IN DEFENSE OF WADE BURLESON

AND

A TRIBUTE TO PETER LUMPKINS

By

William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

In response to a question that was also, the title of a blog post that I authored “Are Persons Who Pray In Tongues In Personal Devotions Welcome In The Southern Baptist Convention?” and a specific request for Peter Lumpkins to respond to the question raised in the title, Brother Peter Lumpkins gave the following reply in a comment thread on SBC Today:

“Dwight,

If you are expecting a ‘yes/no’ response from me concerning your question, I’d get me a big glass of buttermilk and cornbread were I you, for a long time awaiteth thee still.

Indeed the last thing needed in a dialog like this is yes or no, at least from where I sit. Nor will I allow another to draw my own lines for acceptance/non-acceptance, thank you very much.

Understandably, you have made your demarcation line ‘tongues’. And, it appears you are prepared to live or die–be welcome or unwelcome, received or rejected, affirmed or denied–whether or not others accept ‘tongues’ If this is incorrect, please answer precisely why you keep asking that same question about ‘tongues’.

Nor do I necessarily accept your definition of ‘welcome’. You write “I define “welcome” as being eligible to serve as an entity head without receiving opposition based on ones private prayer life.”

For me, I do not include serving as ‘entity head’ within a five mile radius of being welcome. There are lots of things that may or may not prohibit me or others from being ‘entity head’.

Grace. With that, I am…

Peter”

After reading Peter’s comment above, Wade Burleson then wrote a blog post entitled, “On Cornbread and Buttermilk: Racism in the Southern Baptist Convention.” Burleson states in his post that he was “stunned” when he read the following comment by Peter, who was answering my original question: “Are Persons Who Pray In Tongues In Their Personal Devotions Welcome in the SBC?” Burleson in his post highlights this section of Peter’s response to my question:

“If you are expecting a ‘yes/no’ response from me concerning your question, I’d get me a big glass of buttermilk and cornbread were I you, for a long time awaiteth thee…”

In addition to stating that he was “stunned” by Peter’s comment, Burleson further lamented,

“The very concern that Dwight raises within his on-line letter is proven by and unfortunate comment that epitomizes white, Southern aristocracy over African Americans

The implacable conservative blogging community (without exception other than Les Puryear) rushed to Peter Lumpkins’ defense and Wade Burleson’s attack. This community all pronounced Peter Lumpkins innocent and Wade Burleson guilty.

Bart Barber referred to Wade’s post about Peter as a “sad case”…The nature of his ‘cornbread-buttermilk’ comment was evident to me the first time I read it: Derogatory in the spirit of a rhetorically charged argument, but not racial at all in its implications.” To Bart’s credit and somewhat in alignment with Wade’s viewpoint Bart characterized Lumpkins’ statement as “Derogatory in the spirit of a rhetorically charged argument….”. The title of Barber’s post was, “Taking His Lumpkins”, which implies that Burleson’s post was an unfair or unfounded attack on Peter Lumpkins. In one context though Barber found Lumpkins’ remarks as “derogatory”.

Robin Foster referred to Wade’s post on “cornbread and buttermilk” as “political expediency.” This certainly calls into question the innocence and purity of Wade’s motives by Brother Robin.  As a matter of fact, Robin entitled his post (that he later took down in an effort – to his credit – to bring closure to this discussion) “The Games We Play For Political Expediency”.

Tim Guthrie stated, “The attacks on Peter Lumpkins are a proving and defining moment in this debate.”  Guthrie summarizes that Wade’s post and the SBC Reform movement in general should be viewed as “rebellion” not dissent.  Guthrie acknowledges that these are “strong words”.  Robin Foster commenting in the comment section of Guthrie’s post stated, “What happened to Peter is inexcusable.”  An anonymous commenter on Guthrie’s comment section said,

“What Wade tried to do to Peter Lumpkins is beyond words to me. … From my observations … Wade seems very underhanded.  Everything he does is for his own personal gain, but he makes it appear to be for the benefit of others.”

This anonymous writer also calls for Wade to apologize to Peter along with Ron P. and others who called for Wade to apologize.

David Worley weighed in on Peter Lumpkins’ comment section on his original post in response to Wade’s “Cornbread – Buttermilk” post.

David said,

“Wade ought to be completely ashamed of such an out an out, blatant attempt to personally attack you, he has tried to make something out of nothing, something he seems to love to do. … Peter, I’m sorry that you have been personally attacked in such a slanderous, low life way”

I also recall, David, also referring to anybody who would consider Peter’s “cornbread – buttermilk” remark as racist as basically unintelligent.  I recall Robin Foster referring to Peter’s remark as “unfortunate” although he did not attach any sinister motives to Peter’s remark.

Wade Burleson has been scandalized, vilified and his SBC denominational life has been “eulogized” behind his post.  Words like “exploited”, “manipulated”, “dishonest”, “race baiting”, “publicity hunting” and “squat”, have been hurled toward Burleson as a result of his post.  His intelligence and integrity have been called into question repeatedly behind this post.  ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  Whatever happed to communicating with “civility, clarity and charity” in the blogsphere.  Well, the “clarity” is without question here.

Burleson is a man with a strong constitution and has weathered much stronger attacks before.  He has not asked for nor does he need my defense.  I simply can’t stand a man being unnecessarily piled upon and bashed like this – in my judgment – without a sufficient cause.  I admire a man with Wade’s character, courage, communication skills and his willingness at great risk and harm to himself to  put his neck on the line to serve, protect, defend and encourage others.  Quite frankly, one of the reasons I remain a Southern Baptist is because of the example of Christ and if I may so, Martin Luther King that I’ve seen in Wade Burleson.  WADE and RACHELLE, KNOW THAT YOU’RE, LOVED VALUED AND APPRECIATED by me and the Cornerstone Church.

Peter Lumpkins is a man I’ve never met but have enjoyed a long phone conversation and an exchange of a couple of emails.  I think Peter missed a golden opportunity to lay this matter to rest when he didn’t adhere to Robin Foster’s inquiry about withdrawing his post.  And, yes Peter, I too have not adhered to some of Robin’s advice.

Peter, after our wonderful conversation, my assumption was that you would post a wonderful article as you did basically stating that I accepted your explanation, and I was going to ask Wade to withdraw his post, which I did and he did and that would be the end of this – until our lunch meeting in Atlanta later this month where we could meet each other face to face and continue the fellowship and dialogue.  I still look forward to our Atlanta meeting.

However, when I read your “joy in the morning” post I was disheartened when I saw the attack on Burleson continue.  Peter, you stated

“While things are at peace with Pastor McKissic and myself, this blant political maneuver by Mr. Burleson to grab attention for himself and to be the ‘hero of the downtrodden’ by righteously defending those whom he perceives to be treated unjustly at what price?  The godless slandering of another?  No thanks, Mr. Burleson.  Our loving God possesses more loving methods at His disposal than doing wrong in the name of right.”

Peter, before I address the “cornbread – buttermilk” remark, I want to let you know how much I appreciated the wonderful things that I learned about you on Robin Foster’s blog.  WOW!  I don’t impress easily but I must say that I was impressed.  Some people have made symbolic stands related to race, like standing against the Confederate Flag as my friend Tim Rogers had done.  Dr. Paige Patterson stood against the use of the Confederate Flag at SWBTS.  I also commend him.  (Tim is a genuine friend so please don’t interpret the prior comment negatively).  Brother Robin’s “Galatians 3:28 Leader” concerning you was one of the best articles I’ve ever read on racial justice and putting actions behind words.  The SBC could use your example and leadership here.  Kudos!  Love and respect to you brother.

Peter, since you understood this principle, and put into practice in the academy and church you worked in Georgia, why did you express in the full quote at SBC Today that started this that you did not allow all Anglo employment in high places at the E.C. to determine a statement about African Americans being welcome at the pinnacle levels of leadership in the SBC?  Your example in Georgia – seem to contradict your ideology expressed at SBC Today.  I still would love for you to give a definitive answer to the question, originally asked at SBC Today that you refused to answer.  I assure that I will press you for an answer when we meet.

Finally, let me address your “cornbread – buttermilk” remark.  I did not realize that your comment was potentially explosive until I walked in my secretary’s office and she was obviously emotionally jarred.  I asked what was the matter and she asked me had I read your “cornbread – buttermilk” remark?  I remembered having read it, but honestly, I was so anxious to read a more substantive, definitive answer to my question, that your remark initially went “right over my head.”  But after I ministered to my secretary and attempted to calm her down, because her immediate response was identical to Wade’s I then went back to the computer on my desk and read it consciously and soberly and then I fully understood her reaction and later Wade’s reaction.

Let me illustrate: If Dr. William J. Shaw, president of the NBC was in a”blogversation” with Dr. Frank Page, president of the SBC discussing a theological/ecclesiastical/convention issue and in the midst of the dialogue, Frank Page stated (hypothetically speaking),

“You might as well get some cornbread and buttermilk, because I’m not going to answer your question”,

would I be incensed and enraged, if I read that in the newspaper or the blogs.  Absolutely!  I would be baffled to understand, why would Dr. Page speak to Dr. Shaw with such a “derogatory”, dismissive and disrespectful tone.  And yes, I would question, would he have spoken this way and used those choice of words in a discussion with an Anglo preacher or president of a sister convention.  If Frank Page explained that there was not racial intent to his remarks, I would give him the benefit of the doubt as I have done with you.  However, I would then question, where has Dr. Page been that he did not recognize that the imagery of a Black man eating cornbread and drinking buttermilk in the South, carries with it a racial stereotype similar to eating watermelon, red Kool-Aid, fried chicken, chitterlings and pig feet.  Yes, I understand that these are Southern foods consumed by all races in the South, but pictures of Aunt Jemima and the African American brother whose name escapes me, have been on cornmeal boxes for years because, these images were associated with Blacks.  I take your word for it that you didn’t know about this racial imagery but I assure you, the vast majority of Black America over 45-50 years of age immediately recognizes this imagery.  Was Peter Lumpkins’ remark offensive?  Yes!  Did I choose to be offended?  No!  Because of how Black America view the imagery you used, Wade does not owe anyone an apology, if anything, he is owed an apology.  Since I believe both of you are totally innocent, perhaps the two of you will prayerfully consider apologizing to each other for choosing to interpret each others’ remarks in the worst possible light. 

ENOUGH.  We’ve made peace  I accept your explanation.  I pray that you and Wade have a healing in the relationship between the two of you .  I invite and encourage they implacable and irenic conservative bloggers to try and schedule a prayer meeting together in Indianapolis in June – where we don’t discuss politics, we simply pray.

And yes, when we meet in Atlanta, I look forward to enjoying a meal with you of fried chicken and collard greens.  I’ll let you drink the buttermilk.  J  LOVE YA, MAN.  I trust that I’ve said nothing to offend you Peter or Wade in this post.

Dwight

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