I was saddened and wounded to read the letter from seven years ago from our Brother Paige Patterson to Jimmy Draper. I was asked by a couple of news agencies to give comment. But as I prayed about it, I felt led to share first with my SBC family through the Baptist Press.
I agree that anyone holding the office of President of the Southern Baptist Convention must have sound biblical doctrine, to include inerrancy of Scripture. That is one distinctive of Southern Baptists; we have a high view of Scripture. Southern Baptists hold that “…all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” (BFM 2000)
It is unfortunate that this private letter from seven years ago has been shared on social media without comment from the author. I know that Paige Patterson has assisted many African Americans in obtaining theological training and seminary degrees.
I’m sure that if he had a second chance there are a lot of things he would do differently, including writing this letter. But it does show how historic and significant the election of Fred Luter really was, as the first African American to serve as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. It also indicates that Fred Luter is the Jackie Robinson of Southern Baptists in the untold and unfounded assumptions he encountered during his term. Through it all, Fred Luter served the Convention honorably and with integrity.
I wish the letter had not been written and it is hurtful and stings to think of the theological doubt held by some against Black Southern Baptists. However still, we have to be careful not to allow the past to divide us, but to continue to work together as Southern Baptists for a better Convention that fully honors Jesus Christ.
As we look forward to celebrating 175 years as a Convention in Orlando in 2020, it is imperative that our executive leadership reflects the diversity that is within the Southern Baptist Convention. I urge all of our entities to make a concerted effort to hire ethnically diverse staffs in senior leadership positions. Blacks, Asians, and Latinos must be included in executive leadership in every aspect of SBC life before we can truly believe that we have overcome the sins of our past.
We still have work to do in our Convention. We have come a long way and we have a ways to go to be all that God would have us to be. It’s not the time to quit, but to press forward. I believe that God has greater work for all Southern Baptists.
Dr. Marshal L. Ausberry, Sr.
President, National African American Fellowship of the SBC
1st Vice President of the SBC
Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Fairfax Station, VA