On December 4th my local New Orleans Baptist Association of Churches (NOBA) published a response to a letter that has been publicly released 7 years after its original recipient received it. Whether or not you are inclined to think the recent leak was appropriate, the letter itself is a commentary on how many people have viewed our African American brothers and sisters over the years.
As always, I am so thankful for an association of churches who will speak up for brothers and sisters who have been belittled, maligned or otherwise marginalized. It is a privilege to serve with and among these churches and friends. Jack, Leroy, and Alex are a gift to us and I think I can speak for all of NOBA when I say they are our heroes.
The original post may be accessed here.
Response to Released Paige Patterson Letter
Recently, a letter was released online in which Dr. Paige Patterson expressed his concerns at the election of Dr. Fred Luter to the SBC presidency. Because this letter directly involves one of the pastors in our association, and because, as associational workers and pastors in a majority African-American city, we’ve had conversations again and again with black pastors who feel as though they are not welcome in our denomination, we inclined to comment.
Defending the actions of God in elevating Dr. Luter to leadership in our convention, as in all apologetics, is not merely an appeal to open another’s mind to think differently, but also an appeal to open another’s eyes to see truly.
The truth of Dr. Luter’s presidency is this: he was not chosen by denominational leaders to fulfill their goals of diversifying the denomination; rather, Dr. Luter’s leadership was a gift of God to his churches, one given in mercy. Mercy, because we do not, in the SBC, deserve unity with our black leaders. We have constantly, from the first day until now, excluded and marginalized them; nor do we deserve to benefit from the great spiritual wealth found in our African-American churches. Like the churchman who tells a Sunday visitor to move out of his usual seat in the pew rather than welcoming him as a brother in Christ, we have denied our black brothers and sisters seats at every table, thinking absurdly that somehow we own the tables in God’s house. Yet we have received the mercy of God to have African-American churches join the SBC and godly black men and women as our leaders. Do we quake at the mercy of God? We should quake at the thought of our Father’s justice and one day reaching the end of his patience with us as we too slowly repent of our sins of racism and exclusion.
There are many who would not call Dr. Patterson’s letter racist, who believe anger, in this case, is undeserved. I wish we could share our hearts rather than words with you. African American pastors of Dr. Luter’s generation were denied entry into our seminaries for reasons of race, and in 2012 the president of one of our seminaries said most black people are not qualified to lead the denomination because they are uneducated on important theological issues, like inerrancy. This is a false assumption. Moreover, if inerrancy as a doctrine was to safeguard our denomination against “sliding…back,” it’s failed: again and again, we slide all the way back to the sin which first divided our churches and created our denomination. We celebrate ourselves as champions of inerrancy, and yet so often we have failed to live according to the inspired word which preaches again and again the equal worth and giftedness of the children of God.
When we pray for the future of the SBC, we pray God would continue to bring us leaders from every people, in the U.S. and elsewhere, because that means his gospel is crossing every boundary. We pray He would make our denomination representative of his eschatological Church of every nation, and far from excluding those of other races and nationalities, that we would eagerly seek them out to come and be a part, to take a seat in our pews, at our tables, and among our leadership. We quake to think our denomination might forsake its part in evangelizing every nation because we are afraid to place “our” denomination and “our” theology into the hands of those who are not steeped in our cultural traditions.
Lastly, we pray thanking God for the privilege of taking part in his work in the world, in deep recognition that it is his work—not ours to direct or control.
Jack Hunter, NOBA Executive Director
Dr. Leroy Fountain, Church Health Strategist
Rev. Alex Brian, Neighborhood Ministry Coordinator