say the opposite. The SBC needs you. You have impacted us in a positive way and though many react negatively, most of us are thankful to God for your involvement and influence in the SBC. We need you today and we will need you tomorrow. If you choose to leave, who can blame you, but we need you. Your departure will hurt us.
On the other hand, if you plug in, invest in our Cooperative mission, and stick it out, we will seek to do better.
The SBC needs minority involvement more than minorities need the SBC.
I am well aware that many will see my views as heinous and offensive. I will be called liberal and Marxist and all sorts of delicious things. I no longer care. I simply have three things to say to my friends in minority communities who are feeling unwanted and considering jumping ship.
- We need you in the SBC.
- We aren’t giving up and we hope you won’t either.
- There is a solution. It won’t be immediate and it will take a lot of work from a lot of people, but what the SBC is today does not have to be what it will be tomorrow.