Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Dealing With Race In the Southern Baptist Convention

Recently, a Brother Pastor announced his parting of ways with the Southern Baptist Convention over a rather clumsy handling of a resolution presented during the 2017 national meeting of the Southern Convention in Phoenix.  The purpose of the resolution was to affirm the Convention’s commitment to the Gospel’s affirmation of the equality of all people regardless of ethnicity, specifically by issuing a rejection of “Alt-Right” theological heresies.   After being asked by a number of friends what my thoughts are on the matter, I decided to post my convictions for anyone who cares to know them.  These convictions are my own and questions or thoughts should be addressed to me.

Regarding Lawrence Ware’s assessment of his Southern Baptist experience that have moved him to sever ties, I believe it is an honest reflection that accurately describes some churches, local associations and state conventions, but not all. I cannot speak for Southwestern Seminary or other associations exhaustively, but I can speak about my own experiences in 3 separate Associations and State Conventions as well as one seminary.

I've been a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville for 2 years now and have seen the administration there make great attempts to confront issues of racial justice.  I can also affirm that there is no political “Trump Bandwagon” at Southern.  In fact, during the election, the president of Southern clearly expressed his concerns and why he would not support then candidate Trump’s White House Bid in the face of much criticism (https://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2016/07/albert-mohler-russell-moore-donald-trump-christians-voting/).  The professors I have had the privilege of knowing have woven the issue of racial justice into the classes I have taken in the Global Missions Track and there is a robust desire to reach more African Americans and Latinos, though minority professorships are wanting -- as they are in many institutions of higher learning in general, even secular liberal ones.

My own faculty advisor is the descendant immigrants and the son of missionaries who served in Colombia, where he was born. He and his family have served the Lord in Spain and Morocco, and are all multilingual.  He and his wife have 2 sons, one biological and one adopted African-American son. I am deeply impressed by his heart for reconciliation and trust him immensely to speak and live out the truth in love. Another leader at Southern has lead with true candor, acknowledging at an official function, the burden of the school's segregationist’s and pro-slavery past, including exposing the racism of the founder for whom the undergraduate school is named.  This kind of honesty has been the rule, not the exception in my experience at Southern and I have found like honesty in other pastors and leaders I have known throughout the Convention.

More directly, in my own history with my wife in the SBC as church planters since 1992, we've found people of like mind who love Jesus and passionately pursue social justice as a crucial part of Gospel living. I’ve also met others I wouldn't trust any further than I could throw a Confederate monument.  In our experiences, we have also found similar realities wherever we have served, whether dealing with “conservatives” or “liberals” or members of the SBC or other “liberal” denominations.  In every walk of life, whether we’ve found gaps between practice and preaching or faithfulness in following Jesus, lifestyles always centered more on the personal convictions of individuals, not the denominational handles they carried.

Nevertheless, I understand and respect Pastor Ware’s choice. Like all choices, one’s immediate experiences will greatly flavor one's decisions.  My experience with Luz has been a mixed bag, as has been my life among many different Americans in various locations and areas of service. As for us, as long as individual churches remain autonomous in their associations within the Convention, and as long as I see a substantial remnant fighting for righteousness – and I do see that reality presently - I see no reason for me to disassociate myself from the convention.  The Convention is not perfect, but in its recent history, the Convention has made significant attempts to openly acknowledge its failures (http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/899/resolution-on-racial-reconciliation-on-the-150th-anniversary-of-the-southern-baptist-convention).  Biblical convictions have also touched the hearts of many who remain in the Convention and who are at the grassroots level doing the hard work of being peacemakers and bridge builders.
I have always tried to live as a “human Bridge of reconciliation.  I accept that part of my mission as a bridge means getting walked on.  At this time in my life, my post and orders are clear to me and I will guard this mission post of reconciliation until properly relieved.  In my limited human view, that probably means the Death Angel will be the Captain of the guard who issues my final relief. Therefore, I press on!


Samuel D. Jackson 
Church Planting Missionary/Pastor

1 comment:

John Draper said...

Many thanks, Pastor. It's fair to say, I think, that sanctification is a present reality and still a future goal: whether we're talking personal or Church-wide sanctification. Except in our worship before the Throne of God, we minister in the midst of a world and populace fragmented by the Fall. The resolutions that most matter are not those in writing or presented on a convention floor, they are the product of gospel-obedience, a will yielded to the Savior and Sanctifier in Whom we're commanded to Abide.