LESSONS FROM THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
WM. DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.
The largest animal the Jews knew in biblical times was a camel, as the gnat was the smallest. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)
“Straining out a gnat” describes the custom of the strictest sect of Pharisees who strained everything they drank for fear of swallowing an insect that was considered unclean. “Swallowing a camel” intentionally introduces an exaggerated figure of speech in order to demonstrate the Pharisee’s propensity to major on minors and to minor on majors. Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, you take care to strain the smallest insect out of your drink, but you are like people who swallow a camel without even knowing it. The German Common language version translates this phrase as “but you swallow a camel without seeing it.” It was characteristic of the scribes and Pharisees to strain out the gnat and yet to swallow the camel. The Southern Baptist Convention is “swallowing a camel” without seeing it.
The church where I serve as pastor joined the SBC at our inception in 1983. For the past thirty five years, as a college, seminary student and church planter/pastor, I have observed SBC life. I can honestly say that during these years the major focus, impact and effectiveness of the SBC has been where it should have been; and that is on exaltation, evangelism, edification and the elevation of society. Indeed my life, family, congregation and society as a whole are far better off because of the witness, work, word and worship of the SBC.
Whatever strength that our church enjoys, the roots of that strength can be traced back to the church planting and discipleship efforts of the SBC. For this I shall be eternally grateful.
During my thirty five year pilgrimage in SBC life, I’ve noticed periodic and intermittent intervals, where many in the SBC, and often the gatekeepers, have reminded me of the words of Jesus, “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” In recent days, I’ve noticed that this periodic and intermittent tendency continues.
The recent flap over Jamar Jones, a pianist at The Potters House where Bishop T.D. Jakes serve as pastor, is one of many examples that I want to address of the SBC, “straining out a gnat, while swallowing a camel.”
Todd Littleton has addressed this subject in a factual, historical, scriptural and kingdom minded manner. I commend him for his great post. Todd is correct! “It seems there is nothing that T.D. Jakes can do that will answer his Southern Baptist critics.” Suffice it to say that no SBC personality has provided any evidence that Bishop Jakes is a modalist. As a matter of fact, as Todd so ably pointed out, there is evidence to the contrary. Yet, I’ve recently learned that Jamar Jones has voluntarily removed himself from the role of playing the piano at the SBC Pastors’ Conference because of his desire to be helpful to the Kingdom and Southern Baptists, rather than a hindrance. The truth of the matter is that Bishop Jakes was the target; Jamar Jones is a casualty of not so friendly fire from fellow Kingdom soldiers. It is tragic, sinful and shameful that Southern Baptist missed an opportunity to bridge an obvious racial divide and to fellowship with a Kingdom saint who is not of the SBC fold, simply because the SBC periodically and intermittingly choose to “strain out gnats and swallow camels.”
About twelve-fifteen years ago, I was asked to be a guest on TBN; and I was informed that Bishop Jakes would be the host. I initially hesitated accepting the TBN invitation because of all the hoopla about Bishop Jakes being an alleged modalist; and at the time I had not researched the matter. I consulted with a professor at SWBTS (that I will not name) and a highly respected, well known pastor with a doctorate degree in systematic theology (that I also will not name). Both informed me that they viewed Bishop Jakes’ view of the Trinity as “technically incorrect, but not cultic.” Now that more light has been shed on his views, I don’t believe either the professor or the pastor would view Bishop Jakes’ view as “technically incorrect.” They both encouraged me to accept the TBN invitation because they viewed Bishop Jakes as a genuine Christian. Upon their recommendations, I accepted the invitation and had a wonderful experience.
If Bishop Jakes is going to be rejected by Southern Baptists because he uses the word “manifestations” to describe the Trinity, if Southern Baptists are to be consistent as Todd Littleton points out—they would also have to reject Hershel Hobbs—a revered, renown SBC pastor/theologian who also used the word “manifestations” to describe the Trinity. He too probably would be labeled “technically incorrect, but not cultic” by the pastor and professor. Since that time, Bishop Jakes has used the word “persons” to describe the Trinity; but this still does not satisfy his SBC critics, because periodically and intermittingly the SBC simply chooses to “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” One would be hard pressed to find one Black SBC pastor, let alone ten, who would publicly or privately state that Jamar Jones should not play the piano at the Pastors’ Conference because he is associated with Bishop Jakes. I pray that the Father forgive the SBC for they know not what they do. The SBC views every evangelical denomination as having some views that are “incorrect but not cultic.”
I must admit that I’m not surprised by the Jamar Jones treatment, because I watched the SBC dismiss a great number of missionaries, simply because they would not sign the 2000 B, F, and M, although they signed up as missionaries under the 1963 B, F and M. If the SBC would dismiss experienced, successful missionaries for superfluous reasons under the guise of doctrinal purity, it stands to reason that they would castigate a pianist who belongs to a church that many in the SBC consider doctrinally suspect—without one iota of evidence. Here is another example of “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” The very reason that the SBC had to recently lay off six hundred missionaries due to a lack of funding is because of this bizarre propensity to “strain out gnats, while swallowing camels.” The SBC/IMB/NAMB policy of firing and not funding missionaries who pray in tongues in private is another example of the SBC “straining out a gnat, while swallowing a camel.”
Our church has baptized over 2000 souls since 1983. Had the SBC questioned me about my views and practice as it relates to praying in tongues in private, these 2000 souls would not be credited on SBC records, nor would I have been able to serve as President of the SBTC Pastors’ Conference or preach at SEBTS and many other places. The SBC “swallowed” me, because they did not know me.
In the 2008 presidential election, I was shocked that SBC pastors, by and large, did not rally behind Mike Huckabee. The reason Huckabee did not get SBC support is because he was reportedly sympathetic and cooperative to the “moderates” while president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. I publicly endorsed Mike Huckabee. Had Southern Baptists wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embraced Huckabee, he perhaps would be President today. Consequently, same-sex marriages, the Mexico policy, the Health Care policy that funds abortions and bailouts would not be moving into the mainstream and becoming public policy. But because of the SBC’s propensity to “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel,” we are now faced with these policy initiatives that most SBC pastors and pew-sitters disagree with.
Southern Baptists have watched women in the SBC be denied opportunities to teach Hebrew and Church History and serve as an IMB vice president, because of this periodic and intermittingly bent toward “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Female seminary graduates are denied positions as chaplains endorsed by our convention because of our pettiness and unscriptural views toward women. God forgive us. Male pastors and staff members who have violated and abused women and girls in our churches will not even be given the dignity and respect of having convicted persons’ names registered in SBC life because of the SBC’s long bent toward chauvinism. Women like Christa Brown and others who express valid and legitimate concerns about sexual abuse at the hands of clergyman in SBC life are often disrespected, disregarded and once again violated by males because they simply point out the truth and make an effort to protect females in our pews by identifying documented abusers. The SBC deny women all kinds of ministry opportunities and affirmation that is not restricted by the Scripture—yet they allow women to be abused and violated even further by not exposing abusers. I agree with the late African American Southern Baptist pastor, Dr. George McCalep, who said, “The SBC views and practices regarding women are driven by testosterone more so than by biblical doctrine.” Once again, our treatment toward women in our quest for doctrinal purity is simply “straining out a gnat, while swallowing a camel.”
A few years ago, an African American was being considered to serve as an entity head. When he was questioned about his views on women in ministry, he expressed a view in keeping with the B, F & M 2000 and remains in SBC employ; however, his view of women in ministry was still to expansive for the decision makers; therefore, he was not offered the entity head position. The good news is he was not rejected because of his race. The bad news is he was rejected because he did not express a hard-line position against women in ministry. Once again, the SBC drifted toward their tendency to “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.”
The very reason Vance Pittman is President of the Pastors’ Conference and not Troy Gramlin is because the doctrinal purist in the SBC disliked Gramlin’s affirmation of women in ministry. His views and practices are within the boundaries of the B, F, and M 2000 Statement and the Bible, or else he would have been dis-fellowshipped by his Association, State Convention and the SBC. Nevertheless, he was rejected in favor of Vance Pittman because the SBC loves to “strain out gnats and swallow camels.” All the dissension and dissatisfaction registered in the blogosphere over the Pastors’ Conference is in my opinion—poetic justice—because of the ill, malicious treatment by many toward Troy Gramlin.
The only reason that the SBC include a statement in their constitution making it clear that they will not seat messengers from a church that affirms homosexuality, but they refuse to and artfully and hypocritically dodged voting on an amendment to the constitution to not seat churches that affirm racism, is simply because the SBC has a higher tolerance for racism than they do homosexuality. The stated reason at the Orlando Convention for not allowing a vote on the racial discrimination amendment was simply to give the lawyers a chance to vet the amendment. However, the messengers were assured that the executive committee was sympathetic to this motion and would be supporting it. The response to my motion could be a case study in dishonesty and deception.
The “camel” that the SBC has been swallowing from her inception until this very hour is racism, sexism and factionalism—“they are not one of us mentality.”
One of the objections that some have raised regarding the racism amendment is that it would be hard to prove. This simply is not true. All of the excuses used to object to the racial discrimination amendment, remind me of all the excuses that were used to deny Blacks equality, fairness and justice across the years.
In the 90’s I served on the missions funding committee of the BGCT and discovered at that time that all Black churches were required to pay 6% interest on loans and low income White, and Hispanic churches paid 0% interest. This can be documented and verified. They changed their practice after I objected to this in three consecutive meetings. The persons and churches that supported this policy should not have been seated as messengers.
In the 90’s a cemetery owned by an SBC congregation in Georgia would not bury a child of an interracial couple, because the deceased baby was half-Black. This church’s messengers should not have been seated. Interracial couples have joined many African American churches because they were made to feel unwelcome, or in some cases, the pastor refused to perform their wedding ceremony. Messengers from these churches should not be seated.
Black ministerial students at Samford University were sent out along with Anglo ministerial students to preach in SBC churches in Alabama in the late 90’s or early 2000. Some Baptist papers reported this. When some of the Anglo churches discovered Black students would be preaching, they canceled engagements. Messengers from these churches should not have been seated.
Black SBC denomination employees have expressed to me that they have been invited by virtue of their positions to speak at Anglo SBC churches. However, like the Samford students, when it was discovered that they were Black, the invitations to speak were withdrawn. The messengers from these churches should not be seated. Black SBC employees have also informed me that when Black churches or ministries rent certain SBC facilities they are charged a higher rate than Anglo churches. This reminds me of the BGCT practice; therefore, I find it believable. Churches and messengers who support this practice should not be seated.
I heard with my own ears, Mrs. Criswell teaching on the radio on a Sunday Morning embracing the view the Africans were cursed because of their descent from Ham in the mid 90’s. I purchased a copy of the tape/CD. The messengers of FBC Dallas should not have been seated at the Convention, unless Mrs. Criswell repented. The Vice President of Criswell College repented a couple of years ago of calling Hispanics “wetbacks.” Had he not repented, the messengers of FBC should not have been seated.
An SBC church in Louisiana, dis-invited an IMB Anglo missionary couple from speaking at their church within the past three years as reported by the ABP. Why? This couple adopted native African children. This church’s messengers should not be seated. As a matter of fact, it was my reading about this church that in part inspired my proposed racial discrimination amendment.
Dave Miller, a man I have tremendous respect for, talks about being denied a raise by his predominately Anglo SBC congregation. Why? He allowed Blacks to play basketball on the church parking lot. If that was the basis for the decision, this church’s messengers should not have been seated.
Tim Rogers saw a local SBC church in North Carolina, where Dr. and Mrs. Patterson were members at the time vote to fire their pastor because African Americans were baptized in the baptistery. To their credit, Dr. and Mrs. Patterson announced he would not be back because he could not support a church that would take that kind of action. Neither should the SBC seat the messengers from this church.
William Thornton of Georgia, an SBC pastor, stated, “I once supplied at a church who had in their statement of beliefs an article that they believed, ‘God has ordained the segregation of the races…'” This SBC church had this printed on the back of their weekly bulletin, right along with the deity of Christ! Certainly, the messengers from this SBC church referenced by Pastor Thornton should not be seated.
Persons from churches who hold these views and practices are eligible to and sometime serve on SBC boards and committees. Are you expecting us to believe the persons who make personnel and policy decisions from these churches for the SBC do not take race into account in their decisions? If these churches will not allow interracial marriages, people of color to be baptized in their church or play basketball on their church parking lot, are you really expecting us to believe they will objectively make a fair hiring decision about African Americans as an entity head? Could it be that people from these churches decided that we don’t need a racial discrimination policy in the SBC Constitution? This is unbelievable.
In the early 90’s two Black SBC churches including the church where I pastor traveled on a 15-day mission trip to South Africa to construct a small church edifice. The two African American churches heavily funded this trip. The trip was coordinated by a non IMB, SBC related mission’s group based in Tennessee. At lunch time, we noticed that volunteer South African Anglo workers were invited to eat lunch with the mission’s crew from America. The native Black South African volunteer workers were not invited to eat lunch with the American Mission’s team. When I questioned this, they explained to me that this was simply the custom and tradition in South Africa. I vehemently objected to this practice because it was blatantly racist. The missions group that coordinated this trip were all members of an Anglo SBC church. Messengers from an SBC church that engage in such racist mission practices should not be seated at the SBC annual session.
I’ve been told numerous stories of this kind by many Anglo SBC pastors. The EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE IS SIMPLY IN DENIAL. Bart Barber, another SBC pastor that I respect greatly but often disagree with, has acknowledged in the blogosphere the fact that racism exists in the SBC. Dr. Russell Moore at Southern Seminary has also addressed the historic racism among conservatives in the SBC, and the tentacles of that admitted racism is visible today. Ironically, moderates did not swallow racism. Unfortunately, in some instances, they would sometimes swallow liberalism.
While attending the African American Banquet at the Orlando SBC, I was stunned as I heard the newly elected president, James Dixon, state, “The pink elephant in the room at the SBC is racism, and nobody wants to deal with it.” A Baptist Press reporter was sitting there. I knew she would report this, but not one word. I regard James Dixon highly. I’m convinced that he will address these issues during his tenure as President. It is doubtful that you could find one African American pastor who could not share with you a story of racism that they have experienced in SBC life.
A guest singing group at SWBTS wanted to display a Confederate flag at their appearance. Dr. Paige Patterson rightfully stopped them. This would have been offensive to many African American and Anglo students. The University of Texas removed a picture of one of their former law professors from the wall because he was a Klansman. Several pictures hanging on the wall of former presidents at SWBTS were slave holders and Klansmen. Their pictures should be removed. We cannot let the world have a higher standard than the Church.
While serving as a trustee at SWBTS, I was going to have to cast a vote regarding investing a substantial portion of seminary funds. I asked a fellow SBC pastor to research this matter for me in order to be able to cast an intelligent vote. This pastor discovered that the investment company leadership had a jaded history. Therefore, I decided that I could not, with a clear conscience, vote to invest SWBTS funds with this company. Unfortunately, my SBC pastor friend posted this information on his blog, and the seminary then decided not to hold a vote on this matter. I was then accused by a trustee committee of breeching a non-existent confidentiality policy. Furthermore, they recommended to the SBC that I be dismissed as a trustee. They later withdrew this request after I held a heart-to-heart talk with Dr. Patterson. Lest you think I hold any ill feelings toward Southwestern, I led my congregation to donate the cost of a chair in the new chapel at the seminary, after I resigned as a trustee. The seminary was asking for $4000 per chair.
Interestingly, before Claude Thomas could assume the role of seminary chaplain, one of the trustees circulated “confidential” information that led to the seminary withdrawing the offer of the Chaplain’s position to Brother Claude. My question is, if two trustees both exposed “confidential” information, why wasn’t the other trustee recommended to the SBC for dismissal and publicly humiliated as the Seminary attempted to humiliate me?
Southern Seminary was the SBC seminary of choice for African Americans in the 60’s – 90’s. Something happened. I’m not sure what. The Black student population of Southern has significantly declined. I attended a Black Church Conference at Southern in the mid seventies. Never in my life had I witnessed twenty plus Black PhD’s in religion, assembled in one place at one time. Martin Luther King spoke at Southern in the early sixties. In talking to Black Southern graduates, I’m told that the SBC and Southern’s shift to FUNDAMENTALISM, REPUBLICANISM, CHAUVANISM, and CESSATIONISM caused the Seminary to be less popular with Blacks. All four of these “isms” are generally rejected by African American SBC churches. I’ve visited Southern’s campus twice. I can say that I was treated with the utmost respect and cordiality while there. Russell Moore and Hershel York went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I was there engaged in independent study. I was not an invited guest of the seminary, but I was treated to lunch by Dr. York; and Dr. Moore went out of his way to find me in the library and made all the resources of the library available to me. Without compromising their theological convictions, Southern need to recapture their ability that they once had to attract Blacks in major numbers. I do not know Dr. Mohler personally. I owe him royalties for teaching the men of Cornerstone, his teaching on manhood almost verbatim. I did give him credit. When he was critical of Rick Warren for praying at President Obama’s inauguration and indicated that he would not have accepted that invitation, I was disappointed. Why? The message sent to all of his students, red, yellow, black and white, is that if you are not in political/theological agreement with a politician, you shouldn’t pray at their gatherings. I attended the inauguration and happened to meet and briefly visit Rick Warren there. But how do you say to students by written word and example that you shouldn’t pray at the President’s inauguration? This defies the clear teaching of Scripture (1 Timothy 2:1-8). Rick Warren did not compromise in his prayer. I commend Rick Warren for his prayer for our nation’s new President; but, I question why Dr. Mohler would object. If invited, Dr. Mohler could have prayed at the inauguration; however, he felt led and set a good example for his students. I believe that is one among other reasons that have made Blacks less attracted to Southern.
The Life Action Revival Team based in Michigan has conducted two very successful two-week revivals at the church where I pastor. Life Action is a predominately Anglo revival team of about twenty persons who are housed with church members or live in trailers on the church parking lot. I have nothing but praise for Life Action. Perhaps the greatest spiritual impact of any revival effort in the history of our church was led by Life Action and they were all Anglo, but one singer. Life Action leaders normally attend the SBC.
The only racial or cultural question that came up during their time with us was when I heard them practicing “Dixie” during the day, preparing to sing it that night. I hurriedly informed the Life Action team leader that “Dixie” is a reviled song to Black people. “Dixie” celebrates the ante-bellum South that is a very distasteful period for Black people. I told Bro. Steve Canfield, a great preacher by the way, that if they sang that song that night, I would be fired. He graciously asked the team not to sing “Dixie” at Cornerstone and I was certainly glad. However, we were the first African American congregation that Life Action had ever conducted a revival in. They sang this horrible song in SBC churches everywhere they go—not realizing how offensive this song is to African Americans. I am not suggesting that the SBC churches where Life Action leaders are members should not be seated, but I am suggesting that this is one among several cultural issues that I could name that keep the racial divide in the SBC alive.
The SBC is experiencing numerical, morale and spiritual decline in part because they don’t know how to diversify. The gnat they keep straining out is diversity. The camel they keep swallowing is racism, sexism and factionalism. However, if this convention is to grow and move forward, we must look past the gnat that have plagued us and we must reject the camels that have hindered us and pray for and embrace an eagle that can lift us to higher heights above the gnats and camels that have thwarted us.
I’m praying for President Bryant Wright as he leads us. I’m praying and believing that in New Orleans in 2012 the SBC will make a major step in the right direction and elect an African American as president. If the Lord says the same I plan to attend the New Orleans Convention, so that I can vote for our first African American president. When the SBC appoints a Black and other minorities to one of our entity heads, then I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that racial healing and progress in the SBC will have moved forward into the new millennium. Until such time we are operating under the old paradigm that Blacks in the SBC are a mission project—not mission partners. The fact that African Americans were overlooked as members of the original GCTF underscores the point that Blacks are viewed by the SBC as mission projects—not mission partners. This must change.
Consequently, Black SBC churches give slightly less than 1% to the Cooperative Program. Anglo SBC churches give 6%. Why is it that Black SBC churches give less than 1%? The answer is simple. They feel disenfranchised and unrepresented. Many Black SBC churches are like our Church that faithfully tithe 10% to missions, year after year, but recognize that under the current practices of the SBC racially, to give 10% to the Cooperative program would be an exercise in self-hatred and the financing of institutional and systemic racism. The camel swallowers have made it impossible to give to the cooperative program without supporting racism, chauvinism, and cessationism. Many would add to that list, Republicanism. In order for any church to give liberally to the cooperative program, they would have to overlook these issues in order to give. It is difficult to give, in our case, over $400,000 a year to an organization that has allowed Blacks to be members for over sixty years, but has never elected one African American or any minority as an entity head. Again, this is tragic, sinful and shameful. However, we swallow this camel—hook, line and sinker—while we strain out the gnat of diversity. God help us!
When Dr. W.A. Criswell, the patriarch of the conservative resurgence, spoke so eloquently and powerfully regarding, “The Curse of Liberalism,” at the San Antonio Convention in the mid 80’s, we saw, “The way of an eagle in the air.”
When Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, the architects of the conservative resurgence led our convention back to a place where we, without hesitation or reservation, declare that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, we saw, “The way of eagle[s] in the air.”
When Dr. Adrian Rodgers preached so powerfully and persuasively for the need of our convention to appoint to boards and committee’s persons committed to the inerrant Word of God, we saw, “The way of an eagle in the air.”
When Wade Burleson risked it all and put everything on the line in a gallant effort to protect the right of missionaries to pray in private in accordance with their conscience and biblical convictions, that led to a modification of the controversial policy and perhaps saved the job of Dr. Jerry Rankin, who admittedly prayed in tongues in private, we saw, “The way of an eagle in the air.”
When one looks at the racial divide in the SBC that is very apparent at every annual session, what we need now is an eagle who will arise that can bridge this gap. I’m convinced that Frank Page’s and Bryant Wright’s hearts are in the right place on this racial divide. James Dixon’s, the able, efficient and eloquent leader of the SBC African American Fellowship, heart is in the right place. My prayer is that God will anoint one of these men or the next president to be an eagle and help our convention to heal the racial divide, so that the SBC will begin to look like the Kingdom of God.
Vance Pittman’s commitment to diversity is excellent. He is greatly respected by Las Vegas’ Black pastors because of his commitment to diversity. Pittman’s worship leader at his church is an African American that he pays a very generous salary and encourages him to be true to himself and his heritage as he leads worship. Consequently, there are many Blacks who are attracted to Pittman’s church. The SBC can learn from him. I’m impressed with his lineup of speakers for the Pastors’ Conference. If I have one concern, it is that I don’t see an African American Southern Baptist pastor in the lineup. Pittman’s commitment to diversity is what’s causing the backlash. Diversity without doctrinal compromise is what the SBC needs. Pittman has managed to do a good job with this. I commend him. From what I’ve heard about him, he may be the eagle that can help bridge the racial divide. However, I regret that he accepted Jamar Jones’ voluntary withdrawal from the SBC Pastors Conference. I respect the fact that Jamar Jones was Kingdom minded and concerned about the unity of the SBC; therefore, he decided to withdraw. In doing so, he displayed a greater commitment to Kingdom unity and demonstrated Christian maturity at a higher level than his critics. Pittman’s commitment to diversity is the “gnat” that many in the SBC want to strain out. If the SBC continues to behave like this, they will do so to their own peril.
While Bradd Whitt, Ed Stetzer, Nathan Finn, Bart Barber, Peter Lumpkins and others celebrate or bemoan the personalities at the Pastors Conference, I wonder if they have paused to realize that last year and this year—not one African American Southern Baptist pastor preached at the Pastors’ Conference. What you all are doing is “straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel.”
If I attend the Phoenix SBC, it will be to support James Dixon and his leadership of the African American SBC Fellowship. If Dave Miller and others choose to bring the racial discrimination amendment to the floor, I would like to be there to simply vote in favor. However, at this point, I’m ready to join the hundreds, or perhaps, thousands of other African American SBC who usually do not attend the convention, even if they are in town because to do so, you have to “swallow the camel” of the very noticeable absence of Black leadership and visibility of Black and minority platform personalities. I’ve decided that this is a camel that I can no longer swallow.
The excellent Annuity Board benefits, church planting and mission endeavors, seminary training, discipleship resources and Sunday school materials are reasons why Blacks join and remain with the SBC. Admittedly, the SBC provides a higher quality of these services much stronger than the National Baptist Convention. Therefore, many of us are committed to being a part of the SBC. However, if the SBC wants greater financial support and convention attendance from Black churches and pastors, they will need to be intentional regarding the inclusion and empowerment of Blacks at every level or nothing will change.
How could the SBC not see that the platform is generally all White at the annual session? How could the SBC not see that all of her entity heads are White? How could the SBC not see the potential for a major increase in giving to the cooperative program if they were intentional in empowering minorities? How could the SBC not see that if the Pastors’ Conference went two consecutive years without an Anglo SBC preacher preaching, there would be a revolt; yet they are blind to the fact that this is what African American SBC preachers are being asked to endure. The SBC is swallowing a camel without seeing it.
IT IS ASTOUNDING TO ME THAT SBC persons would say that we cannot document racism in the SBC and we don’t need a racial discrimination amendment in the constitution. The truth of the matter is that the SBC is simply not sincerely and seriously opposed to racism to the extent that they seriously oppose homosexuality. Any other explanation is simply whitewashing a very serious issue.
The Bible says “The way of an eagle in the air” is a wonderful thing (Prov. 30:18, 19). If there is hope for the SBC, I pray that God will raise up an eagle among us who can help us soar to higher heights.
What African Americans in the SBC want is simply, Democracy. I close with this poem by the African American poet, Langston Hughes:
Democracy will not come today,
This year nor ever through compromise and fear.
I have as much right as the other fellow has
To stand on my two feet and own the land.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course. Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
Freedom is a strong seed planted in a great need.
I live here, too. I want freedom just as you.