At last year’s SBC in Orlando, Dwight McKissic made a motion to add racism to homosexuality as sins that eliminated one from being in cooperation with the SBC. The motion was referred (as is standard practice) and the convention voted down a follow-up motion to undo the referral and vote on it. Many people (myself among them) were disappointed that the vote was not taken but we were hopeful that the Executive Committee would bring back a favorable report on the motion. That did not happen. They decided not to recommend the bylaws change. Dwight McKissic’s motion died.
I have, for some time, been considering bringing a motion to the convention to reconsider last year’s motion and to try again to get the convention to vote. I have decided not to do that, and I would like to explain my thinking here.
- I received a copy of the Executive Committee’s study of racial issues within the SBC, which will be brought here today. It gives evidence that the EC is taking this issue seriously and desires to take steps to change things in significant ways.
- I was contacted by a member of the EC who explained the rationale of the committee. They were not attempting to avoid the issue, but simply approaching it in another way.
- I spoke to an expert in SBC polity who explained that the current BF&M 2000 and current policies are already sufficient to challenge the seating of messengers of a church that practiced racism.
- I received an email from Bryant Wright telling me that he was fully supportive of the idea of increasing the ratio of minorities in the appointment process and was taking efforts to do so. That was very encouraging.
- The simple fact is that my motion would have little chance of success and would almost certain meet the same fate that Dwight McKissic’s met last year. It is probably, at least at this time, better to let the system work than to try to work outside the system – at least as long as progress is being made.
After thinking through all this for quite a bit, I decided that it was best to trust the goodwill of people who clearly represented to me and publicly that they cared about this issue and that they intended to make real changes.
And I am seeing some hopeful signs that this is actually taking place. I believe that we are seeing progress in a hopeful direction. Here are some things I have seen.
- Vance Pitman’s praise team (which is simply the praise team and choir from his church) is a model of what we want to be. I think it might be true that white folks were the minority in the choir – a mix of African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other ethnicities. The worship leader was black. Perhaps a slightly greater balance in preaching could be accomplished in future years, but this was a good first step. The podium was not a whites-only enclave this year.
- The talk is that Fred Luters will be nominated for First VP tomorrow, and there seems to be a move to nominate him for president of the SBC next year. May it happen. If he gets elected, all the better, but the fact that the pool of candidates is multi-racial is a good thing.
- The leaders of the SBC entities and state conventions have joined together to sign a document of cooperation. One of the points in that document is the promotion of greater racial diversity in leadership of the SBC.
- The EC report on racial issues within the SBC seems to be a good starting point and template for what needs to happen.
- Just an observation; hardly scientific. I think there was more racial diversity at the Pastor’s Conference this year. Again, just an impression.
So, I am encouraged that things are going to change for the better; perhaps too slowly with a few bumps along the way. If the effort gets derailed, we can always intervene to try to force the process. But I think there is momentum right now for this issue. Our leaders are not fighting against this, though perhaps they did not favor Dwight McKissic’s bylaws change approach. But that option is always available to us in the future if things don’t happen as they should.
I will state my conviction one more time. It is our job – the white folks – to deal with it and correct it. Ethnic Baptists should not have to come hat in hand begging for equality and justice. It is not the fault of African Americans that they were enslaved, oppressed, segregated, excluded and ignored. It was done to them. I do not believe that I have personally oppressed black people. But I am the inheritor of the system that did and it is our job to take responsibility and do what it takes to convince people of every skin color that they are not just tolerated, but welcomed and celebrated in today’s SBC.
I am hopeful that the powers that be in the SBC agree with this desire even if they are seeking a different approach.