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

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What Can We Learn From “The Free State of Jones”?

 “The winds are shifting and you can’t fight it this time,” said Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). “There’s plenty left to fight for,” responded Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey). Newton Knight was the protagonist in The Free State of Jones. Knight was a revolutionary who cared about people, not profit. He felt sorrow when he saw young men dying prematurely in the confederate army and felt anger when African Americans were treated inhumanely. Knight was convinced there was plenty to fight for. His convictions resulted in him starting the Free State of Jones county and fighting for it. He fought not just for the county, but he fought for equality for his black brothers and sisters. Knight displayed three characteristics that are applicable in relieving racial tension today.

Knight Acknowledged African-American Humanity

    Number four, every man is a man. If you walk on two legs, you’re a man. It’s as simple as that” said Newton Knight as he declared the stipulations of being a part of the free state of Jones.  This was a radical statement for blacks to hear because they had been considered property, not people since birth.  In the movie, Knight was never seen as a person who treated slaves like an expendable resource.

    When his son fell ill and he didn’t have access to a doctor, he was told about Rachel, a female slave, who could offer him help. She fearfully came to his home and nursed his son back to good health. He treated her like a human, not a resource while she was there. Knight offered to fetch supplies for her when she insisted on doing it. In addition, when she was getting ready to depart he grabbed her hands, thanked her, and gave her a piece of gold. She perceived it as doing what she was loaned to do, but he saw it as an act of kindness displayed to his son by another human being. Knight perceived black people as individuals created in the image of God in a time where he could have easily developed the elitist attitude that was common among whites.

Knight Spoke For Them

    Moses Washington (Mahershala Ali) was a close black friend of Knight. There is a scene in the movie where Knight and his companions are celebrating a victory by roasting a pig. The white people started eating the pig first then the blacks got their portion. Washington was the first to retrieve his portion. While doing so he was asked by a white individual “Whatcha think you doing n****?” He continued to pick up his meat and then responds. It seems as though Washington was about to be a victim of a racial crime, but then Knight speaks up. He affirms that Washington has as much right to this meat as he does.

    Knight lived with his black sisters and brothers. He ate, slept, and worked with them. Once he was questioned about living in Soso, MS because a person made a statement akin to “isn’t that where all the n***** are?” He responded with a statement akin to“we don’t have any n*****.”  A statement that could have cost a black person his life. Knight used his privilege to speak on behalf of those who were still thought of as partially human.

Knight Acknowledged and Utilized His Privilege

    He was raised in a society in which he possessed certain privileges that were not afforded to his black companions. He exercised his privilege to protect them. When Moses Washington’s son was kidnapped, Knight accompanied his armed and angry friend. “They will arrest me, but they will kill you,” said Knight as he insisted on going with Moses to find his son. He went to court and bought back Washington’s son because he had the ability to do so. 

    Another example of this was the scene where he walks to the voting office with a number of blacks. They marched to the voting office singing “John Brown.” If they were alone they were more likely to be shot down in the streets. Although, Knight walked with them into the voting office and demanded a Republican ballot. He was the voice for his black family and as a result they each received ballots (which were not counted in the election). He utilized his privilege to benefit those who were marginalized in society.

The Fight Is Not Over

    This movie brought to mind the PBS documentary “Many Rivers To Cross.” This documentary displays how throughout history little battles have been won but there is a war still being fought. Laws and policies do not change the hearts of men. The sins of racism, partiality, and injustice are still present in this world. No human institution can eradicate them. Sin will not exit this world until Jesus enters again.

    Until then, we need to acknowledge that God’s image-bearers are victims of racism, partiality, and injustice. If we can not admit this we are naive to the power of sin in this world. Admitting that the people mentioned in the news, blogs, and statuses were people crafted by the hand of God before they were hashtags is the first step to making progress. Then we can truly “weep with those who weep”,” mourn with those who mourn”, and “rejoice with those who rejoice”. When we realize their humanity we will speak for them, not argue innocence. We don’t have to know all the facts, just one: God created them. The helpful utilization of certain privileges will not happen until we acknowledge people are worth being spoken for and need you to speak for them because sin hinders their voices from being heard. Coming to grips with the reality of God’s image-bearers that are dying and being hindered from being heard because of sin’s power in this world leads you to the fact that “There is plenty left to fight for” and the gospel is the only viable weapon in this war.