THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE SBC REGARDING THE CONFEDERATE FLAG
From “Hearty Support” 1863 to “Discontinue the Display” 2016
BY WM. DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.
At the near beginning of the 21st Century, The Southern Baptist Convention recently made the decision to address a heretofore unaddressed aspect of her history, and that is the SBC’s historic identity and complicity with the Confederacy. A vote was taken to ask Christians to discontinue the public use of the Confederate Flag (CF), in order to show solidarity with other Christians, including African Americans.
Perhaps this was one of the most heart wrenching and gut checking decisions ever made by the SBC. Why? Because the SBC and the Confederacy were connected at the hip historically, emotionally, psychologically, philosophically, geographically, politically, and even genetically. This connection is deep, intertwined, and multi-layered. Many in the SBC literally have the blood of Confederate Soldiers running through their veins. That made it a thorny and testy issue. This, inevitably, had to be a tough decision for the SBC to make. It was a seminal moment in the life of our Convention, having taken 253 years to arrive at the point of radically departing from and denouncing, a heretofore proud symbol of Southern heritage.
The emotional response exhibited on the Convention floor, to the passing of the CF resolution, is indicative and evidence of the emotional upheaval some would experience in processing and coming to grips with the decision to renounce the CF.
The greatest influence in the outcome of the vote was the blood of the Charleston Nine. Their pictures and brief bio’s had been presented to the convention earlier that day. Dylann Roof’s intent was to start a race war when he murdered the Charleston Nine. The irony is, his actions have led to a greater unity of the races within the SBC and the Charleston community. Roof’s actions led to the SBC repudiating the Confederate Flag. It was the spirit of the Confederate Flag that demonically drove Dylann Roof to murder nine Kingdom-citizens. What Roof meant for evil, God through the SBC is turning it around and using it for good (Romans 8: 28).
The SBC was not being asked to vote on this resolution to prove that they were not racist. They were being asked to vote on this resolution to identify with the pain of those grieving the murders of the Charleston Nine, to help heal the hurt, and to honor The Charleston Nine, by renouncing the CF. In the process of addressing this issue and making the right decision, the SBC would be cleansing and clearing her own conscience.
The messengers cast a vote looking futuristically, rather than to affirm seeds of division and White Supremacy sown by their forefathers.
The messengers’ affirmative vote, in effect, confessed and rebuked the sins of their forefathers.
The messengers’ courageous vote brought healing, hope, forgiveness, restoration, and wholeness to the Convention.
The messengers exonerated an ugly stain on the legacy of the SBC. From a legacy and spiritual perspective, they removed the guilty stain, by disavowing The Confederate Flag.
Now, we no longer have to look at our Baptist forefathers with contempt. The vote of the messengers reconnected and reconciled some of us to their significant spiritual heritage and contributions. Their wrongs were philosophically corrected by their descendants.
The messengers voted to cleanse and clear the collective conscience of the SBC by voting to discontinue the display of the Confederate Flag. In one felt-swoop, the messengers’ vote reduced the CF from a symbol of pride, to a symbol of scorn and shame.
Allegations that the SBC would be moving down a slippery slope by renouncing the CF are totally baseless. The vote to denounce the CF also, by extension, addressed and negated the earlier resolution of support of the Confederacy. This vote also, by extension, renounced and rebuked all Southern Baptist churches and personalities who were complicit with The Confederacy in any manner.
It serves no good purpose to go down the trail of singling out historical figures for rebuke. I read somewhere, “Never pick a fight with a dead man; you’ll lose every time.” The vote, itself, rebuked and philosophically corrected their errors as it relates to support of the Confederacy and slavery.
God be praised! The SBC connection to the Confederacy was officially severed on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in St. Louis, Mo. at approximately 4pm. The SBC made the statement in that meeting to choose Kingdom over Culture. They chose Hope over Heritage. They chose Righteousness over Race. The SBC and the resolutions committee should be commended for this.
As stated so eloquently by Dr. James Merritt, “All the confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.” And whenever God’s people seek His Kingdom first, addition of some kind takes place (Matthew 6: 33). I have never in my life been more thrilled to be a part of the SBC as I am today.
The resounding, joyful, and celebratory response to the decision made to affirm the amended version of the resolution was powerful. It indicated the healing of the hearts of the messengers and the hope of a positive racial future. The only other time that I’ve experienced that kind of exuberant joy, clapping, verbal praise, and a strong sense of God’s presence in a SBC gathering, was when Dr. Fred Luter was elected President of the SBC in New Orleans.
As Dr. Floyd stated, “The church can’t call the nation to repent ’till the church repents.” As the SBC continues to flesh out the will of God and obey it, racially, it has the potential of changing the nation. Thanks to Dr. Floyd, the ’95 apology, the election of Fred Luter, and the renouncing of the CF; the SBC is beginning to gain the credibility to address the nation regarding race.
Because of previous commitments and a scheduling conflict, I was not able to attend the meeting; but, I watched some of the events via live stream.
The response to James Merritt’s amendment and commentary will forever be etched in the memory of the SBC. The power of that moment transcended the screen. It could be felt by observers who were live-streaming the Convention. Truly the presence of The Lord was in that place. The impact that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech had on the nation, James Merritt’s amendment speech had on the outcome of the vote and, consequently, the redemption of the SBC. The SBC is beginning to gain the credibility to address the nation regarding race.
In a way, that vote and the response to it were like a new start, or rebooting of the convention, from a racial perspective. We have to be in unity, before we can reach our nation and world. The Lord blessed the SBC with a baptism of unity on June 15, 2016, almost in an unprecedented manner from my observations.
I shed the same tears Russell Moore was shedding for the same reasons as I watched the proceedings on the Convention floor through the live stream. God is healing our Convention and correcting the only previous statement made by the SBC concerning the Confederacy, and that was to proclaim the SBC’s “hearty support.” The SBC entered into that auditorium on Flag Day—and coincidentally, my birthday—officially in support of the Confederacy—and by extension—the CF. But they departed the auditorium, having decided to “discontinue the display” of the CF. What a mighty God we serve!!!
The beauty of the passing of this resolution is that it was not a victory for any one person or group. The major leaders and entity heads in the SBC supported this resolution, even the stronger amended version. The resolutions committee, who obviously had a tough job, brought to the floor a great proposed resolution, although I obviously preferred one much stronger, similar to what The Merritt Amendment proposed. The fact that no one on the resolutions committee opposed the Merritt amendment indicates to me that they too were in favor of a stronger resolution, but, for peace and unity sake, had no doubt crafted a resolution that they’d hoped would please the multitude. I thought the resolution committee performed exceptionally well, especially given the controversial and multifaceted layers to the CF resolution. But this was not a victory for The Resolutions Committee, the entity heads, James Merritt, or certainly not for William Dwight McKissic, Sr. This was not even a victory for the messengers. This was a victory for The Kingdom of God and The SBC’s vision to reflect the Kingdom of God in all aspects.
By voting to renounce the CF, the messengers laid the axe at the root of the tree. I use to think it was necessary for the SBC to formally repent of the “curse of Ham” theory, once prominently taught in the SBC, to provide a biblical/theological covering or rationale for slavery, the Confederacy, segregation, and systemic, institutionalized racism. However, because of the decision to renounce the CF, and by extension the Confederate States of America (CSA), the SBC also denounced in St. Louis the false theology that undergirded the CSA/CF—the formation of the SBC—and the noted leaders in the SBC who were also slaveholders and CSA sympathizers/supporters.
The dialogue between the SBC and NBC is also groundbreaking and incredibly important. The St. Louis decision gives the SBC more credibility. I’m already hearing how respect for the SBC has gone way up in many, many circles. The reality is, everyone on both sides of this resolution is in agreement, we are surprised that the Merritt Amendment passed at all, and with over 90% of the vote. That had to be God.
Finally, it’s important that the construct of the resolution represented a collaborative effort of the Resolutions Committee, Merritt, me, and others who Merritt and I consulted with in preparing our content. Merritt and I had absolutely no discussion with each other about this matter prior to the vote. The Holy Spirit orchestrated all things relative to the passing of this resolution. The beauty of this resolution is that it represents the collaborative efforts of Blacks and Whites working together. No one can legitimately call the outcome pandering to a certain constituency, or to an attempt to be politically correct. This was a move of the Holy Spirit. And to make it anything other than that, may border on blasphemy.
Arguably, the strongest statement ever made by a SBC personality on the subject of race, was made by Dr. Ronnie Floyd:
“I believe the issue of racism is from Satan and his demonic forces of hell. Why do I believe this? Racism is an assault on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since the essence of the Gospel is spiritual adoption that releases us from our prior state, anything contradicting that must be a lie about Christ and subversive of His finished work on the cross. Racism is completely opposite of the message of Christ. Racism is completely opposite of the message of love. Racism is completely opposite of the message of reconciliation. While our nation is being divided across racial lines, uniting His people across racial lines best reveals God’s heart for all the nations.
In this desperate time in our nation when the racial tension is building rapidly, our Southern Baptists churches must rise together as one and decry this atrocity and lead through it in the gospel way. Southern Baptists, silent denominations die and their message dies with them. Let’s be clear and not be silent.
We are not black churches. We are not white churches. We are not Latino churches. We are not Asian churches. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. We are members of the same body. The hope for all racism to end in America is in Jesus Christ and in His triumphant church. This is why we are having in this morning’s session, A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America. Let the church rise. The stakes couldn’t be higher!” (Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/ronnie-floyd-2016-presidential-address-sbc-southern-baptist-annual-meeting-165260/#mxK3LvMuvmEFTuJf.99)
These are exciting times that the quest for racial inclusion and empowerment is being championed by White leaders. God can’t help but to bless that! May our land, our churches, our families, and each of us experience revival! And may the Lord use the SBC as a catalyst! Our hearts and hands are now clean. God is preparing us for something special. I’m glad I’m on board the ship for this ride.
THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION AND THE CONFEDERATE FLAG
BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.
I love the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC has had a direct or indirect impact upon me, all of my life. What was then called The Baptist Student Union on college campuses—particularly in the South—greatly impacted my older siblings, providing discipling, ministry and mission opportunities. In Arkansas, Camp Paron (SBC affiliated) always had a week set aside for the National Baptist Churches’ young people to attend. Dr. Robert Ferguson, who led the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, National Baptist work (SBC affiliated) made sure Black Seminarians and college students at SBC affiliated schools, received scholarships. Two members of my family were blessed to have their college and seminary training subsidized with Cooperative Program (SBC) dollars. In my formative years we would occasionally hold joint services with SBC churches. There were at least two gatherings comprised of Southern and National Baptists held at War Memorial Park, Little Rock, and at Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock. Those are fond memories. There was a special dynamic present in those joint services that was radically different and unique. God would kiss those services with His presence.
When I planted the church that I continue to serve as pastor, it was a SBC congregation, Tate Springs Baptist Church of Arlington that sponsored our plant. Over a course of a three-year period, CP dollars and TSBC dollars combined, provided our church plant with approximately $200,000 to help us get started. Additionally, TSBC (SBC affiliated church) co-signed for a $330,000 building loan to finance our first church building. When we outgrew that facility, after 14 years, the Baptist Church Loan Corporation (SBTC/BGCT affiliated) provided my congregation with a $3 million loan, enabling us to relocate and to more than triple our membership. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that the first 10 months of our church’s existence, we met rent-free in the Chapel of the Tate Springs Baptist Church, Arlington. We were ill-equipped to handle our own Sunday School at the outset; so they provided the Sunday School to our children and youth. Without the SBC and her affiliates, including predominately White churches, Cornerstone Church, where I pastor, simply would not be where we are today. I would be an ingrate, to not honor and give God praise, and express appreciation to the SBC in my heart and to anyone who would listen. I thank God for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Even when the SBC has disappointed me, I’ve watch them make course corrections. In the ‘70’s, the SBC adopted—by way of resolution—a liberal view of abortion. But, God be praised! A few short years later, they reversed their course. In 2005, the SBC/IMB adopted Landmark-like baptism policies, and exegetically indefensible cessationist/praying in tongues in private policies. However, in 2015, under the able and affable leadership of Dr. David Platt, the SBC made a course correction and reversed those indefensible policies that simply could not stand in a Convention that prides itself on doctrinal truth/orthodoxy, and the inerrancy of Scripture. William Cullen Bryant was right: “Truth crushed to the ground will rise again.” Those controversial policies at the IMB had to eventually fail, because as the late Rev. John H. Nolen would say, “The universe was built on truth…therefore, a lie ultimately cannot stand.”
Our church increased our CP giving when these baptismal/tongues policies at the IMB were changed to line-up with the Scripture, as opposed to lining up with a certain ilk of Baptist traditions. When the SBC employs Blacks or other minorities as an entity head, our church will increase our CP giving again, because at that point the SBC will actually model the racial inclusion and empowerment that they preach. This brings me to the elephant in the room whenever the SBC meets—and that’s racial division and disparity.
Tremendous progress has been made on the racial front in SBC life, perhaps more so than any other mainline denomination in America. I applaud and appreciate the progress made in SBC life when it comes to racial matters. The SBC is probably better poised for revival to come to our denomination, more so than any other, because of the widespread racial and ethnic diversity that exists among SBC affiliate churches.
What we have not seen historically or currently in SBC life is the Convention entity heads and elected leadership reflecting consistently, the racial and ethnic diversity of the SBC membership. Could it be that the SBC is having a difficult time escaping the racial and racist vice-grip in which she was birth?
In Savannah, Georgia, 1861, the SBC adopted a resolution that stated, “RESOLVED, That a committee be appointed to recommend such vital changes in the Constitution and Minutes as may be necessary, growing out of the recent formation of the Southern Confederacy., “
In Augusta, Georgia, 1863, almost two years before the Civil War ended, the SBC passed a resolution declaring “hearty support to the Confederate Government in all constitutional measures to secure our independence.” This resolution also “acknowledge[d] the hand of God in the preservation of our government [Confederate Government] against the power and rage of our enemies…we confidently anticipate ultimate success…we justify ourselves in this conflict with our enemies.”
Clearly, the SBC supported the Confederacy and was emotionally and philosophically attached to the Confederacy. The SBC, to this day, has never corporately repented for her allegiance to the Confederacy. The Dylan Root love affair with The Confederate Flag (CF) and his murdering of nine innocent Black Kingdom-citizens (Christians) has brought this matter back to the forefront. The SBC has an opportunity to get it right this time. Blanket apologies, and broad, generic repudiation of racism does not suffice for specific declarations of support for the Confederacy (racism) unrepentant of. Especially, when there is an element in SBC life that yet justifies and supports the CF, as they did in 1861 and 1863.
Billy Bearden Stated:
June 2, 2016 at 12:24 am
“As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, part of my obligations and duty is to place Confederate flags on graves of Confederate soldiers every April. If this resolution is passed, SBC churches whose cemeteries include Confederate graves will forbid this sacred honor to American Veterans.”
Edward H. Sebesta, in a letter to Dr. Ronnie Floyd (dated October 27, 2014), stated:
“Dear Dr. Floyd:
I regret to report that the Ashley River Baptist Church, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, hosted an event for the 2014 National Reunion of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). It is reported in the July 30, 2014 issue of the Times Examiner. I enclose a copy, and the article can be read online athttp://www.timesexaminer.com/historical/1914-2014-national-reunion-of-sons-of-confederate-veterans.
“I did not write any organizations of Southern Baptists in South Carolina since I thought Southern Baptists wouldn’t do such a thing. The Southern Baptist church had seemed to be moving forward on the issue of race with such notable actions as the 1995 apology for slavery. It had seemed that the Southern Baptists comprehended that Christianity was a global effort with no one race or nation privileged over another. Yet this doesn’t seem to be the situation.
“The Southern Baptists may have apologized over slavery in 1995 but in 2014 it is aiding and abetting an organization that is promoting pro-slavery theology and a neo-Confederate ideology that condemns the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The spirit of the Confederacy is not dead in the SBC. Alexander Stephens delivered his “Cornerstone Speech” which would be the Confederate States of America equivalent of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” This speech was delivered by Stephens in Savannah, Georgia, in March 1861. Stephens served in the cabinet of the Confederate government:
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, complete throughout the length and breadth of the Confederate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I cannot permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world.”
You would think repudiating the blatant racist’s ideology and symbolism of the CF would be a “no brainer.” Yet, some in the SBC, yet support the unrestricted usage of the CF. Others proudly display the CF. Whoever reads Alexander Stephens’ quote above and still maintains that the Civil War was not about slavery, and the Confederacy was not organically racist, that person is a very dishonest person. And a Convention who denies it is also very dishonest. So how then can the CF be innocent?
The blood of the Charleston Nine, are crying out for racial healing and unity. The survivors, in the Spirit of Christ, readily forgave their transgressor. The least that we can do is to repudiate the symbolism (the CF) of the spirit that drove his diabolical actions. I’m confident that the majority of the SBC messengers will side on the right side of history, truth and the Bible. But, just as the SBC has made wrong decisions before (previously mentioned) they are capable of making a wrong decision again. It’s my prayer though, that just as the SBC is on record supporting the Confederacy, and they will now go on record disavowing the CF. What a great honor that would be for the Charleston Nine!!!
Regardless to the outcome though, I’m encouraged. Russell Moore has been a jewel of a champion in taking stands on the right side of racial issues during his tenure at the ERLC. I have much respect and appreciation for him. Dr. Fred Luter addressed the Trayvon Martin tragedy with compassion, balance, and prophetic truth in a way that I thought I’d never live to see an SBC President speak to a racial issue in the manner Dr. Luter did. Much love, much respect, much appreciation for Dr. Luter. Dr. Ronnie Floyd is charting new and needed ground in the dialogue he has opened up with the National Baptist Convention and her President, Dr. Jerry Young. I’m thrilled and excited about the racial progress I see in the SBC. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I am praying for Dr. Floyd, Dr. Young and the SBC as they have the courage and character to tackle this issue head on. May God bless the SBC!
The way Ronnie Floyd, Russell Moore and Fred Luter have addressed the race issue, makes me proud to be SBC. May their tribe increase! The way Dr. Platt led the IMB to move toward adopting a biblical position on those IMB policies makes me proud to be a Southern Baptist. To not repudiate the CF, though, would be extremely difficult for many Americans to comprehend.
As a proud son of the South, I agree, there are many, many great values, virtues, and customs embedded and inherent in Southern culture that I too celebrate and appreciate.
For some, the Confederate Flag (CF) is a symbol of Southern culture that affirms and applauds a strong work ethic, personal responsibility, fierce independence, state rights, faith, family, the right to bear arms, hospitality, congeniality, sharing, and a Bible-belt, church-going assumption. However, honesty also demands that Southerners admit that the CF—at least in part—represents “a slave society and a society bent on keeping Blacks living in the Jim Crow style.”
The above quote came from a member of an SBC church who requested that I consider withdrawing or modifying the Resolution that I proposed to the SBC eliminating the CF from public life. (https://dwightmckissic.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/resolution-on-the-elimination-of-the-confederate-flag-from-public-life/). I appreciate the honesty and transparency of those who admit that the CF is complicit with racism, even while parsing out the positive aspects of Southern culture, that they maintain that the CF also represents. I feel and sense their pain and consternation, and I understand why they want to throw out the bathwater—the racist aspects of Southern culture—and keep the baby—the positive aspects of Southern culture. There are those who fly the CF high while repudiating the racist aspects of Southern culture, and simultaneously celebrating the positive aspects. My heart bleeds for those who compartmentalize in this manner and are sincere in doing so.
However, here is why the compartmentalization approach will not work. All will not agree with the illustration that I’m going to use to make my point, but it graphically explains my position. Rat poison is comprised of 90% corn meal and 10% strychnine. The corn meal is certainly not the problem. It is the strychnine that taints or poisons the whole bottle, once mixed.
To the extent that the current banner wavers of the CF intend to symbolize or celebrate the non-racist and positive aspects of Southern culture—I suggest to you that because of the racial animus also historically and currently associated with the CF, it is disqualified to fly as a symbol of Southern pride. You cannot separate the strychnine from the corn meal once mixed. At this point, you cannot separate the White Supremacy/Black Oppression values/views from the CF. It was birth in that atmosphere and to perpetuate racist causes.
Therefore, I cannot modify or withdraw my resolution. The move to remove the CF from public life is not a move toward political correctness. It is a move toward biblical righteousness (Acts 10:34, 17:26; Malachi 2:10; Revelation 5:8-9). Southern Baptists need to be viewed as continuously moving toward biblical righteousness and racial healing. This would be another—and in my judgment the most significant—step in the right direction on the subject of race.