10 Reasons Why The Southern Baptist Convention Is Stained By Racism

Jones, K., & Williams, J. J. (2017). Removing The Stain of Racism From The Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives. Broad & Holman

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My thankfulness for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is difficult to express. If I were to attempt to verbalize it I would exhaust my vocabulary. A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry was instrumental in my salvation. God allowed me to be a part of various mission trips sponsored by Southern Baptists. My theological education has been at a Southern Baptist seminary. I have work for collegiate ministries sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention. I love the universal church, but the Southern Baptist tribe has a special place in my heart.

But I love the SBC enough, to tell the truth about it. Our convention is stained by racism. The stained has affected every entity of the SBC. Jarvis Williams, Kevin Jones, and the other contributors give multiple reasons why the stain persists, but I will only mention ten.

1) Insufficient Follow-Up

 “Since the formation of the SBC in 1845, the denomination’s leaders have passed thirty-one resolutions on race. Each one resulted from a growing realization that things were not right.”

Craig Mitchell (62)

2) Divorcing History

 “But I am convinced we need to make sure we allow the ghost of our racist forebears to haunt us. We need to be reminded often that we are no different from them and that we are just as susceptible to hatred, pride, and wickedness apart from the mercy of God.”

Dr. Matthew Hall (14)

3) Intellectual Racism

“Among the most significant instances of racial disparity in South Baptist life is intellectual racism”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (19)

“Black and Brown scholarship is either dismissed or ignored in many colleges universities and seminaries”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (20)

4) Inferior Theological Development

“Formal theology has been disproportionately conducted by white men and the context of their theology affirms has become standardized”

Walter Strickland II (55)

“Superior theological development results for the diverse collective of the church (across age, genders, races, and cultures) rather than from individual or believers  isolated in their cultural context.”

Walter Strickland II (58)

5) Inadequate Pastoral Guidance

“Regarding the particular sin of racism, at least three consideration are relevant to preachers and pastors: their personal relationships, their understanding of leading from the pulpit, and their understanding of what repentance looks like in their particular context”

Dr. Kevin Smith (74)

6) Prayers for Revival But Not Reconciliation

“Our prayers for revival must include prayers for reconciliation in our denomination. However, prayer is not enough! We must pray and act. If when we rise from our knees God gives us hearts to love all races in our denomination, then we will see revival”

Mark A. Croston Sr. (87)

7) Minority Access to Education

“If Southern Baptist churches cooperate cross-racially to enhance ethnic minorities’ access to education, then we can make the stain less apparent”

 Dr. Kevin Jones  (92).

“Yet many of those same seminaries, especially Southern Baptist seminaries, often have failed to recruit and retain minorities”

Dr. Kevin Jones (91)

8) Mediocre News

“The gospel inherently entails reconciliation. So-called gospel publishing that neglects illustrating this unity in diversity may well not qualify as “good news” publishing, for it publishes only mediocre news”

Toby Jennings (109)

9) Whitewashed Teachings

“the SBC has historically neglected and still neglects to teach about people of color–including African/blacks–who played significant roles in the Old and New Testament, many Southern Baptists view biblical characters as being white, including Jesus.”

W. Dwight McKissic Sr. (133)

10) Indifferent Racism

“What you often find is not an active aggressive racism so much as a passive and indifferent racism. I gather with my tribe, and of course my tribe tends to look a whole like me. People of different ethnicities are certainly welcome to join us on our terms, adapting to our context and way of doing things. However, don’t expect us to change. Change is the responsibility of the others.”

Dr. Daniel Akin (138-139)

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Part 1: Letter to Seminary Professors

Dear Seminary Professor,

The Lord has used you to sanctify me and enhance my ministry. Thank you for introducing me to Augustine and Justin Martyr. Thank you for teaching me how to do a sermon outline. Thank you for challenging me to survey the whole counsel of God. I am grateful for the work that you do.

But I confess your syllabus is offensive to me. Your syllabus leaves scholars of color outside the gates. It’s segregated. I have listened to your lectures on the Reformation to Modern church history. I did all the assigned reading and book reviews. Where were the faithful African-American believers? 

You taught be about the preaching of Adrian Rogers, Billy Graham, and Joel Gregory. But you left out the prophetic voices from the black church like E.K. Bailey, E.V. Hill, and Gardner C. Taylor. I learned about William Carey and Adoniram Judson from you. You told me they were the first international missionaries. But you excluded George Lisle, an emancipated slave, who went to Jamaica.

You advanced my knowledge of the Old Testament and the New Testament in your classes. So is there a text that allows you to continue to make African-Americans feel like Gentiles? Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 stood up and rebuked Peter for his racism. Stand up and rebuke prominent Christain figures for statements like this:

As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt. … It is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without Negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all?

(George Whitefield)

Keep in the step with the truth of the gospel. Stand up for us in your classroom like Paul. The other option is to do what’s acceptable by the majority like Peter.

You taught me about the Southern Baptist Convention in Baptist Heritage. Our forefathers had strong convictions about holding slaves. They believed in white supremacy. Your classroom could be breeding more white supremacists. You must take action. Teach your students about scholars of color and the value of the black church. Without action, they will continue to believe you have to be white to be right.

I am hurt. I sit in class after class feeling like a Gentile. You want me to conform to your laws and practices for an “A”. You want me to leave my culture and history outside the door of your classroom to be perceived as intellectual. I confess I have sat quietly in your classroom, but I won’t any longer.

The theology of the civil rights moment is relevant in church history. The discussion of racism is part of the doctrine of sin. Proclaiming the bible is not limited to one culture’s way of preaching. Racial reconciliation and social justice deserve a lecture in your ethics class.

Your instruction will influence future pastors and denominational leaders. I beg you don’t leave my people out of your syllabus. Let your students know how diverse the church is. I plead with you, let your students know about the real black church. T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and James Cone don’t represent the black church.

Teach them about faithful believers of color. Use your instruction to bridge the racial divide in the church. Integrate your curriculum. A segregated syllabus creates divided seminary students. Divided seminary students will lead divided churches.

Sincerely,

A concerned Seminary Student

Supplemental Resources:

5 WAYS CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION CAN AVOID WHITE SUPREMACY

ARE ETHNIC MINORITIES EMOTIONALLY SAFE IN WHITE CHRISTIAN SPACES?

RACISM AND ELITISM IN HIGHER EDUCATION

For the City: Race, urban ministry, and cultural engagement

 Feel free to share your thoughts…..

Why We Can’t Wait and Walter Scott

Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “Why We Can’t Waitstill speaks to the postcivil rights black community. Racist signs in the windows have come down, but there are still places we are not welcome. The dogs and the hoses aren’t that popular anymore. We don’t fear those in white sheets as much as we fear those with blue uniforms.

Walter Scott’s death is one of numerous of unarmed black males killed by the police. The case of his shooting ended with the judge declaring it a mistrial. Another life is gone, and no one held liable.  How do King’s words speak to us today?

Waiting

People frequently say in cases like Scott’s we must wait for the details. King writes:

when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”

Nobodiness” is why the Black Lives Matter movement exists because we feel as if our people are nobodies. We are dying in the streets while the shooters walk away unscathed. For example, in New Orleans Joe McKnight died in the streets. The shooter spent 24 hours in jail,  released, and then charged. Mcknight’s  life appeared not to be worth over 24 hours in jail.  It was as if he didn’t murder a brother, uncle, or cousin. It is as if he murdered a nobody. King also writes:  “Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “Wait.”” It is easy to saywait” when you and your people are not being attacked.

Silence Makes A Statement

The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of good people” (MLK)

Throughout history, numerous churches have been quiet about racial issues. Their pro-life statements didn’t extend to the black males shot in their cities. Educational and economic racial disparities weren’t discussed in their mission strategies. Mission organizations learned enough to empathize with those in Africa but not those across tracks. The same is often true now. Silence says these are not my concerns. Silence implies I will let someone else talk about that. Silence means I don’t care. Shame on us if we are silent when our brother and sisters need our voices. We must repent of the silence of Christians.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the  good people.” (MLK)

Responding

It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city‘s white power structure left the Negro with no alternative” (MLK)

What are our options to responding to racial matters? How should we respond Scott’s mistrial or injustice?  King acknowledges we don’t have that many options that get the majority to listen. Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem. Bilal Powell wears cleats about gun violence. Beyonce performs “Formation” at the Superbowl These are examples of utilizing our options. This is why you have the Black Lives Matter non-violent protest. Trevor Noah  asks, “What is the right way?

People kneel during the anthem and they are told to leave the country. They protest and they are whiners. What are the right methods?

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens’ Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the presence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct actions”; who is paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time  and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Solutions

“Solutions to the complex plight of the Negro will not be easy. This does not signify that they are impossible.” (MLK)

The issues that African-Americans face are difficult to solve, but they are not hopeless. There is not a 3-step process to fix America overnight.  Finding solutions begins with awareness, confession, and action.

It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years. How then can he be absorbed into the mainstreams of American life if we do not do something special for him now, in order to balance the equation and equip him to compete on a just and equal basis?” (MLK)

 BUT GOD

“God’s companionship does not stop at the door of the jail cell.” (MLK)

    African-Americans have a history of oppression. We have been a people who have depended on God to deliver us from oppression. The slaves believed God would free them. Those under the yoke of Jim crow believed God would bring justice. They never believed God left them during the beatings, hoses, verbal abuse, and injustice.   God didn’t leave King when he was sitting in solitary confinement. Immanuel was still with him.

God is still with us. This why Judy Scott confidently proclaims the power of God in light of her son’s mistrial. God’s companionship has not left us in injustice. We should remember God’s presence and role in the fight for justice.

The Sin of White Silence

Lately, one of my family members has had many encounters with law enforcement officers in Wisconsin, and it has terrified me. My family member is not a model citizen, but I still love him. I feared for his life and prayed that the Lord would protect him.

The thoughts streamed through my mind: What if he complied just like Philando? What if he was at home like Korry? What if they thought he had a weapon like Tamir? What if he resisted like Mike Brown? What if they abused him like Freddie Gray? What if they grabbed him like Alton Sterling or Eric Garner? Each scenario I replayed in my head ended with his death.

   I feared he would be the next image-bearer to die at the hands of those who have sworn to protect us. I thought about the many articles that would bear his image and his name, but would be devoid of his dignity. Journalists would have blamed him for his own death, and those in blue would walk away unscathed. I was afraid an officer would ignore his education, his respectful career, and shoot him like Charles Kinsey.

     We could spend time debating the morality and differences of the people mentioned above. The fact is that most of them did not live to tell their story. I was anxious the same fate would befall a member of my family. He could have been the next hashtag, his death could have motivated a riot, or there could have been a vigil for him. He is not your family, but he is your neighbor. He deserves a voice in life and in death.

My Plea

     Church, I plead with you: do not look at racial issues and side-step them. If you are avoiding racial issues, you are avoiding the millions of your neighbors who are hurting. The Priest and the Levite in the parable of  the Good Samaritan are great examples of avoiding the hurting. They looked upon the beaten individual who needed their help and continued on their way. They believed that assisting this wounded person wasn’t their business.

     So often major evangelical voices consider these issues to be concerns for minority churches, but speaking up about racial issues is not limited to minority believers. These issues are Christian issues because they affect the body of Christ and our neighbors—not to mention that these issues are direct results of sin and we must denounce sin.  Thus, if you are in the majority, you can speak up about these matters. Yet, I would also challenge you to listen and embrace before you speak.

A) Listen

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame.”  Proverbs 18:13

We often share our opinions too swiftly. I challenge you to listen to minority believers about racism in American before you give them a lecture on your opinion. You can’t deny the truthfulness of a position unless you have listened to it. Listen to them with the knowledge that you all share the same Spirit of God, and He can correct falsehood better than you.

B) Embrace The Differences

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

  Mark 12:31

This commandment doesn’t contain qualifiers, so we must love our Black neighbor, Asian neighbor, Hispanic neighbor, and White neighbor. God requires us to love those who are different from us. When the topic of race arises, it’s common to hear someone say they are colorblind.” While the sentiment may spring from a positive motivation, this statement is unhelpful because it denies that God intentionally created us with differences and that there is incredible beauty in the diversity of Christ’s Church. We must embrace the differences, not just accept the characteristics we share.

C) Speak

As people who are part of the majority, you have the option of ignoring racial issues, but minorities don’t have that privilege. Frequently we are questioned about our positions regarding racially-charged events. We can’t help but speak about our kinsfolk who are victims of sinful systems. We can’t just walk around them because they are family, and we could be the next victim of injustice. I urge you to speak for those who don’t have voices in your circles of influence. 

Silence is Sin

Imagine the silence among the Jews and the Gentiles before Paul confronted Peter in Galatians 2. Peter feared the Jews so he slowly started to disinherit the Gentiles. There was no Jewish-Gentile forum to talk about the gospel and racial reconciliation.  They did not collectively confront the hypocrisy of Peter. The Jews probably talked to the Jews, believing it is morally right to separate themselves from the sinful Gentiles. The Gentiles probably talked among themselves, believing that the Jews were corrupt and that Peter was a traitor. However, the conversations among the groups possibly never left their sphere of influence, so there was silence about these issues.

But Paul, the Jew who was a missionary to the Gentiles, broke the silence. He confronted Peter in front of everybody. He accused him of being out of step with the gospel. He acknowledged these racial issues were not Gentile or Jewish issues but Christian issues. The question is this: will you break the silence in your church, workplace, community, and family? Will you continue to seek the approval of man or of God? Are you out of step with the gospel? I don’t say this as an angry black man, but as someone who is trying to encourage himself and others to love our neighbors. So Listen, Embrace, and Speak out of love for your neighbors and for the glory of God.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.