The Southern Baptist Convention needs to call a solemn assembly and repent for passive and intentional acts of racism in SBC life since the ‘95 apology statement.

I coincidently happened to see Frank Page at the Louisville Airport in June ’09 at the close of the Annual SBC meeting. This gave me an opportunity to respectfully point out to him that not one Black person was appointed to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force at the Louisville Convention. Dr. Page assured me that this was an unintentional oversight by President Johnny Hunt. Frank Page contacted Dr. Hunt and he quickly appointed an African American Pastor from Georgia to the GCRTF.  I applaud Johnny Hunt for immediately rectifying this situation.

Is Johnny Hunt racist? Absolutely not. His unintentional oversight is just symptomatic of the problem. Systemic, institutional and individual racism in SBC life is usually passive, not intentional. Yet, it exists. Therefore, it must be biblically addressed by our leaders if we are serious about the Great Commission. 

Dr. Danny Akin prophetically, positively, and profoundly addressed the race issue in his signature message in chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, concerning the Great Commission Resurgence. Rarely, do we hear of this type of statesmanship and leadership on this issue from anyone in SBC life. Much respect to you, Dr. Akin. I wish the GCR report to the annual meeting in Orlando would include Dr. Akin’s initial remarks on this subject.

For years I’ve asked many of my Black Baptists and evangelical Pastor friends, who would not question one word of the B, F, and M, 2000, why won’t you join the SBC? Their response would be, because it is “southern and racial”. Note: not racist, but “racial”- meaning, the DNA of the SBC is White, and geographically and culturally southern oriented. Therefore, it cannot comfortably or willingly accommodate or assimilate as equals, African American Baptists input, involvement and influence. For years I’ve disagreed with my friends’ analysis. But I’ve since reached the conclusion, they are right.

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. There are three entity executive positions currently vacant. I pray that a qualified African American will be appointed to one of them.

If you think I’m unnecessarily fixated on race, tell me how you would you feel if you were a part of a convention that claimed to be inclusive of all people groups, yet without exception, all executive level cabinet positions are occupied by males of only one people group? Would you think that’s fair? You watch the full GCR report and none of the four presenters ethnically resemble any of the people groups that the report is challenging us to reach except for Anglo males. Do you agree with that approach?

One of the objections that I’ve often heard from minorities concerning SBC missions efforts is that the approach is paternalistic rather than a partnership approach. Viewing it from the perspective of a minority, that’s how the GCR report came across, paternalistic. Nevertheless, I plan to vote for it because I have huge respect for the GCRTF members that I’m acquainted with.

Is the GCR report racist because none of the presenters are persons of color? No! It does mean that persons of color were once again an oversight, which again is symptomatic of the problem. I trust that when the GCRTF report is made in Orlando, representatives from other ethnic groups will share in the reporting.

In February, I attended the Southern Baptists of Texas Evangelism Conference where the SBC Evangelist Jimmy Davis, preached a message comparing President Obama to the wicked King Manasseh. Davis clearly communicated that President Obama was not a Christian, being fully aware that the President claims to be a Christian. He challenged the conference to pray for the President’s salvation. As Davis sees it, if the President doesn’t repent of certain social policy positions and his spiritual condition, then he encouraged the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention to “pray that God providentially remove President Obama from office”.

On the heels of Davis’ message I called him to make sure I understood his message correctly. Not only did he make it clear that I understood his message correctly, he further added his belief that President Obama is the “most wicked President in the history of the United States”. Evangelist Davis, at the conclusion of his message, asked the audience to join him on his knees and they did. He then prayed for the President’s salvation and that he be “providentially” removed from office if he doesn’t repent.

The picture of hundreds of Anglo Southern Baptists on their knees praying that God “providentially” remove the first African American President of the United States from office is not a pretty picture to African American Southern Baptists or biblio-centric fair minded Americans of any color. It’s a horrible witness to the world and a poor testimony of Southern Baptists. The SBTC officials are very much aware of this message and have remained publicly silent. Does silence equal consent? If Evangelist Davis’ remarks and prayer that God “providentially” remove President Obama is not repudiated by SBC and SBTC officials, Wiley Drake is owed and apology (2010 Empower Evangelism Conference, Southern Baptists of Texas , February 15-17, 2010). I’m publicly asking Dr. Jim Richards and Johnny Hunt to publicly disavow and repudiate the portion of Evangelist Davis’ message that dealt with President Obama.

Read this Baptist Deacon’s comment about President Obama posted on his blog:

“In a year, two at the most, the government will collapse on itself with no outside assistance due to a shortage of taxpayers. When that happens, China will sue for possession to recoup its losses in the World Court and win. Since no one trusts a liar, the Chinese will not permit Barack, the Tragic Negro, or congress to remain in power. Few will be willing to shed their blood to protect and defend Obama’s America”.     [Bill Fortner, Tuesday, March 30, 2010, Picayune Poltroons]

 

This Anglo Baptist deacon has a right to his political opinions. However, to refer to the President of the United States as, “the Tragic Negro”, is clearly racist and beyond the pale. Our convention will never experience genuine racial reconciliation and ethnic church growth as long as Baptists harbor and air views like Evangelist Davis and Deacon Bill Fortner.

A Black Baptist Arkansas Pastor who disassociated himself from the SBC in recent years visited our church this past March. I asked him why he was no longer Southern Baptist. He reported to me that his congregation went on a missions trip to Mexico with an Anglo Southern Baptist congregation. During this trip his people heard one of the Anglo mission team members use racial slurs toward their pastor. When he confronted the Anglo who allegedly made the slurs, he didn’t deny it nor did he apologize. Consequently, he left the convention.

Ergun Caner made condescending and stereotypical remarks concerning the Black Church in a sermon preached at First Baptist of Jacksonville, FL. Caner’s observation certainly would not be true of the Black church that I pastor and the majority of Black churches that I’m aware of. Yet, his remarks were met with approving laughter. I don’t believe that he would have made those same remarks in a Black church. Caner essentially said Black churches do not put the preacher up to preach until about 1:00 p.m. That’s not true. Black churches, according to Caner, take up “twelve offerings”. That’s untrue. Caner further stated:

“… 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”.   [Ergun Caner, The Warrior Church, June 14, 2009]

 

By the grace of God, I’ve been privileged to preach over the past thirty six years in twenty seven states, at least seventy five cities, and in over one hundred and eighty pulpits or public venues across the length and breadth of America. The vast majority of those preaching assignments were in Black Baptist pulpits. My point is, Ergun Caner may have had a better opportunity to judge the social mores of the Black church more so than I, but it’s doubtful. I can truly say that what Ergun Caner stated is simply, generally not true. As a matter of fact, I’ve never witnessed what he described. If I stated that White preachers preached in Hawaiian shirts and encouraged married couples in their churches to have sex seven straight days, and wore toupees; that may be true in isolated cases but it would be unfair, inaccurate, and racially stereotypical, without foundation, for to me make such a claim.

This is what Caner has done and he owes FBC Jacksonville an apology. I honestly don’t believe Caner meant any harm. I think that he was simply speaking off the cuff and exaggerated grossly. Most public speakers, including myself, have made similar mistakes. However, his remarks were damaging to the reputation of the Black church in the minds and hearts of his hearers. One would expect better than this from a Seminary President. This caricature must be corrected. Jim Richards, Richard Land, Wade Burleson, Ronnie Floyd, and Tim Rogers have all preached in my pulpit. They know Caner’s description of the Black church is absolutely false. It is certainly not the norm. I know Mac Brunson personally. I have great respect for him. Mac owes it to his people to set the record straight.  

An Anglo SBC church in Louisiana refused to let Anglo missionaries whom had adopted children of color speak in their church because of the color of their children. This church should be investigated and disciplined by the SBC just as the churches that reportedly are affirming and welcoming of homosexuals. Although the SBC claims thousands of African American members, the highest ranking Black at the SBC Executive headquarters is the head custodian. This is certainly reminiscent of the Antebellum South.

All of the above incidents took place since 1995. The SBC needs to hold a Great Repentance Resurgence that precedes a Great Commission Resurgence, so that we can be cleansed of unbiblical and ungodly attitudes toward women and race. Unfortunately, my pastor friends who refuse to join the SBC are right. The SBC is “southern and racial” and this must change if God is to breathe on our Great Commission Resurgence.

I personally like changing the name of the SBC to THE INTERNATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION. A new name gives us an opportunity for a new start in a new millennium. It’s an idea we truly ought to consider.

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