“In light of the upcoming 20th anniversary of Southern Baptist Convention's 1995 Resolution on Racial Reconciliation, I move that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Baltimore, MD, June 10-11, 2014, authorize the president of the Southern Baptist Convention to form a task force to bring a report to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16-17, 2015 to assess our current progress in pursuing Biblical racial reconciliation within our convention and to make concrete recommendations to the messengers regarding how Southern Baptists, facilitated by the Convention's entities and seminaries, may better reach, make disciples, and raise up leadership from and among diverse racial and ethnic groups in North America.”
I am attending the September trustee meeting of the Executive Committee in Nashville today and tomorrow. My reason for coming was to make a case before the Communications Workgroup concering the motion that I submitted at the SBC in Balitmore which stated:
This motion was referred to the Executive Committee by the Committee on the Order of Business at the SBC and EC leadership facilitated by Dr. Page, have brought forward a recommendation to the trustees. There will not be a task force appointed, but rather, there will be an update of the report that the EC put together in 2011 as a response to the motion made in 2009 to address the lack of ethnic diversity in SBC leadership and a call for more specific advancement in this area. You can read about the 2011 report HERE. My goal in all of this is to work with many others to open the door wider for the amazing ethnic leadership that is emerging throughout our convention to participate and lead at all levels. It is time.
Based on the work done in 2011, I am satisfied with not appointing another committee. However, the case that I made before the trustees was that we needed stronger mechanisms in place to open the door for ethnic leadership to more clearly and decisively emerge in SBC life. For example, there are eighty-three EC trustees. You can see who they are HERE. Eighty-two trustees are white. One is black. No Asians. No Hispanics. How does this happen? It simply occurs because people are appointed based on who knows who. Seminary relationships and old friendships dictate. I do not think that people are intentionally trying to be racists. I think that we are not intentionally trying to change things as actively as we could. We remain passive on these issues and think that change will just happen given enough time.
I met the leadership of the National African American Fellowship here, including K. Marshall Williams from Philadelphia. I met Dr. Paul Kim, who leads Antioch Church in Boston and Dan Cho, his missions pastor. They are amazing Korean missional leaders. I met Keith Jefferson, who works for the IMB as the mobilizer for African American churches. I met other African American, Hispanic, and Korean leaders who were here at the trustee meeting observing the proceedings. They are not trustees, though. They sit in the gallery. That needs to change.
Dr. Frank Page is working hard to change this. He has said that the men who are in the gallery need to be the ones who are sitting at the table with others where decisions are made. He has worked tirelessly in this regard. Others at the EC are working on this as well. The problem comes from a lack of relationship between white and ethnic leaders and a lack of appointment to leadership positions. Electing Fred Luter for 2 years will not change this. We must do more. And, we must not just see it as “us” (the white people) trying to make room for “them” (ethnic leaders). There is no us/them or we/they. We are one in Christ. We need to celebrate our diversity and ethnic backgrounds while also recognizing that we are one people under the Cross called to love one another sacrificially and work together. We all need a place at the table because we are all participating in the SBC together.
We have to be more intentional in our actions and our language needs to change from passive to active. We have amazing African American, Hispanic, and Asian-American leaders in the SBC. We need to hold the door open wide for them to come in. They are here at the trustee meetings observing! They want to participate! We need to work together and hear from all Southern Baptists.
The motion has now turned into a recommendation and is being forwarded to the trustee meeting in February. From there will come a call for all of the entities to give a detailed report on what they are doing to open the door wide for participation in the spirit of the 2011 report that is linked above. But, more work will be done on this in the meantime. We will see what happens after that. It is now time for the first plenary session. I'll report more later.