To all that this may concern,
Normally I would begin a letter such as this with a greeting that clearly explains my hope and prayer that the reader is doing well, encouraged, and in good spirits. In such an instance I would further go on to explain my purpose of the letter to the reader so that not only are my words read but also so that my heart is heard. Unfortunately, I understand that the content of this letter, if read at all, may be misconstrued, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. Nevertheless, I have something to say.
Far too many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have a problem. There are some authoritative and influential men traveling in both heavily right-leaning political and theological circles that seem to idolize conservatism while simultaneously ignoring the ways, will, and Word of Christ. Many of these men are quick to speak but slow to listen. They speak with a big voice and serve with what seems to be hardened hearts. Let me be extremely clear and specific. Those whom I am speaking of right now are those white men who lead the so-called “Conservative Resurgence” that seems to be more of a commitment to what they want to say rather than what the Lord has already said.
In the SBC, what ought to be an embarrassing and painful truth is the reality that no one has to even look outside of the entity heads of the past and the entity heads of the present to figure out or learn that there is a pattern of apathy, arrogance, bigotry, cultural insensitivity, pride, racism, sexism and from my perspective there is an unwavering commitment to whiteness. Why is it that the messengers within the SBC are ok with this? I believe it is because, many of the messengers believe the same exact way that many of the movers and shakers believe and think. Not only are all of these isms deeply embedded into the DNA of the convention, but these isms are a damning spirit in the convention. These isms are woven into the foundational fabric on which the Southern Baptist Convention was built. Racism and many other isms have been at the core of the Southern Baptist Convention since its conception.
Racism is not new to the convention and neither is racism dead within the convention. The reality is that racism is alive, well and perhaps thriving within the largest protestant organization in the United States of America and strangely enough, in my view, the SBC is a portrait of what America really is and has always been. Divided! It seems to me that many who lead and cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention are making strategic efforts to keep it that way. Division that is birthed out of racism and all of these other isms is not of God.
Moving right along… Bigotry, cultural insensitivity, racism, and sexism has always been among the sins that have caused division, gone ignored, unchecked and unrepentant in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t believe that there is anybody foolish enough to believe that the coddling, excusing, promoting, and showing an overwhelming support for an unregenerate being like Trump is where the isms started. I don’t know a single soul that believes that the bigotry, hate speech and hypocrisy started in recent days, weeks, months, or years. Cultural insensitivity and racism did not start when the harshest disdain and disrespect was shown to and continues to be shown to President Barack Obama, his brilliant and beautiful wife and daughters. It is also clearly understood that racism did not first raise its ugly head within the Southern Baptist Convention when Al Mohler who on one hand verbally denounced racism but on another hand, honors slaveholders by hanging their portraits around Boyce College and Southern Baptist Seminary and opposes renaming spaces that honor slaveholders decided to, along with the five other SBC Seminary presidents, pick what I believe to be an extremely unnecessary fight with Critical Race Theory while almost simultaneously tweeting his (Al Mohler’s) appreciation for Donald Trump. None of this is new. This is who the Southern Baptist Convention is, but it is not who the Southern Baptist Convention has to be. Perhaps naive but I honestly don’t believe that this is who the majority of the messengers want to be. This is why my predecessor; Rev. Dr. Lincoln N. Bingham has worked tirelessly toward his hope and idea for racial reconciliation within the local church and within the convention.
To be honest I have no personal allegiance to the Southern Baptist Convention but I do have a responsibility to the true and living God who by His grace called me into the ministry. I am committed to the church that I am learning to pastor. I do have a responsibility to the church as a whole. In addition to that, I believe that I would do a disservice to my predecessor whose life work has been an unwavering commitment to racial reconciliation. I can’t fulfill his ministry but I do want to honor him. I believe that I have a responsibility to continue in his work to some extent according to my own capacity and how God has wired me. However, I would not honor God and I would not serve the people well who God called me to love and lead and I would not be able to build on the reconciliation work that my predecessor engaged in if I were to be quiet about and did not work against the isms that are operating and speaking apathetically, arrogantly, dangerously and sinfully within evangelicalism, fundamentalism and specifically within the flawed operating system of the Southern Baptist Convention. For this very reason at this time, we will remain loosely affiliated. In other words, we aren’t leaving. We aren’t leaving because I, we have something to say.
I applaud the growing exodus of African American pastors and churches in the convention. Some of them I know well and consider good friends. I completely understand and fully support their necessary exodus. It’s not that time for me as of yet. This is no copout or compromise. Copping out and compromising, I will not do! This is not playing into the hands of an oppressive system. I don’t move like that! Staying is not because I’ve embraced a theology of whiteness. I most certainly have not! I’m staying, for now, because I have something to say. I’m staying because I believe that at this moment there is much work to do. Some tables need to be flipped over in the SBC. There are some sinful, strange, and obvious idols that need to be torn down and cast into the fire within the SBC. There are some men and women who love the SBC that desperately need a Nathan in their face telling them exactly who they are and reminding them what God expects from them.
Some may ask, criticize and/or wonder why I would even waste my time in an environment like the Southern Baptist Convention and that’s fair. My answer is simple. It’s an inside job. It’s a work that had started long before I came on the scene. It is, from the perspective of my predecessor one of the reasons why he felt it necessary to lead a church merger between a predominately African American church that had survived and thrived for well over 100 years with a dying Anglo church that was organized during a time of intentional segregation in a community that had a reputation for its disdain for African Americans. It’s cool to tweet about it. It’s cool to blog and post about it. It’s cool to jump on a podcast and offer perspective and opinion about it. However, this (calling folks to repentance) is a big part of the current calling on my life. They may not listen, but before I shake the dust off of my feet and chuck up the deuces I most certainly have something to say…
Enough for now!
Deryk Hayes is the pastor of Saint Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights in Louisville, Kentucky.