The report from the SBC nominating committee was released last week, and like many of you, I was bumfuzzled. I’m not sure that’s a real word, but that’s how I felt. If you weren’t paying attention last week, you can read the report here. Thankfully, Dave Miller brought some clarification to the report in his post last week. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief. There will be more minority representation in our decision making bodies.
There is, however, a question that has lingered in my mind over the weekend. How do we achieve diversity without resorting to affirmative action? How do we get the right men and women for the job without selecting them based on ethnicity or gender? I believe ethnic diversity in our convention leadership can be achieved without resorting to quotas. Here are some suggestions:
- Get our want to ahead of our have to: I posed my question on social media this weekend, and Bro. Mike Leake commented “It’s not a have to, it’s a want to. That will make all the difference in the world.” He is 100 percent correct. The matters of racial unity and ethnic diversity in leadership are matters of the heart. The reason affirmative action and quotas never work is because it forces a “have to” on people who don’t “want to.” We should want ethnic diversity in our leadership because it will advance our mission to spread the gospel to everyone.
- Stop looking at percentages: I was reminded of this as I was thinking about the nominating committee report this weekend. I did some research and found, according to Pew research, which you can find here. 6% of SBC members are black, 3% are Latino, and less than 1% are Asian. Then I reasoned that if we are to demographically reflect our membership in our leadership positions, then we would need 4 to 6 minorities in those 69 positions up for nomination this year. Then I stopped this fruitless exercise and realized that percentages don’t matter when it comes to Kingdom work. We should want our leadership to be comprised 100% of the best men and women for the job. We should want Christians who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message leading our entities regardless of color or gender. I stopped looking at percentages and went to mow my yard.
- Continue to stamp out racism: While I was mowing my yard, I noticed those annoying dandelion stalks. They pop up every year, and I have to mow the yard at least once during the spring, not because the grass is so tall, but because my yard looks terrible if I let those stalks run wild. There are those in our convention who constantly question the necessity and usefulness of seeking diversity and racial unity. They ask questions like: Haven’t we apologized enough, or, why do we have to keep stirring up controversy? Why do I have to mow down those weeds in my front yard? I mow them down because my yard looks nasty if I don’t. We continue to seek diversity and unity because if we don’t, our yard will start looking nasty again. We talk about, and hold conferences on these subjects because if we don’t, then the weeds of racism and injustice will run wild, and yes, there is still racism in the SBC.
- Understand that there will be isolated cases of affirmative action: The SBC system of nominations and appointments is not perfect, and in our quest for greater diversity, there will be instances where someone gets picked based primarily on their ethnicity. It’s bound to happen, and all Southern Baptists will need to have patience and understanding.
- Stop divorcing the gospel from these topics: I read the following on Facebook concerning the MLK50 conference, “Why do we have to have conferences about racial unity? Why can’t we have a conference about sharing the gospel?” I also read the following, “I’m not even sure if racial reconciliation is a biblical concept.” Yes, you’re reading that quote correctly, a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ actually questioned the Biblical veracity of racial reconciliation. We cannot divorce how we live our lives in the world from the gospel. Our lives demonstrate the gospel to a watching world, and yes, we do need to have more conferences that teach us how to live a gospel centered life. I would argue that the MLK50 conference was a conference about how to share the gospel.
- Continue to preach and teach racial unity and diversity in leadership: There are very few minorities in my community. We are almost 99% white. The same statistics apply to my county as well. The demographics of my community should not bear upon my decision to preach and teach the truths of God’s Word as it concerns these issues. My congregation should also be aware of what’s going on in the SBC.
I am encouraged when I read about efforts to make our convention more diverse. Our convention needs to be more diverse, and we can achieve more diversity in our leadership ranks while still guarding against selecting a candidate based on their ethnicity. These are my six suggestions, what would you add or delete?