Editor: When I read about Richard Land’s recent meeting and his apology, my first thought was to wonder what Pastor Dwight McKissic thought about it. I was thrilled that he offered this post with his reflections for our consideration. Thank you, Dwight!
God said, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)
It was my contention that Dr. Richard Land needed to publicly apologize—own and disown his words –as it relates to the controversial racial remarks he made regarding the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman saga. If Dr. Land refused to own and disown his words prior to the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, in June of this year, I had planned to offer to the Convention a resolution requesting that the Convention own, and then disown Dr. Land’s words and repudiate the racial comments he made concerning the Martin/Zimmerman case. Furthermore, it was my contention that Dr. Land needed to resign or be fired if he did not disown his own words before the June convention. Dr. Land has now taken responsibility for his words and has rejected them.
With a joyful heart and a renewed spirit, I’m happy to report that Dr. James Dixon, President of the African American Fellowship of the SBC, has released a statement from Dr. Land which reveals that Dr. Land has indeed owned and then disowned his words regarding the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case. I want to thank Dr. Dixon for providing me a copy of the Land apology and authorizing me to release it.
Be it known that in keeping with my word, and in light of Dr. Land’s statement, I no longer am calling for his resignation, nor do I plan to submit a resolution to the June convention regarding Dr. Land. I fully accept his apology—without hesitation, or reservation—and appeal to all Christians, regardless of color, who were offended by his remarks to accept his apology and forgive him. My confidence in Dr. Land, in light of his apology, has been restored. As much as our land needs healing, Dr. Land and his family also need healing. Let’s remember to pray for the Land family.
Dr. Land’s apology is as follows:
COMMENTS BY RICHARD D. LAND
PRESIDENT OF THE ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION OF
THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
I am here today to offer my genuine and heartfelt apology for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the ministry of The Reverend James Dixon, Jr. the president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a group of brethren who met with me earlier this month, I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were.
I admit that my comments were expressed in anger at what I thought was one injustice—the tragic death of Trayvon Martin—being followed by another injustice—the media trial of George Zimmerman, without appeal to due judicial process and vigilante justice promulgated by the New Black Panthers. Like my brothers in the Lord, I want true justice to prevail and must await the revelation of the facts of the case in a court of law. Nevertheless, I was guilty of making injudicious comments.
First, I want to confess my insensitivity to the Trayvon Martin family for my imbalanced characterization of their son which was based on news reports, not personal knowledge. My heart truly goes out to a family whose lives have been turned upside down by the shocking death of a beloved child. I can only imagine their sense of loss and deeply regret any way in which my language may have contributed to their pain.
Second, I am here to confess that I impugned the motives of President Obama and the reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It was unchristian and unwise for me to have done so. God alone is the searcher of men’s hearts. I cannot know what motivated them in their comments in this case. I have sent personal letters of apology to each of them asking for them to forgive me. I continue to pray for them regularly, and for our president daily.
Third, I do not believe that crime statistics should in any way justify viewing a person of another race as a threat. I own my earlier words about statistics; and I regret that they may suggest that racial profiling is justifiable. I have been an outspoken opponent of profiling and was grief-stricken to learn that comments I had made were taken as a defense of what I believe is both unchristian and unconstitutional. I share the dream of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that all men, women, boys, and girls would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. Racial profiling is a heinous injustice. I should have been more careful in my choice of words.
Fourth, I must clarify another poor choice of words. I most assuredly do not believe American racism is a “myth” in the sense that it is imaginary or fictitious. It is all too real and all too insidious. My reference to myth in this case was to a story used to push a political agenda. Because I believe racism is such a grievous sin, I stand firmly against it politicization. Racial justice is a non-partisan ideal and should be embraced by both sides of the political aisle.
Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude to Reverend Dixon and the other men who met with me recently for their Christ-like witness, brotherly kindness, and undaunting courage. We are brethren who have been knit together by the love of Jesus Christ and the passion to reach the world with the message of that love. I pledge to them—and to all who are within the sound of my voice—that I will continue to my dying breath to seek racial justice and that I will work harder than ever to be self-disciplined in my speech. I am grateful to them for holding me accountable.
I am also delighted to announce that as a result of our meeting, the ERLC, in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, will initiate regular meetings to discuss our common calling to heal our nation’s racial brokenness, work for meaningful reconciliation, and strategize for racial justice.