It’s a fair question. The Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination founded upon a commitment to slavery and racism, is now engaged in a fierce debate over how to deal with racial unrest in the United States. Future historians will notice the irony.
From 2016 to 2019, too, I preached on the campuses of four of the SBC seminaries and had been invited to another. The backstage conversations at these gatherings promised a new era of advancement on race and theology.
So we decided to cooperate and join our church to the SBC in what is known as a dual affiliation.
The resistance, especially from some of our elderly membership, was swift and sincere.
“That was the old Southern Baptists,” I promised them and others in our church. The specter of racial animus and theological arrogance was giving way to a new era of Christian leadership, I suggested. Sure, there were more battles to be won before legitimate change would warm the hearts of African American churches like ours, but that’s why our movement felt almost prophetic.
At the emergence of the pandemic, the SBC donated to our emergency effort to provide online food delivery services for Chicagoans with SNAP benefits. Here it was, I thought, further proof that the old SBC was fading.
But as 2020 went on, I grew increasingly uneasy. When Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, said the only politically moral option for Christians was the Republican Party, I asked other SBC leaders, good Christian men, to challenge him. They would not. I was shocked, but not surprised, when Mohler endorsed President Trump and watched the two men — on Reformation Day — celebrate each other on Twitter.
And then, last week, a final straw.
On Dec. 1, all six of the SBC seminary presidents — without one Black president or counter opinion among them — told the world that a high view of Scripture necessarily required a corresponding and total rejection of critical race theory and intersectionality.
When did the theological architects of American slavery develop the moral character to tell the church how it should discuss and discern racism? When did those who have yet to hire multiple Black or brown faculty at their seminaries assume ethical authority on the subject of systemic injustice?
How did they, who in 2020 still don’t have a single Black denominational entity head, reject once and for all a theory that helps to frame the real race problems we face?
I had to tell my church I was wrong. There is no such thing as “the Old Southern Baptists.”
Conservatism is, and has always been, the god of the SBC.
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