We are in a unique time in SBC life. Have there ever been five entities in transition? We have been talking about minority leadership at an entity over the last few years. With nearly half of our entity leadership positions open, it is inevitable that this is a key moment in SBC history. Our trustees need to act wisely at this crucial juncture in denominational history.
Here are the facts:
- The SBC has a shameful racial history – support of slavery, defense of segregation, racism – it hasn’t been good.
- We have been making progress in recent years and heart-attitudes have been changing.
- There has been recent push-back against efforts at racial reconciliation; pejorative labels such as Cultural Marxism and critical race theory have been thrown around and the use of the phrase social justice has been equated to liberalism and secularism.
- There are currently 5 SBC entities in transition.
- What we do in the next year or so will speak volumes. If we hire at least one minority leader for an entity it will speak volumes about the intent and purpose of the SBC to be a multi-racial denomination, not just a white denomination that welcomes other races if they wish to join. If we hire 5 white men as entity presidents it will send a chilling message to our black, Asian, and Hispanic brothers and sisters.
The next major step in racial reconciliation in the SBC will be the hiring of a minority leader for one of our entities. If it doesn’t happen now, in this window of racial angst in America, when there are five entities open, the window may close. The SBC may have charted a course for its own irrelevance. The future of America is multicultural. In a generation, we (Whites) will be a minority in America according to demographic info I’ve read. The world is a-changin’. If we do not embrace it we will regret it. Black Baptists have been patient but that patience seems to be wearing thin. The Trump presidency has been divisive (meant as a statement of reality, not of judgment). Racial tensions have reached a boiling point and we must choose what kind of denomination we want to be.
- We can be a white denomination that welcomes Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and other ethnics as long as they fit in with our ways.
- We can seek to be a denomination centered on Christ, not on the traditional cultural norms that are our comfort zone.
If we hire 5 white guys to lead our denominational entities, we may be telling our ethnic brethren, especially the Black community, that they are guests but not partners. They are welcome to participate in our denomination but they should not expect positions of real power and influence. The time is now. If we let this time pass, it may be too late.
“Excuses, Excuses, You Hear Them Everyday”
Please do not tell me we should be colorblind! Since 1845 the SBC has been anything but colorblind. We looked at everything through the lens of race and systematically excluded black people and others because of their race. Now, when there is a movement to include more black people (and other minorities) as trustees, in entity leadership positions, as convention officers, and yes, as entity presidents, suddenly people start championing colorblindness. Seems a little convenient to me. Colorblindness is a defect, not the natural way of things, right? It means you can’t see reality! Maybe racial colorblindness is a worthy goal – I don’t know. But this is not the time.
It is not about another apology! If you say, “How many times do we have to apologize?” I will pray imprecatory prayers against you (in Christian love)! This is about action – a demonstration that we view minorities as full partners in our denominational work. If you have sinned, then repent. But this not about repentance; it is about taking actions to shape a better future.
And please, enough with the, “let’s just get the best man.” Why do we suddenly trot that out when we talk about hiring a minority for a position? Do we assume that minorities are not capable, not the best man? There are some able and willing men in the pipeline with much darker pigment than this Iowa white man has. Why would we make the assumption that seeking to give them a shot at leadership is accepting second-best?
Why Should We Hire Minorities?
I would give the following reasons.
1. Because he is the best man!
We should never hire an unqualified, incapable man just because he is Black or some other race. That would be foolish. But there are good minority candidates for these jobs. We don’t have to settle, just open our eyes.
Strong arguments can be made for minority hires at our institutions. New Orleans is a unique town with a unique culture. Wouldn’t that be a great place to make our first non-white hire, if we haven’t already done it elsewhere? The EC could speak volumes by hiring a minority candidate and since the IMB works in African, Asian, and Central and South American countries, a minority candidate would fit perfectly. Wouldn’t a Hispanic president make sense at SWBTS?
Any of the entities would work and there are qualified and capable minority candidates for each of the five.
2. Because it positions us for the future.
The world is changing and we must not cling to the past. Yes, we have been a white denomination but if we cling to that we are signing our denominational death warrant. There are so many stories out there of successful companies that refused to embrace the future and caused their own demise with foolish choices.
A decision to enthusiastically embrace non-white leadership would be a great decision for the future of the SBC.
3. Because it is right.
We are called to be those who break down the dividing wall of hostility in Christ. When we say that race is a gospel issue, that is what we mean. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with us about race to be saved, but that those who are saved unite in Christ and not in their culture and are willing to seek to break down walls of hostility that human culture creates. When we intentionally seek reconciliation and progress in racial matters with other believers, it is in line with the intent of Christ’s death. He died to create One People to worship him eternally.
4. It speaks loudly about who we are.
Recalcitrant resistance to racial progress does not either honor God nor does it help the SBC. By hiring one or two (or three..) minorities for our entities – men who are qualified, who are Baptist, who hold faithfully to our confession, our convictions, and our cooperation – we send a loud message to the world and to those minorities within our convention that we see them as full partners not just welcome guests. We tell them that our repentance was genuine and our commitment is real. One hire doesn’t solve everything, any more than electing Fred Luter solved everything a few years ago, but it is an important step!
We are at a crossroads. There is an open door but if we do not enter it now, it may close on us for good and we will never get another chance.
NOTE: I am headed up to Sioux Falls to speak at the Dakotas Baptist Convention – looking forward to that. Will not likely be able to interact much and frankly, I’m still kind of on a commenting break. You guys can have your say without my rebuttal. Probably.