THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE SBC REGARDING THE CONFEDERATE FLAG
From “Hearty Support” 1863 to “Discontinue the Display” 2016
BY WM. DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.
At the near beginning of the 21st Century, The Southern Baptist Convention recently made the decision to address a heretofore unaddressed aspect of her history, and that is the SBC’s historic identity and complicity with the Confederacy. A vote was taken to ask Christians to discontinue the public use of the Confederate Flag (CF), in order to show solidarity with other Christians, including African Americans.
Perhaps this was one of the most heart-wrenching and gut-checking decisions ever made by the SBC. Why? Because the SBC and the Confederacy were connected at the hip historically, emotionally, psychologically, philosophically, geographically, politically, and even genetically. This connection is deep, intertwined, and multi-layered. Many in the SBC literally have the blood of Confederate Soldiers running through their veins. That made it a thorny and testy issue. This, inevitably, had to be a tough decision for the SBC to make. It was a seminal moment in the life of our Convention, having taken 253 years to arrive at the point of radically departing from and denouncing, a heretofore proud symbol of Southern heritage.
The emotional response exhibited on the Convention floor, to the passing of the CF resolution, is indicative and evidence of the emotional upheaval some would experience in processing and coming to grips with the decision to renounce the CF.
The greatest influence in the outcome of the vote was the blood of the Charleston Nine. Their pictures and brief bio’s had been presented to the convention earlier that day. Dylann Roof’s intent was to start a race war when he murdered the Charleston Nine. The irony is, his actions have led to a greater unity of the races within the SBC and the Charleston community. Roof’s actions led to the SBC repudiating the Confederate Flag. It was the spirit of the Confederate Flag that demonically drove Dylann Roof to murder nine Kingdom-citizens. What Roof meant for evil, God through the SBC is turning it around and using it for good (Romans 8: 28).
The SBC was not being asked to vote on this resolution to prove that they were not racist. They were being asked to vote on this resolution to identify with the pain of those grieving the murders of the Charleston Nine, to help heal the hurt, and to honor The Charleston Nine, by renouncing the CF. In the process of addressing this issue and making the right decision, the SBC would be cleansing and clearing her own conscience.
- The messengers cast a vote looking futuristically, rather than to affirm seeds of division and White Supremacy sown by their forefathers.
- The messengers’ affirmative vote, in effect, confessed and rebuked the sins of their forefathers.
- The messengers’ courageous vote brought healing, hope, forgiveness, restoration, and wholeness to the Convention.
- The messengers exonerated an ugly stain on the legacy of the SBC. From a legacy and spiritual perspective, they removed the guilty stain, by disavowing The Confederate Flag.
Now, we no longer have to look at our Baptist forefathers with contempt. The vote of the messengers reconnected and reconciled some of us to their significant spiritual heritage and contributions. Their wrongs were philosophically corrected by their descendants.
The messengers voted to cleanse and clear the collective conscience of the SBC by voting to discontinue the display of the Confederate Flag. In one fell swoop, the messengers’ vote reduced the CF from a symbol of pride to a symbol of scorn and shame.
Allegations that the SBC would be moving down a slippery slope by renouncing the CF are totally baseless. The vote to denounce the CF also, by extension, addressed and negated the earlier resolution of support of the Confederacy. This vote also, by extension, renounced and rebuked all Southern Baptist churches and personalities who were complicit with The Confederacy in any manner.
It serves no good purpose to go down the trail of singling out historical figures for rebuke. I read somewhere, “Never pick a fight with a dead man; you’ll lose every time.” The vote, itself, rebuked and philosophically corrected their errors as it relates to support of the Confederacy and slavery.
God be praised! The SBC connection to the Confederacy was officially severed on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in St. Louis, Mo. at approximately 4pm. The SBC made the statement in that meeting to choose Kingdom over Culture. They chose Hope over Heritage. They chose Righteousness over Race. The SBC and the resolutions committee should be commended for this.
As stated so eloquently by Dr. James Merritt, “All the confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.” And whenever God’s people seek His Kingdom first, addition of some kind takes place (Matthew 6: 33). I have never in my life been more thrilled to be a part of the SBC as I am today.
The resounding, joyful, and celebratory response to the decision made to affirm the amended version of the resolution was powerful. It indicated the healing of the hearts of the messengers and the hope of a positive racial future. The only other time that I’ve experienced that kind of exuberant joy, clapping, verbal praise, and a strong sense of God’s presence in a SBC gathering was when Dr. Fred Luter was elected President of the SBC in New Orleans.
As Dr. Floyd stated, “The church can’t call the nation to repent ’till the church repents.” As the SBC continues to flesh out the will of God and obey it, racially, it has the potential of changing the nation. Thanks to Dr. Floyd, the ’95 apology, the election of Fred Luter, and the renouncing of the CF; the SBC is beginning to gain the credibility to address the nation regarding race.
Because of previous commitments and a scheduling conflict, I was not able to attend the meeting; but, I watched some of the events via live stream.
The response to James Merritt’s amendment and commentary will forever be etched in the memory of the SBC. The power of that moment transcended the screen. It could be felt by observers who were live-streaming the Convention. Truly the presence of The Lord was in that place. The impact that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech had on the nation, James Merritt’s amendment speech had on the outcome of the vote and, consequently, the redemption of the SBC. The SBC is beginning to gain the credibility to address the nation regarding race.
In a way, that vote and the response to it were like a new start, or rebooting of the convention, from a racial perspective. We have to be in unity before we can reach our nation and world. The Lord blessed the SBC with a baptism of unity on June 15, 2016, almost in an unprecedented manner from my observations.
I shed the same tears Russell Moore was shedding for the same reasons as I watched the proceedings on the Convention floor through the live stream. God is healing our Convention and correcting the only previous statement made by the SBC concerning the Confederacy, and that was to proclaim the SBC’s “hearty support.” The SBC entered into that auditorium on Flag Day—and coincidentally, my birthday—officially in support of the Confederacy—and by extension—the CF. But they departed the auditorium, having decided to “discontinue the display” of the CF. What a mighty God we serve!!!
The beauty of the passing of this resolution is that it was not a victory for any one person or group. The major leaders and entity heads in the SBC supported this resolution, even the stronger amended version. The resolutions committee, who obviously had a tough job, brought to the floor a great proposed resolution, although I obviously preferred one much stronger, similar to what The Merritt Amendment proposed. The fact that no one on the resolutions committee opposed the Merritt amendment indicates to me that they too were in favor of a stronger resolution, but, for peace and unity sake, had no doubt crafted a resolution that they’d hoped would please the multitude. I thought the resolution committee performed exceptionally well, especially given the controversial and multifaceted layers to the CF resolution. But this was not a victory for The Resolutions Committee, the entity heads, James Merritt, or certainly not for William Dwight McKissic, Sr. This was not even a victory for the messengers. This was a victory for The Kingdom of God and The SBC’s vision to reflect the Kingdom of God in all aspects.
By voting to renounce the CF, the messengers laid the ax at the root of the tree. I use to think it was necessary for the SBC to formally repent of the “curse of Ham” theory, once prominently taught in the SBC, to provide a biblical/theological covering or rationale for slavery, the Confederacy, segregation, and systemic, institutionalized racism. However, because of the decision to renounce the CF, and by extension the Confederate States of America (CSA), the SBC also denounced in St. Louis the false theology that undergirded the CSA/CF—the formation of the SBC—and the noted leaders in the SBC who were also slaveholders and CSA sympathizers/supporters.
The dialogue between the SBC and NBC is also groundbreaking and incredibly important. The St. Louis decision gives the SBC more credibility. I’m already hearing how respect for the SBC has gone way up in many, many circles. The reality is, everyone on both sides of this resolution is in agreement, we are surprised that the Merritt Amendment passed at all, and with over 90% of the vote. That had to be God.
Finally, it’s important that the construct of the resolution represented a collaborative effort of the Resolutions Committee, Merritt, me, and others who Merritt and I consulted with in preparing our content. Merritt and I had absolutely no discussion with each other about this matter prior to the vote. The Holy Spirit orchestrated all things relative to the passing of this resolution. The beauty of this resolution is that it represents the collaborative efforts of Blacks and Whites working together. No one can legitimately call the outcome pandering to a certain constituency, or to an attempt to be politically correct. This was a move of the Holy Spirit. And to make it anything other than that, may border on blasphemy.
Arguably, the strongest statement ever made by a SBC personality on the subject of race, was made by Dr. Ronnie Floyd:
“I believe the issue of racism is from Satan and his demonic forces of hell. Why do I believe this? Racism is an assault on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since the essence of the Gospel is spiritual adoption that releases us from our prior state, anything contradicting that must be a lie about Christ and subversive of His finished work on the cross. Racism is completely opposite of the message of Christ. Racism is completely opposite of the message of love. Racism is completely opposite of the message of reconciliation. While our nation is being divided across racial lines, uniting His people across racial lines best reveals God’s heart for all the nations.
In this desperate time in our nation when the racial tension is building rapidly, our Southern Baptists churches must rise together as one and decry this atrocity and lead through it in the gospel way. Southern Baptists, silent denominations die and their message dies with them. Let’s be clear and not be silent.
We are not black churches. We are not white churches. We are not Latino churches. We are not Asian churches. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. We are members of the same body. The hope for all racism to end in America is in Jesus Christ and in His triumphant church. This is why we are having in this morning’s session, A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America. Let the church rise. The stakes couldn’t be higher!” (Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/ronnie-floyd-2016-presidential-address-sbc-southern-baptist-annual-meeting-165260/#mxK3LvMuvmEFTuJf.99)
These are exciting times that the quest for racial inclusion and empowerment is being championed by White leaders. God can’t help but to bless that! May our land, our churches, our families, and each of us experience revival! And may the Lord use the SBC as a catalyst! Our hearts and hands are now clean. God is preparing us for something special. I’m glad I’m on board the ship for this ride.