Ouch? Regarding African-American Baptist pastor Dwight McKissic’s April 7 excoriation of the Southern Baptist Convention for failure to live up to its 1995 renunciation of racism and slavery, Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press wrote:
McKissic, once a rising star in denominational life until he disagreed publicly with influential leaders over a decision to stop appointing missionaries that use a “private prayer language,” said most systemic, institutional and individual racism in SBC life is “passive, not intentional.”
Well, he didn’t call McKissic a “has been,” even if the summation was lame. That disagreement was a full-bore, denominational uproar in which McKissic’s stand played an important role. Most spectacularly, in August of 2006, McKissic gave a sermon at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel in which he discussed his use of private prayer languages. Seminary president Paige Patterson did not have the sermon posted on the school website. Debate & turmoil. In June of 2007, McKissic resigned from the seminary board of trustees.
Ok. Was Enid, Oklahoma, pastor Wade Burleson also “once a rising star” until he disagreed publicly with influential leaders over private prayer languages (and other matters)? Specifically associated with his role as a member of the International Mission Board, from which he resigned in 2008 — an experience he documents in “Hardball Religion: Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism.”
Maybe not the right characterization, but the official SBC reaction to McKissic is still dismissive. Allen writes that “Sing Oldham, vice president for convention relations at the SBC Executive Committee” said that “a motion referred by the convention in 2009 to study ways to more actively involve ethnic churches and ethnic leaders in serving the needs of the SBC.” And McKissic’s blog post “will certainly be a resource.”
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) actions toward women “fall short of Biblical standards (Acts 2:17-18)” and require public apology, prominent Southern Baptist and African-American pastor Dwight McKissic argues on April 1 — an apology like the SBC’s 1995 renunciation of racism and slavery.
There are good historic and modern reasons for such an apology:
The SBC was formed in 1845 when women were not allowed to vote in the vast majority of SBC churches. Consequently, women by and large did not attempt to register as delegates/messengers to the annual SBC meetings. In 1885 women were excluded by the vote of the convention from being seated as delegates. The convention voted to only accept “brethren” as representatives from churches to the annual meetings. Josiah Lawrence made a motion to seat women as “messengers” in 1917 and the vote actually occurred in 1918 with overwhelming approval.
McKissic also cites well-known examples of modern Southern Baptist mistreatment of women [1, 2, 3], finally weaving mistreatment of Southern Baptist women, SBC racism and the sexual abuse of SBC women together around the case of now-imprisoned former pastor Daryl Gilyard.
Results of the earlier renunciation suggest that apology to SBC women, while clearly merited, would accomplish little of measurable value. For as McKissic demonstrates via damning examples in his April 7 blog, there are still serious problems:
- There was no black representation on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. McKissic brought that to the attention of Frank Page at the Louisville Airport in June ’09. Page called SBC President Johnny Hunt, who corrected the oversight, which McKissic calls “symptomatic of the problem.”
- “Ten years after the ’95 racial reconciliation and apology statement, there has not been one African American appointed to a position as the Chief Executive Officer of a SBC entity,” although there are three vacant spots.
- At the Southern Baptists of Texas Evangelism Conference in February, SBC Evangelist Jimmy Davis “communicated that President Obama was not a Christian” and “encouraged the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention to ‘pray that God providentially remove President Obama from office.’” Yes, something about the image of all of those Anglo Southern Baptists kneeling in prayer against Obama does seem racist.
- Baptist Deacon Bill Fortner in a blog entry described President Obama as “the Tragic Negro,” a characterization which McKissic accurately characterized as “clearly racist and beyond the pale.”
- An Anglo SBC church in Louisiana refused to let Anglo missionaries who had adopted children of color speak in their church because of the color of their children.
- “A Black Baptist Arkansas Pastor who disassociated himself from the SBC in recent years” explained to McKissic that during a missions trip to Mexico with an Anglo Southern Baptist congregation, “one of the Anglo mission team members use racial slurs” for which, when confronted, he did not apologize.
- Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, preached a sermon at First Baptist of Jacksonville, FL., in which he said to “approving laughter” that Black churches take up “twelve offerings.” Caner went on to relate:
“… you go to a Black church gentlemen, you are not going to have on a blue suit, you are going to have blue shoes to match, and your handkerchief is going to match your tie, and your whole outfit is going to match your car. It’s BEAUTIFUL. And ladies: when we talk about black church, we’re talkin’ about hats. And I’m not just talkin’ Easter hats as some of you may wear, I’m talkin’ ’bout satellite dish hats. [laughter]. Big enough to receive a signal, with a curtain rod goin’ down the front that you can just pull the curtain across.”
How the SBC can accomplish a resurgence while driving away people of color and, woman by woman as well as church by church, spiritually inspired women, is unclear. Thus McKissic suggests changing the name of the organization to “The International Baptist Convention” to create the opportunity for “a new start in a new millennium.” Which might work almost as well as the 1995 renunciation of racism and slavery (the one he dissects by recent example).
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) repentance of “systemic, institutionalized, and historic negative attitudes toward women, races, and dissenters” called for by prominent African-American pastor SBC pastor Dwight McKissic was to involve electing a black SBC president this summer. That was to be Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, who doesn’t plan to run [Associated Baptist Press]:
Luter said in an e-mail April 3 that McKissic isn’t the only person who has suggested that he seek office, but he has not agreed to be nominated. “There are a lot of guys throughout the convention who would like to see that happen,” Luter said. “I truly appreciate their trust and confidence in me, however that will not happen this year.”
Before the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) can experience a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR), it must repent “systemic, institutionalized, and historic negative attitudes toward women, races, and dissenters,” argued prominent African-American pastor SBC pastor Dwight McKissic. And elect pastor Fred Luter of Franklin Ave. Baptist Church in New Orleans the first African American President of the SBC.
In a March 30 blog entry, McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Tex., also recommended Troy Gramlin, Pastor of the Flamingo Road Baptist Church in South Florida, is to be nominated for president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference.
McKissic said some have erred in treating Gramlin’s view of women in the ministry as unbiblical. He challenged “Peter Lumpkins, Gramlin’s most vocal critic,” to debate Gramlin.
Founded in 1845 amid national debate over slavery and the role of slaveholders in the church, only after first undergoing a “Great Repentance Resurgence” can the SBC hope to undergo a Great Commission Resurgence, McKissic argued. It is a repentance McKissic clearly intends to sweep past the 1995 renunciation of racism and apology for past defense of slavery to deal more constructively with the role of women and others.
McKissic pointedly addressed the SBC leadership. He said:
The primary reason I’m addressing this subject is because I want to appeal to the patriarchs of our convention (Johnny Hunt, Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, Danny Akin, Ronnie Floyd, Frank Page, and others) to call a solemn assembly and invite Southern Baptists to pray, seek God’s face, repent and turn from our wicked ways.
And quoted Joel 1:13-15 to illuminate his point.
These are interesting times for current and would-be SBC leadership. And are destined to become progressively more so.