“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow messengers and Convention workers, there’s a lull in the events here and they’ve asked me to fill it. Therefore, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the IMB…more or less.
“As you well know, your churches labor to send missionaries throughout our nation and the world. You’ve given so much of your time, your volunteers, and – to be quite blunt about it – your money. Your sacrifices are too numerous to list here, and yet list them is exactly what I would love to do. That is not what I am here to say, though.
“Part of international missions, indeed a crucial part, is the cross-cultural aspect of the work. Most of our workers are English-speakers and yet they go unto ‘all the world,’ using languages and dialects they struggle to master and use. If they are lucky, missionaries spend a year in languages school in order to form a linguistic foundation , then continue their studies for the rest of their careers.
“And while we are talking about the inevitable crossing and mingling of cultures here, I’d like to point out the ethnic aspect of our work. Of course, historically the IMB has drawn on predominantly white church members to go as missionaries. Today, our workers are white, yes, but also African, Korean, Chinese, Mexican…another list I can’t quite complete in the time I have!
“You’ve done this. I am not setting aside the hand of God in all of this, but from a human perspective it is each and every church within the SBC who has contributed to sending this multi-ethnic, linguistically-diverse heterogeneous group of people to an even more diverse world in order to lead and to minister. You’ve managed to send out into the world thousands of missionaries who have walked into hundreds of cultures and learned dozens of languages, fully hoping to be accepted by locals as spiritual teachers and leaders despite their obvious ethnic differences.
Well done, my friends, well done.
“On an entirely separate, topic-changing point, I’d like to say a bit about nominations for SBC president. There’s been some discussion over whether we, as a convention, should consider the election of our first “ethnically diverse” president. I just have a single question:
“What’s the problem?
“We send our missionaries into places where they are different ethnically and culturally from the majority of local residents, so why can’t we accept a convention president who might be a little ethnically or culturally different from the majority of church members? We support an IMB that routinely asks its people, ‘What have you done to encourage nationals to engage in cross-cultural work?’ so why can’t we accept cross-cultural work within our own convention?
“Are non-U.S. cultures the only ones who could profit from this sort of mixing? Or do we somehow think that they need to learn lessons about race and faith that we, being North Americans, have already learned and mastered? Are we asking nationals to accept ethnicity in leadership that we would never accept ourselves?
“My friends, the lull in these proceedings is just about at an end, so I’ll need to summarize: if our convention supports in every possible way an organization, the IMB, that is all about mixing and crossing and blending of cultures in order to pursue His Kingdom, then our convention has no business maintaining a mono-cultural approach to leadership. Said another way, if you support the IMB and its strategies, you’re obligated to support a qualified non-white presidential candidate for our convention.
“Or just accept that we are, at best, wildly inconsistent; not racists, nor ethnocentrists…but incapable of thinking clearly on the subject.”