As President of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, I commend Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Mohler’s commissioning the study and releasing the internal report on the history of slavery and racism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is clear leadership akin to the men of Issachar. (1 Chronicles 12:32 (ESV) 32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…) Dr. Mohler clearly understands the times and knows what to do!
I am sure that Dr. Mohler understands that he will face backlash in some corners. A leader does not stick his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing to make a decision. Instead, a true leader makes a decision knowing the right thing to do and does it!
The reporting of the study should not surprise anyone! The history is the history! The Mother seminary of the SBC marches in lockstep with the SBC. The history shows that the Seminary as an institution reflected the political and social culture of its time. It is perplexing how otherwise godly men could miss the mark so badly. But, when culture and politics have such an unmerited influence, the reaping is the result of what has been sewn. Southern Seminary is not by herself, many institutions of that era were swimming in the same river of prejudice, racism, and elitism cloaked in the sheets of the idea of manifest destiny.
My hope is that the release of the report will not cause dissension or divisiveness. I hope that the report will facilitate healing and a sober recognition of how far we have come as a people. While we still have ways to go, we truly have come a mighty long way! We needed this history to be documented, as stinging and troubling as it is, because as someone has said, “If we do not know our history, we are apt to repeat it!”
For Southern Baptists, we embrace the message of reconciliation. When we are wrong we don’t hide it, we admit it, and move not to repeat the past, but to make a better future! We must learn from the past. As brothers and sisters of every hue, we can be reconciled to one another because of Jesus Christ!
Jesus Christ is our great reconciler. We reconcile to each other because that is the picture of Christ reconciling a sinful world to Himself. Southern Baptists have a golden opportunity to show the world how we can make peace with our past, and truly love one another, because the love of Jesus Christ binds us together. The history of the Seminary is like an antibiotic and a vaccine. As an antibiotic it kills the lingering infection of racism and as a vaccine kills a recurrence of the disease!
We have the advantage of history because we can look back and wonder, “How did those otherwise godly men miss the mark so badly?” When we allow the culture and politics to become idols, we always miss the true interpretation of the Word of God!
Again, I commend Dr. Mohler for commissioning and releasing the report on the history of slavery and racism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I pray that it will be used for the betterment of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Marshal L. Asbury, Sr.
President, National African American Fellowship, SBC
December 15, 2018