I could have titled this piece “Southern Baptists are at a Crossroads.” Southern Baptists have faced many crossroads in their history. Yet where things sit for Southern Baptists in June 2021 isn’t a crossroads moment, but a fork-in-the-road moment.
The choices facing Southern Baptists in the year of our Lord 2021 remind me of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”
In that poem, Frost talks about how two roads diverged in the woods, leaving him with a choice of which road he was going to take. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in a few days will be facing votes on a series of issues—including a president—that have the weight to set the trajectory of the denomination either positively or negatively for years to come.
First, there needs to be an independent investigation regarding recent accusations of mishandling abuse claims. We need to ask hard questions about what was handled well, what went wrong, and more. Truth be told, survivors and our Baptist family deserve better than leaked letters with accusations followed by counter accusations. Given the severity of the issue at hand, we need clarity on these accusations that only an independent third-party investigation can give.
If we are people of truth, we need to seek the truth.
Second, we must continue to deal with the issue of race and listen to our African American brothers and sisters more and to the voices claiming CRT has infiltrated the SBC less. Also, race will likely be a key factor in both the resolutions report and the presidential election.
The issue is not (usually) blatantly racist comments; it is the inability to recognize—and consequently address—issues of systemic racism that remain. It’s failing to listen to African American pastors when they share their experiences, or when they say white Southern Baptist leaders continue to send the wrong signals on these matters—especially in doubting their theological orthodoxy when their political calculus or manner of cultural engagement differs from most white evangelicals.
If you don’t think this happens, you can watch this week’s Conservative Baptist Network (CBN) video. Each person accused of “liberal drift” was either black or their counsel was in reference to the way we engage in issues related to racial injustice.
Ed Stetzer is professor and dean at Wheaton College, where he also serves as executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. This article originally appeared at Ed’s Blog, The Exchange.