PROPOSED RESOLUTION ON KINGDOM UNITY IN THE SBC AND THE NATION
BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.
I plan to present a “Resolution On Kingdom Unity In The SBC And The Nation” to the SBC June 2017 Phoenix Resolutions Committee that if accepted and adhered to will advance the Southern Baptist Convention toward the goal(s) of reconciliation, healing, unity, cross-cultural respect, appreciation for freedom of expression, and diversity of viewpoints; based on one’s convictions, conscious, cultural considerations, and more importantly—the Spirit of Christ. When the Southern Baptist Convention become one in the Spirit and be empowered by the Spirit—we will be the most potent Kingdom disciple-making movement in the history of the Christian Faith since the Book of Acts. I offer this resolution with the prayer that what I just declared will become reality; and this generation will see it in our lifetime.
I want this resolution to reflect the majority sentiments of all SBC messengers regardless of racial, regional, economic, educational, ideological bents, philosophical persuasions, political party orientation, or affiliations. I want the final product to be a statement of unity that all Southern Baptists can say “Amen” to. I know this seems like an impossible feat, but the SBC need healing and unity, beyond the ERLC—Prestonwood kerfuffle that hopefully has been resolved in recent days. The Graham-Moore controversy uncovered a political, philosophical, racial, and doctrinal divide that is not totally resolved by the much-needed recent reconciliation between the two of them.
If this resolution is passed, understood, believed and practiced—it could help to lead the SBC in experiencing what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community”—which is a greater sense of unity and bridging the gaps between the fault lines of all persons from all socioeconomic backgrounds. And from a biblical perspective, where there is evidence of unity, there is an increase in a greater spiritual harvest; and that’s our ultimate goal. Therefore, please offer criticism, critiques, suggested changes, etc. I thank you in advance for doing so. Here’s the proposed rough draft of the resolution. I’m also looking for co-contributors who are willing to attach their names as coauthors and/or contributors to the final draft that will be submitted.
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention we recognize that convictional and demonstrable unity is essential to our mandate given by our Lord to evangelize and disciple every people group. Jesus prayed that His followers would walk in unity, so that the world would be convinced of His Incarnation (John 17:21); and
WHEREAS, we recognize in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention that our unity is centered around our Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God who is the Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-6); and
WHEREAS, we recognize in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention that our unity is not centered in any political party of any stripe; and
WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist Convention recognize that there always has been and always will be a diversity of opinions on political parties, presidential candidates, policies and positions—but we will endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, undivided by secular politics; and
WHEREAS, the Bible extols the virtues, value and visual beauty and blessings of Kingdom unity (Psalm 133:1-3); and
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention we recognize that a house divided against itself cannot stand; and
WHEREAS, our Lord Jesus prayed for unity among His followers (John 17:21); and
WHEREAS, God placed His stamp of approval on visual, verbal and vital unity in the Kingdom of God on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 5) by the outpouring of His Spirit and the promise to do it again in the last days (Acts 2:17); and
WHEREAS, the first Gentile congregation in the history of the faith demonstrated ethnic unity in leadership with spiritually gifted men from Africa, Asia and Europe listed as leaders in the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-2); and
WHEREAS, within the Kingdom of God and within the Southern Baptist Convention there is a recognition that God’s Kingdom rules over all (Psalms 103:19), and neither the Democratic nor Republican Parties represent the Kingdom of God, but the kingdoms of this world (John 18:36); and
WHEREAS, racial and ideological polarization has been increasing dramatically in America since the Carter-Reagan era—and some would argue as far back as the Kennedy-Nixon era—and continues through this present hour; and
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention we recognize and joyfully accept our mandate to care for the “least among us”—we simultaneously allow for diversity of thought among our constituency as to what responsibility the federal government has as it relates to meeting the needs of the poor (II Corinthians 3:17); and
WHEREAS, within the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention there is unity in the Spirit surrounding biblical teaching regarding the common origin of the races of mankind (Acts 17:26); the equality of the races of mankind (Malachi 2:10); the fairness and favor of God toward all races of mankind (Acts 10:34); and the need to prophetically address biblical social and economic justice for all the races of mankind (Amos 5:24, Luke 4:16-21, Matthew 25:34-40, Ezekiel 16:49-50). We believe that heaven will be comprised of people of every tribe, tongue, race and nation that have trusted the shed blood of Jesus as atonement for their sins (Revelation 5:19, 7:9); and
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention there is unity in the Spirit surrounding The Biblical Command to Pray with Purity of Hearts and Hands for secular political leaders; and therefore, we gladly assume the responsibility and requirement to pray for President Donald Trump, the 45th POTUS, his family, and Cabinet; and
WHEREAS, within the Kingdom of God and within the Southern Baptist Convention there is a recognition that if one believes in the fundamentals of the faith and the Lordship of Christ, believers who vote with their freedom of conscience for either party or candidate should not be viewed as spiritually suspect or be rendered ineligible from serving in the life of the SBC, based on their voting patterns, party affiliation, or ideological views that do not conflict with God’s inerrant and infallible Word. The Southern Baptist Convention allows for diversity of thought on matters not clearly addressed by Jesus, not mandated in Scripture, or not addressed in the BF&M 2000; and
WHEREAS, we acknowledge, along with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, historic discrimination and abuse of minorities; and therefore, and therefore, we encourage law enforcement officers to demonstrate respect and equal treatment toward all persons—regardless of their background—as it relates to police practices in law enforcement; and
WHEREAS, we acknowledge that there are citizens in our nation who view police persons with disdain and disrespect—the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention encourage all people of all backgrounds to hold police persons in high esteem and to respect and honor the necessary and life-threatening work that they do daily for the benefit of all American citizens. We condemn all police shootings by citizens as rebellious, defiant acts against the almighty God that police persons represent (Romans 13:4); and
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention, we affirm marriage between one man and one woman; therefore we encourage President Trump and the Congress to proffer a constitutional amendment that places into law the traditional definition of marriage; and
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention it is taught that God created male and female. Therefore, we commend President Trump for reversing President Obama’s Executive Order sanctioning transgender restrooms among school students; and
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention, we support the protection of innocent unborn life in the womb; and encourage the defunding of Planned Parenthood and commend President Donald Trump for defunding the Mexico policy; and
WHEREAS, in the Kingdom of God and the Southern Baptist Convention we recognize that the beauty of diversity within unity, often is accompanied with challenges, misunderstandings, suspicions, infighting and even sometimes temporal separation; and
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, THAT THE JUNE 2017 SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION GATHERING IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA, RESOLVE TO ENDEAVOR TO KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE “BOND OF PEACE” (EPHESIANS 4:3); RESPECT LEGITIMATE PHILOSOPHICAL, IDEOLOGICAL, POLITICAL PREFERENCES—CULTURAL AND “SHEEPFOLD” DIFFERENCES AMONG US—WITHOUT THOSE PREFERENCES AND DIFFERENCES BECOMING UNNECESSARILY DIVISIVE AND THE SOURCE OF THE BREAKING OF FELLOWSHIP AND REDUCING OR ESCROWING FUNDS EARMARKED FOR THE COOPERATIVE PROGRAM.
A HILL ON WHICH [“NOT”] TO DIE
Biographical Reflections and Ruminations on the SBC
Responses to the Graham-Moore Controversy
By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
At the conclusion of a recent Chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on March 8th, I stood in line to shake Judge Paul Pressler’s hand—an iconic and venerated figure in Southern Baptist Convention life. Judge Pressler greeted me warmly, as he always does. I immediately noticed that he was visibly and emotionally shaken at my presence; and I soon discovered in our friendly, but brief, conversation the reason why. My presence reminded him of a not-so-pleasant experience for him that took place at the Annual Southern Baptist Convention that met in St. Louis this past June.
Let me explain. I was not present in St. Louis, but a resolution that I submitted regarding the Confederate Flag generated much discussion and diverse opinions. Thankfully, the resolution overwhelmingly passed, and that action documented and evidenced a major turning point and quantum step forward regarding race relations and biblical righteousness in the SBC. It brought hope and encouragement to many American Americans in the SBC and unity to the entire Convention. However, due to parliamentary procedures and convention-established protocol, Judge Pressler was not permitted to address the Confederate Flag Resolution; and that decision may impact his desire to attend future SBC Annual Meetings. Not being allowed to address the Confederate Flag Resolution on the floor of the Annual Convention inflicted a deep wound or was received as one—on Judge Pressler that remains. Not being allowed to speak on the floor was the roots and fruit of Judge Pressler’s lingering rage and contemplation of never returning to a SBC Annual gathering. It was not the fact that I submitted the resolution that caused the rage. Our relationship and friendship remains intact. Not being able to speak on the floor of the Convention caused the rage.
I left our conversation with heartfelt identification with Judge Pressler’s pain, over feeling rejected because of a sense that my (our) freedom to speak was censured—rightly or wrongly—in different contexts—by an SBC official—on a SBC platform. We both felt entitled in our perspective forums to say what we wanted to say and what I did have an opportunity to say; but we were both publically censured, and we both felt rejected. Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, censured a sermon that I preached in Chapel in August 2006, that appealed to the SBC to not restrict the private prayers of IMB missionaries. Dr. Patterson favored the restriction of the private prayers of IMB missionaries. Dr. Patterson and I enjoy a relationship today not impacted by his decision to remove my message from the Seminary Library and release a statement that essentially denounced my Chapel sermon. I will go down in history as the only Chapel speaker in SWBTS history whose sermon was publically denounced. Yet, we have a mutually respectful and friendly relationship because of our shared Great Commission goals.
Therefore, I could feel Judge Pressler’s pain as I left his presence, weeping with him. I obviously disagree with his position on the issue. However, I’ve always loved, admired and appreciated Judge Pressler. Our personalities, convictions, and willingness to fight for what we believe to the bitter end, are similar. Nevertheless, the resolution passed without Judge Pressler being allowed to speak to it. I deeply regret that a decorated Southern Baptist patriarch, Christian soldier and aged sage was wounded in the process. Again, I share his pain, in spite of our different positions on the issue.
The passing of the Confederate Flag Resolution stands second only to the election of Dr. Fred Luter as President of the SBC, as the pinnacle signature moment in SBC history, regarding a statement on racial unity, healing and reconciliation. Judge Pressler’s legacy may have suffered damage had he spoken his sincere, valid and innocuous reasons for opposing the resolution. His speaking would have also resulted in generating huge, negative publicity for the SBC, based on the content of his speech and his emotional outrage toward the resolution. A SBC church planter that my church sponsored was seated on the floor of the Convention and sent me a text while Judge Pressler was standing on the floor waiting to speak, describing “a guy screaming because he is upset about it” [The Confederate Flag Resolution]. This young church planter didn’t recognize Judge Paul Pressler’s face; but I was watching on live stream and immediately knew who this was “screaming” because he was upset about the Flag resolution and/or not being able to speak. For that reason I’m grateful that circumstances didn’t allow him to speak. But my heart bleeds that the Southern Baptist Convention is filled with tension, wounds, division, uncertainty and distrust over a plethora of issues—that include, but not limited to: the ever simmering Traditionalist/Calvinist debate; the Cooperative Program/Prestonwood/ERLC/Trump debate; the residual divisions over the IMB baptismal/tongues policies; and the Confederate Flag Resolution debate.
Our Convention needs healing and a baptism of unity. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I pray that Judge Pressler’s heart is healed and love for attending the SBC Annual Meeting will return soon. We don’t need to leave any Southern Baptists behind—especially one with Judge Pressler’s illustrious history, as the father and architect of the much needed Conservative Resurgence in the SBC. Because of his historic role in restoring, systematizing, and mainstreaming the theological foundation of biblical inerrancy throughout SBC life, Judge Pressler is a celebrated figure among those of us who appreciate the Conservative Resurgence. Biblical Inerrancy was/is “A Hill on Which to Die” (which is the title of the book written by Judge Pressler detailing the inerrancy battle in the SBC). The Confederate Flag Resolution was/is not “A Hill on Which to Die.”
Neither is an alignment with and official sanctioning of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party “A Hill on Which to Die.” I join with my President, Pastor Byron Day, of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention in appealing for unity in the life of our Convention. Although I’m unsure of whom the target audience might have been, but I concur with a recent tweet by my friend Bob Roberts: “mixing the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of man always leads to a fake kingdom.” The SBC will morph into a “fake kingdom” if they continue this horrid love affair and identification with the Republican Party, particularly while Donald Trump is President.
Tony Evans is renowned for saying, “God is not riding the backs of donkeys or elephants. He doesn’t take sides, He takes over.” God is neither Republican nor Democrat. It would be a travesty for our Convention to make a decision that would be widely and rightfully interpreted as aligning us with the Republican Party. It would be equally unwise and unholy to align the SBC with the Democratic Party. We must always, at all times, on all matters adopt biblical positions on issues that align us with the Kingdom of God and not political parties of this world (John 18:36). The SBC should hammer out a biblical position on all issues; but never should we be branded or identified with either party. We must speak prophetically to both.
We must find a way to come together under one tent at one time, in spite of our various and sundry views on a multitude of issues. We must gather under the banner of Jesus, the Christ and affirm our unity and belief in One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One Hope, One Calling and One God, who is the Father of All.
I am hopeful for the SBC. The following statement will sound arrogant and prideful, but I believe it. The SBC is the only denomination because of its current racial diversity and theological orthodoxy that I believe is primed and pumped to be a conduit that God will use to bring revival to our nation again. But there are a few rough edges, yet, for God to knock off in the SBC before He can use our denomination to the fullest extent.
Somehow the SBC has to figure out a way for a patriarchal and yet-needed figure, as Judge Pressler, who opposed the Confederate Flag Resolution—to work side-by-side in harmony and mutual respect and love with Kyle J. Howard—a young African-American Church Planter and Southern Seminary graduate who is excited about the Confederate Flag Resolution passing, yet troubled and baffled by the SBC love affair and duplicity related to President Donald Trump; as are many African-American SBC constituents.
Kyle J. Howard: “…As an African American church planter in the SBC, I wept and rejoiced at last year’s convention as the denomination denounced the confederate flag. Within a year, it went from denouncing racism to embracing a white nationalist who is also clearly a racist to anyone with ears to hear. I am disappointed in the SBC but also not surprised. I am a year out or so from planting, I will most likely not plant with NAMB at this point.” (Kyle Howard’s reply on Brent Hobb’s comment on a Facebook post; https://www.facebook.com/brent.hobbs)
The simple point and purpose of this article is to plead for unity in our Convention and to make sure that the SBC understand that alignment with the Republican Party is not “A Hill On Which To Die.” My prayer for Frank Page is that God will give him the grace to orchestrate these diverse views and opposing factions toward a common good. Each person must give up their right to be right and bury the hatchet for the advancement of the Kingdom. The beauty of the SBC is that a Judge Pressler and Kyle Howard belong to the same Convention. The challenge of the SBC is that both men are quite wounded at the moment for obviously different reasons. It is not easy to administrate diversity in the most diverse evangelical denomination on the planet. Again, Frank Page needs our prayers.
How can a Judge Pressler and a Kyle Howard love each other and—in spite of their different positions on The Confederate Flag and work together in harmony in the same Baptist Convention? How can a Paige Patterson and Dwight McKissic love each other and—in spite of our differences over the biblical legitimacy of praying in tongues in private, and the freedom that should be allowed IMB missionaries to pray in private as led and gifted by the Spirit—and yet work together in harmony in the same Baptist Convention to advance the Kingdom of God? I tell you how: by focusing on the Kingdom of God and prioritizing His Kingdom over our political and theological differences. If our unity is centered in the Kingdom of God and not our culture, politics and secondary and tertiary theology outside of the BF&M 2000—we will learn to live with our differences and love each other through them. The Parable of the Dragnet (Matthew 13:47-50) recognizes that there will be diversity in God’s Kingdom. How can Frank Page, President Steve Gaines, the Executive Committee of the SBC, or anyone else for that matter—manage the diversity in the Southern Baptist Convention? The answer to that question may be found in a seldom taught Parable of The Kingdom:
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
The point of the parable is to allow diversity that does not contradict the Scripture—to coexist in harmony until “the end of the age” and then “the angels will come forth and do the separating.” Until then we must allow for diversity within our unity, while we all remain committed to God’s Kingdom. Our commitment to World Evangelism and Discipleship requires that we remain committed in spite of our differences.
In the SBC, there are “gathered some of every kind.” We must learn to live together in harmony to advance God’s Kingdom in spite of our differences. Jesus told us His Kingdom would constitute diversity—“gathered some of every kind.” That could be the SBC’s greatest asset. Diversity and differences organically breed discontent and frustration. And that’s what we are currently experiencing. To remain committed to the SBC, you have to learn to endure and overcome the adversity that often accompanies diversity. But that’s a part of life in the Kingdom.
I understand Judge Pressler’s and Kyle Howard’s frustrations. I resigned from the Trustee Board at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary overwhelmed with my frustrations. But I remained committed to “the Southern Baptist Kingdom” and will continue to do so, as long as they remain committed to the King of Kings and not the Republican Party.
I shall forever be grateful to Frank Page, because when I felt wounded and rejected by the SBC for daring to take literally I Corinthians 14:2, and believe that the same God that Paul prayed to in a language that God understood, but not men—was yet moving in the Body of Christ—among men and sovereignly bestowing gifts to His body as He wills; it was Dr. Frank Page who publically addressed the issue in a redemptive, unifying manner:
“Page cited 1 Corinthians 14 as a passage which may be interpreted to permit a private prayer language, while noting that he does not personally have a private prayer language.” (Frank Page discusses SBC theological issues by James A. Smith Sr./Florida Baptist Witness)
“Churches must deal with charismatic issues and theology as a part of their own autonomous structure. I think that many charismatics function well within traditional Southern Baptist churches. In fact, we have several in our church. Some are more vocal and sometimes disruptive. Churches must deal with those kinds of attitudes on a case by case basis. Trustee bodies must do the same.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwight_McKissic#Position_on_speaking_in_tongues)
I was blessed by his statements and felt there was room in the SBC for a Baptist with my beliefs, based on Page’s words. Therefore, I remained in the SBC, and I’m glad I did. It was courageous and risky for Dr. Page to make the above statements at the time he made them, because they were viewed as supportive or sympathetic toward me and my position on the issue. Frank Page’s comments were in support of the principle of upholding unity in the midst of our diversity. His goal was not so much to support me personally. But I received his words as affirmation, because I was so deeply wounded. His words were like a balm in Gilead. A part from my relationship with God, it was Frank Page’s words that gave me the strength and identification to remain Southern Baptist. However, the ill treatment of Russell Moore has caused many African American Southern Baptists to ask the question: Should we remain Southern Baptists?
In 2015, Dr. David Platt led the IMB to change their policies that directly contradicted I Corinthians 14:2, and I greatly rejoice to see the SBC return to the pre-2005 policies that were aligned with the Word of God. I’m hopeful that under the leadership of Dr. Page unity can be restored to the SBC. Cessationism was/is not “A Hill on which to Die” in the SBC, and I’m grateful that Frank Page and David Platt would not let the SBC die on such a molehill. I was encouraged listening to David Platt preach a recorded sermon affirming all of the spiritual gifts and interpreting I Corinthians 14, similar, if not identical to how I interpret it. When Platt led the policy change at IMB, it was consistent with sermons he’d preached from his pulpit before ever being elected President of the IMB. Matt Chandler, an increasingly popular SBC pastor, is also on record affirming all the gifts of the Spirit, and an interpretation and application of the controversial tongues passages similar to the way I interpret them. Thank God that the SBC now allows diversity on the praying in tongues in private issue. Again, that was/is not “A Hill On Which [the SBC] Should Die.” The IMB 2015 policy reversal decision, inadvertently affirmed my August 2006 Chapel sermon at SWBTS that pleaded for freedom regarding the missionaries’ private prayers.
Judge Pressler feels wounded by the SBC just as I felt when the sermon I preached during Chapel at Southwestern was censured, simply because I echoed the theology of Jack McGorman, Matt Chandler, Jack Gray, Jack Taylor, David Platt and Joyce Rogers, Dr. Adrian Rogers’ widow (all Southern Baptists) on spiritual gifts and praying in tongues in private that the IMB later affirmed. Yet, I’ve had to—long time ago—let go of my wounded feelings for Kingdom unity. I pray Judge Pressler can do the same. When you’re right, time has a way of vindicating you. In the meantime, in the Kingdom, you often have to learn to live with diverse views and people, who sometimes think and believe different from you on non-essential matters.
Oxtails are a delicacy in most African American homes in the South. Many White Southerners have never heard of or eaten oxtails. While serving as a guest speaker in my pulpit a few years ago, I invited Frank Page and several SBC Anglo and African-American Pastors to my home for dinner. We had a great time of fellowship. Mostly all attendees ate oxtails that night, except Frank Page. I forgive him for not eating oxtails with the Gentiles that night. J But what a joy it has been to watch his ability to serve as President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, in the midst of as much division and disunity over various issues more so than I’ve ever seen in my almost 40-year history with the SBC, including during the days of the inerrancy battle. Dr. Page has a tough job. He needs our prayers.
WE MUST LEARN TO LIVE WITH DIVERSITY IN THE SBC, OR SHE WILL DIE A SLOW DEATH. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” We must all pray for Frank Page because somewhere in his job description, he’s required to bring all of those warring factions together. Wouldn’t it be great if one night in the Phoenix 2017 Annual Meeting be declared “Unity Night,” and all opposing factions drop their swords and come together to seek God’s face, crying out for unity.
Ironically, Russell Moore and I debated the biblical legitimacy of praying in tongues in private at the SBC Annual Meeting in June 2007. Moore argued cessationist theology. I argued continuationist theology. But, I believe that was the day we formed a certain level of friendship. While engaged in independent study at Southern Seminary, many months later following our debate, Russell Moore learned I was on campus in the library; he sought me out, extended a hearty welcome, ordered library staff to make all reference resources available to me, although I was not a Southern Student, and genuinely affirmed brotherhood and love toward me, although we hold diametrically opposing views on spiritual gifts. He allowed a spirit of love and unity to triumph over our theological differences. Russell Moore treated me as a brother in Christ and a fellow Southern Baptist, rather than with a John MacArthur spirit that says I represent “Strange Fire” and should be disfellowshipped. Thank God that Southern Baptists have rejected the MacArthur “Strange Fire” cessationist theology as a ruling policy theology position in SBC life. We need more of Russell Moore’s and Frank Page’s unity spirit (Ephesians 4:3) in the SBC, and our divisions would soon be healed.
I had no million dollars to threaten withholding from the SBC. Frank Page’s support for me was based on the principle of Christian unity and respect for the “Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” that I did not violate in my sermon that was censured at SWBTS in 2006. In many ways I’ve been marginalized in SBC life since then. But I remain committed for Kingdom purposes.
Republicanism, Cessationism, Confederate Flag Resolutions and Calvinism are not “Hills On Which to Die.” Biblical inerrancy, The Person, The Work, and Deity of Jesus Christ and the equality, dignity, and mutual respect of all races of mankind are “hills on which Baptists must be willing to die.” Frank Page and Russell Moore have proven to be Southern Baptists who are willing to die on those hills, and therein lay my hope for the future of the SBC.
My hope for the SBC can be summed up in the words of the great hymn:
“My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, [Southern Baptists should] stand;
All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.”
It is in this Hope—Christ—that ultimately the lions and the lambs will one day lie down together. Certainly Russell Moore and Jack Graham—because of their common hope in Christ—ought to be able to peacefully resolve this matter.
Finally, I close with lengthy and various quotes gleaned from three to four comment streams that truly reveal and provide hope and encouragement, and yes, also some disappointments with the current debate in the SBC. Frank Page and Russell Moore are so desperately needed in the SBC, because they represent the future as opposed to the past. If the SBC—in spite of our many differences—continue to refuse to die on either of these mole hills that currently confront us—our future is bright and prosperous. We must continue to find a way to let unity and love triumph over our differences. I’m believing God that the Graham-Moore debate will soon heal. It is certainly not a hill on which to die.
Quote by Chad Edgington:
Chad Edgington says
March 13, 2017 at 11:14 am
“The ‘referendum’ on Dr. Moore is really a choice between the past and the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. No doubt there are wonderful things about our collective past, but it’s also full of shameful, hurtful things. In Dr. Moore’s leadership we see the fruit of corporate repentance, but in his opposition we see a hanging-on to old attitudes that aren’t helpful.”
Additional significant quotes follow:
“Louie Thinktank Gibbs Dr. Russell Moore‘s comments expose the deep rooted bigotry and comfortably arrogant position of many SBC pastors and members. To hear both the under and overtones of his critics is not only disheartening and sad, but spits in the face and laughs at those of us within the sometimes one sided denom, hopeless. I already have a tough time reconciling much of what I see, but now even more. God be with us!” (Comment from https://www.facebook.com/brent.hobbs)
arvan campbell says: (http://joinnoba.com/moore/);
December 28, 2016 at 9:36 am
“Perhaps the greatest weakness of the SBC is its inability to respect those who they do not agree with. That lack of respect also meant not working with someone even when you agree on many other things. The SBC seem to have a [mine] way or the highway attitude. Over the last 20 years, the SBC while down in attendance, baptisms, and the lack of diversity in their Agencies, has increased each year in the political arena. The SBC emphasizes its Great Commission status. Less so, is the SBC talking about the Great Commandment which emphasizes love for our brothers and sisters. Most of the “world” is made up of brown people. The SBC needs more Dr. Moores not less if we are going to win the “world” for Christ.” (“Hard-Pressed But Not Beaten: A Word of Support for Dr. Russell Moore and the ERLC”)
Jason Gray says (http://sbcvoices.com/important-statements-of-support-for-russell-moore/#comments)
March 13, 2017 at 1:41 pm
“I have known Dr. Moore personally for about 15 years, and I cannot think of a person more fit for the position he currently holds.
The task of ERLC President means that he will at time take positions and voice concerns that will be at odds with some segments of the SBC populace. In fact, at some point, he may offend and be at odds with everyone in the SBC. I do not always agree with the positions he takes, but I am always challenged to re-evaluate why I believe what I do. IMO, that is precisely what he is supposed to do.
That is why I support Dr. Moore.
The fact that people are mad that he isn’t just an echo chamber of their beliefs is both extremely arrogant and a denial of the task he was called to do at the ERLC. If you want to disagree with him, do so. If you want to publicly respond to his comments, do so. But to try and leverage political power and money in the way we are seeing is shameful, if not sinful.
I encourage SBC leaders and pastors to recognize differences and to not try and force a monolithic approach to politics on the SBC. The attempt to do so will trade our future and growing diversity in exchange for a meager amount of money in the present. That would be disastrous. May we not leverage our future as a convention and our Gospel witness over a politician and policy disagreement.”
Craig Eastman says:
March 7, 2017 at 10:35 am
I am white, but love biblical social justice for the poor and minorities, because they are God’s positions and commandments. I am licensed and ordained to preach by a large Southern Baptist Church, and have been active in jail and juvenile detention ministries for 18 years. Sadly, I have found white conservative evangelicals in the pews (on average as a whole) to actually hate the poor and minorities, based on their ubiquitous ugly Facebook memes and comments in response to my social justice posts, and their own posts on their own Facebook pages, even well before the recent election cycle. I am about done with it. If even one major black church finds it necessary to leave the SBC over this or any other issue connected to different paradigms on race matters, I will have no choice but to also withdraw from the convention. God’s word is clear about racial justice issues, and about how we are to work for racial justice (Isaiah 10:1-3, Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8-9, Micah 6:8, and on and on), and about our attitudes toward, and our treatment of the poor. But many Southern Baptist preachers (e.g., Dr. Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and others) are twisting the scriptures to justify unbiblical and covetous paradigms in the pews toward the poor (e.g., falsely teaching that government has no biblical role in fighting poverty). God is not at all pleased with the very unholy marriage between the white conservative ‘evangelical’ church and the far-right wing of the Republican Party. Theologians and imminent preachers like Reinhold Niebuhr, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Rev. Billy Graham have been warning against that for a century now. The attitudes and actions in the white conservative evangelical church have forsaken our Great Commission, and are causing the world to flee from Christians. Christ, and from the church. They have set the cause of Christ back at least 100 years. The world knows a hate group and a voting block weaponized against the poor and minorities when it sees one. I pray rhea SBC will repent, but fear that it won’t, especially if strong exhortation towards racial justice is silenced from the pulpits (not that there is more than a scintilla of it emanating therefrom in the first place). The church should be in the forefront of the fight against racially disparate mass-incarceration, minority voter suppression, and our nation’s 44,000 “Second Prison Laws,” but instead, we aren’t even a taillight, but have chosen to not speak up or lift a finger. And 81% voted for the Party that is actively working to suppress the minority vote. That’s all big-time sin, and God will hold the white Southern Baptist Church and its members and voters accountable for their oppression of the poor and minorities He loves so dearly.”
Scott Gordon says:
March 6, 2017 at 8:29 am
I read Dwight’s post when I saw it on Facebook and had the same thought you did…we all need to read this thoughtfully trying to put ourselves in Dwight’s shoes. Over the past couple of years, my eyes have been opened to just how skewed my political thinking had been the point of advocating a “to be a good Christian, Southern Baptist you better be a card-carrying Republican.” I now see that is the antithesis of Kingdom-minded thinking.
Thank you for posting your thoughts on this. I appreciate your candor and conviction. You are a great brother in Christ.”
Matt Gregory says:
March 8, 2017 at 5:24 pm
Pastor Dwight McKissic, I agree wholeheartedly with your thorough assessment and conclusions. I am a white pastor who was relieved to hear Dr. Moore speak out and challenge the unholy alliance the SBC has often had with the Republican Party. Such an alliance has hurt our credibility and diverted our focus and commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. If this “investigation” concludes without an affirmation of Dr. Moore, there will be a brutally chilling effect throughout SBC churches – black and white. I am standing with you!
Various comments from https://dwightmckissic.wordpress.com:
Berrien Sutton Says:
March 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm e
History will show that Russell Moore and his surrogates are liberal activists
in the fast lane of political correctness . Moore uses his position to advance his elitist agenda. Moore would be better suited for an academic position in a liberal university where he would be amongst his friends who believe the little people in the SBC are “deplorables” and weak minded. We don’t need Moore to tell us who to vote for or what to believe.
Velma Brooks Says:
March 4, 2017 at 4:01 pm
Black churches need to get out of this organization. Please! Immediately. Jesus has set us free from oppression. Why would you place your congregation under the thumb of this organization?
Facebook Comment Stream – https://www.facebook.com/william.mckissic.1/posts;
Gerald Britt Dr. McKissic, I’m sure you have your reasons for affiliating with the SBC. Let me just say, I read halfway through and stopped. It’s just ONE of the reasons I never have wanted to be identified as a ‘Southern Baptist’…GOOD GRIEF! (March 4 at 7:39pm)
Richard Wingfield IN other words, Dr. McKissic, nothing has really changed. (March 4 at 7:41pm)
Bob Cleveland If the EC examines and criticizes Dr. Moore, I could easily consider leaving the SBC. They would really have become a group with which I would not want to be identified. I also note that I also quit the Rotary Club some years ago, for a similarly moral reason. (March 4,7:47pm)
Bob Cleveland And lest I be negligent in the obvious, yours is an excellent dissertation on the facts of the situation. (March 4 at 8:15pm)
Crystal Mullins Jack Graham lost all credibility with me when he so quickly attached himself and the endorsement of the church to Trump’s candidacy. At the very least, he has and continues to display an egregious conflict of interest. The withholding of funds in this scenario only lends evidentiary support to same. (March 4 at 7:55pm)
Michael Linton Know that as an SBC pastor, and newly elected member of the Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Board, I will do all I can to end this ridiculous ‘investigation’ of the ERLC and Russell Moore by the LBC. I voted against it when it came up at the annual meeting in November, and I will fight it in the board meetings. (March 4 at 8:03pm)
Michael Linton I also did not vote for Trump, was very vocal about it, decried the SBC sleeping with the Republican Party, and thought Moore’s comments were spot-on. I am also EXTREMELY conservative, have voted Republican in every election in which I’ve voted, and could not vote for either the Democrat or the Republican in this presidential race.
(March 4 at 8:07pm)
Michael Linton Please allow me to BEG minority churches to continue to join and partner with the SBC. A reformation within the Convention is critical to our health, and it is more easily achieved from within than without. We need a strong, multi-ethnic, multiracial voice from WITHIN to work and cry and pray for the change that is necessary. From without, we’re merely throwing stones from a glass house, but from within, we can overhaul and remodel the very structure of the organization.
I face a similar situation in my church now. I have young people that want dramatic change, but are frustrated enough with the snail-like pace that is necessary right now that they want to leave. I understand the frustration. But I need those young people beside me as tangible and vocal evidence of the need for change. I need them to help lead the charge.
Those of us who want to see the needed change in our Convention happen need those beside us who benefit most from the change and are living, breathing examples of why change MUST happen.
Please, join us; don’t leave us. We need you in so many ways.
March 5, 3:37pm
Michael Linton 1. The body of Christ needs each member
2. The Southern Baptist Convention is stronger with diversity
3. Each of us has much we can learn from the other
4. A diversity of voices creates a more robust and effective ministry
5. The evil of racism is best fought by a unity of diversity
6. Unity in diversity, especially in crisis, is a powerful agent of change in stubborn or reluctant hearts
I could come up with more, but our evening service is about to start. I hope this will suffice for now. March 5 at 5:45pm
John L. Byrd Sounds like a Southern Baptist Convention discussion held in 1845, March 5 at 8:45am
Wilson Laura Green William Dwight McKissic Sr., I 100% fully agree. I was in the “never Trump” camp because of his past immorality. Al Mohler and Russell Moore championed this thought. As you clearly stated our membership in the kingdom supersedes any earthly, temporal affiliation. I support only democrats or republicans based on their closeness to Biblical principles. Thank you for your articulate response. God bless you brother.
March 5 at 10:31am
Jennifer Hardy Lusher Why does there need to be a “solution?”
What exactly has been done to that needs to solve?
Specifically and most directly considering Scripture. What has Russell Moore done that conflicts or rejects biblical standards?
I would like to show my cards and say I can’t find one thing he’s done…
If nothing then can’t we just call a spade a spade? March 6 at 6:18pm
Gerry West The presence and opinions of black evangelicals needs to be a part of all large and influential organizations such as the SBC but not just to affiliate with the culture and beliefs but we should be there to serve as a redemptive agent in shaping the application of biblical doctrine and kingdom minded theology. March 5 at 3:44am
Patricia Gray SBC sounds like the arm of the RNC. March 5 at 10:41am
Matt Brady Dwight, The issues with Dr. Moore’s leadership go far beyond the latest presidential election. Not all of Dr. Moore’s detractors were Trump supporters, neither are all, or probably any, of those detractors racists. Some were dissatisfied with Dr. Moore’s leadership long before the Presidential race ever began, and their dissatisfaction has nothing to do with racial issues. Further, I read the comment stream that you quote in your post. I wish I could find that conversation and link to it, because I believe you misrepresented the conversation and your comment that Scot was responding to concerning leaving the SBC. If you want to link back to it, that would be great. Perhaps you can refresh my memory, but my recollection of that conversation is very different. March 5 at 1:50am
Patricia A. Ashley Thank you Dr. McKissic for the courage to speak the truth. The church is late on addressing this subject in an honest manner. I was also blessed by many of the comments to your article. It has always been my belief that racism exist to the degree that it does because of the church.
We (the church) are the solution but if we are ignorant, or indifferent then we are impotent. I am glad to see now that there is real dialogue. I pray that hearts will hear the voice of the biblical Jesus and not the religious SBC Jesus. March 5 at 3:46am
Laurence Robinson Withholding funds from someone or a group that is not in agreement with another is the new way Satan is using to cause division or have someone sellout on their beliefs. The Federal Government and corporate entities like the NFL does it against the states, and unfortunately so does large financial contributors influence what is preached in a lot of churches. Because the preacher is afraid to lose financial contributions. It is time for the people of God to practice what God commands in Amos 5:23-24. March 5 at 12:22am
Barry Lyons Why are Black pastors even IN the SBC again???
March 4 at 11:32pm
Lee Kessee Dr. Mckissic,
I have just read your piece on what’s being contemplated by your SBC constituency. It seems to me that instead of raising the bar to one more level…i.e. whether Moore is investigated or not…to decide whether you should pack your bags and leave, you have cited several reasons already for doing so. When people show you who they really are, believe them. And…my friend, read through what you wrote again and see all of the ways you listed that the SBC shows you who they are. March 4 at 11:57pm
Barry Cook I said, Bro. McKissic, when the ban was placed on the Confederate Flag was issued, the alienation would begin, and political correctness would be the result. We are not racist, and grow weary of the inferences. How can one deny the effect Mike Pence, Dr. Carson, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Sessions and other openly evangelical Christians will have. That, at this point, is more than enough to have supported Trump and to support him now. March 4 at 10:10pm
Warren H. Stewart Sr. William Dwight McKissic Sr., Stand on the wall, prophet!
I worked with Land when I was Chair of the National Immigration Forum in DC. Found him to be a breath of fresh air on immigration.
I believe Moore worked with the Forum also with its “Bibles, Badges and Business” endeavor.
Without a doubt, 81% White Evangelicals voting for Trump spoke loudly and clearly to African-American Evangelicals like us. And the message is deafening that “Make America Great Again” really means “Make America White Again”. Moreover, the WEs set aside the Bible and all the family morals they claim to advocate and voted for a megomaniacal, profane, arrogant, narcissistic, dangerous man who is an insult to the Christian faith and who in less than two months is leading our nation down dark, decadent path of self-destruction.
Lastly, on my birthday last December, I registered as an Independent because neither Democrats or Republicans advocate the holistic Biblical values by which I leave. No longer will I be taken for granted by Democrats and ignored by Republicans.
Enough said. Keep the faith and be encouraged!
Jay Camp Dr. McKissic –
I do not travel in SBC circles and had never heard of you until today. That being said, let me lend whatever aid and comfort I can to your article as it was posted. The SBC MUST rid itself of its marriage to the GOP if it intends to communicate the Gospel and to model Christian theology and practice to a world that is in need.
Grace and Peace to you, sir!
Ryan Rice Sr.
Ryan Rice Sr. Thankful for this post pastor William Dwight McKissic Sr. I think this is a part of the issue that is not being discussed. The surge of many minorities in SBC life has come from church planting as well. Sad to say that the attitude of pack your bags and leave is now invading the kingdom of God.
Tim Ahlen Simply on the basis of Russell Moore’s stance on religious liberty for all Americans, he’s got my support. His statements about certain SBC leaders sleeping with Trump and the Republican Party serve to cement my support. They are a disgrace to the Kingdom for selling their birthright for a mess of political pottage. And I also am a conservative who did not vote for either Trump or Clinton.
THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION’S DECISION TO INVESTIGATE RUSSELL MOORE HAS HUGE IMPLICATIONS FOR BLACK SBC CHURCHES
By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
The Prestonwood Baptist Church of Plano, TX, (a Dallas suburb) led by Dr. Jack Graham, a former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, has determined to escrow funds totaling $1 million, that were previously designated for the Cooperative Program—the premier funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention’s agencies— because of positions and policies taken by Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other predominantly White Southern Baptist Churches are also threatening to withhold Cooperative Program funds surrounding public positions taken by Russell Moore and the ERLC.
Consequently, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has decided to investigate and explore the depths of why some churches aren’t giving and the best way to address the whole matter. They want to keep churches giving to the Cooperative Program while seeking a peaceful solution to the reactions to Russell Moore’s policies and position. Because of the Executive Committee’s approach to resolving this matter comprehensively, inevitably, the investigation will require determining the compatibility of Moore’s statements with the values, beliefs, and convictions of Southern Baptists.
Additionally, the Louisiana Baptist Convention has called for an investigation specifically targeting Dr. Moore. They are hostile toward Dr. Moore and would like to see him gone. Dr. Fred Luter, the first African-American President of the Southern Baptist Convention, who pastors the largest Southern Baptist Convention church in Louisiana, and Pastor David Crosby of First Baptist New Orleans have signed a statement vigorously dissenting to the Louisiana Convention’s call for an investigation of Dr. Moore.
The outcome of this investigation will speak volumes to Black Southern Baptist Convention Churches as to whether or not any church leader or entity head who publically, critically evaluate President Donald Trump will be welcome in the Southern Baptist Convention and eligible to serve in any and all levels of denominational life.
If Russell Moore cannot give a candid evaluation of Donald Trump without being publically humiliated and without White Churches withdrawing and threatening to withdraw funds, and the Southern Baptist Convention and a state affiliate, launching an investigation, I pity the Black SBC officeholder who would dare whisper a word of disagreement on a Trump statement or action.
Before increasing Cooperative Program gifts or affiliating with the Southern Baptist Convention, Black Baptist Churches may want to consider awaiting the Executive Committee’s investigation results regarding Russell Moore. Why am I singling out Black Churches to take a cautionary attitude toward supporting the Cooperative Program pending the outcome of this investigation? Why am I encouraging Black Baptist Churches who are considering affiliating with the Southern Baptist Convention to take a probative and aggressive approach to understanding the dynamics, roots, results and implications of the investigation before affiliating?
Estimates are over 80 percent of White evangelicals supported presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Russell Moore did not support Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for President. In keeping with his responsibilities as the designated prophetic voice to Southern Baptists and the nation on ethics issues, Moore gave critical, ethical evaluations of both candidates. However, it was his critique of Trump that has caused a tremendous backlash that appears to be potentially as divisive as the “inerrancy battle” in SBC life that birth the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and consequently tremendously weakened the numerical, financial, and more importantly, the missionary strength of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The implications of such an investigation are clear, and the outcome will speak volumes to Black Southern Baptist Churches, and the Convention as a whole. History has proven that God often places prophetic voices in a community to lovingly and authoritatively challenge the powers-that-be on controversial moral, ethical, spiritual and political concerns.
Why such huge implications for Blacks in the Southern Baptist Convention? It is because the vast majority of Black Southern Baptist Convention Church leaders and pastors and future potential entity heads are not Trump-leaning, blindly loyal Republican voters. The majority of Black Baptist Church leaders would agree with Moore’s assessment of Trump, wholeheartedly. Therein lies the potential for the outcome of this investigation to be tremendously and racially polarizing.
There has never been a minority entity head in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. Until the advent of Frank Page in recent years as President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, the highest ranking Black person working on staff at the seven-story Southern Baptist Convention Executive Building in Nashville, TN, was the head custodian.
If the Executive Committee’s investigation results in reprimanding, marginalizing, or firing Russell Moore—the message being sent is strict adherence to Republican Party loyalty is absolutely necessary to be elected as an entity head and to maintain one’s position in SBC organizational life. The implications of the Executive Committee’s investigative report is staggering and could be tantamount to an earthquake in the Convention. If Moore is marginalized or fired, 80-90 percent of Southern Baptist Black Churches who share Moore’s views on President Trump, would also simultaneously feel as if their political convictions regarding the current President of the United States would also be officially reprimanded, rejected and rebuked by the Southern Baptist Convention. Unintended consequences as a result of this shortsighted investigative decision should be weighed by the Executive Committee before they render a verdict. The attempt to mute a respected voice amongst us is plainly a step in the wrong direction.
The investigation was triggered because Prestonwood Church in Dallas announced on February 16 that it was escrowing $1 million in Cooperative Program funds. Mike Buster, Executive Pastor for Prestonwood, explained why:
“various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
A Southern Baptist layman and attorney in private practice, sums up the roots of the Moore controversy in a comment stream at SBC Voices (http://sbcvoices.com/prestonwood-and-the-erlc-the-ec-responds/) (He blogs using the name “Louis”):
“This goes beyond last year’s election. It also involves ERLC initiatives on things such as immigration and race. Sometimes, as on immigration, there are real differences of opinion. The ERLC has gone on record as having a very convictional view of the immigration issue. I suspect that position and the policy prescription advocated by the ERLC is very different than most common folks in the SBC. On that issue, and others, I suspect the ERLC is going to have to pull back.”
“I believe that Dr. Moore and the ERLC may handle racial issues differently from some Southern Baptist churches. I believe that is a matter of strategy and emphasis. I do not believe that all SBC churches might agree on the strategy. And that would include things such as which groups to meet with, what policy prescriptions to support, how to balance concerns about race with law enforcement concerns etc.”
“On issues like race, there is not really a substantive disagreement, but a question of tone and cobelligerance. Most in the SBC are very comfortable with our good brothers like Fred Luter and Dwight McKissic, but they are not comfortable with groups like Black Lives Matter. I believe the ERLC is more comfortable with affiliating with some groups than the SBC base.”
There has been no contact at all between Russell Moore and “Black Lives Matter.” But the association between the two is often mentioned to rile the SBC base against him without any supporting evidence. Louis’ comment does not specifically state that the ERLC works with “Black Lives Matter.”
Louis is a friend of mine. He is not in favor of Dr. Russell Moore being fired, and my interactions with him have been mutually appreciative and respectful. I totally agree with Louis’ assessment of the roots and reasons of the Moore controversy. Moore’s “tone” is a Kingdom “tone” seldom heard in SBC life on matters of race and justice. This newness of his “tone” in SBC life is what his critics are responding to. Moore speaks with a prophetic mantle that is more common to African American Baptist church tradition than historic Southern Baptist tradition. Many of us find his “tone” refreshing and biblical. It’s the same Kingdom “tone” that Southern Baptists sound on abortion and homosexuality; but for some reason, Southern Baptists are uncomfortable with this same tone being sounded on race and justice.
The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee is largely White, Republican and Trump-supporting. Immigration, tone and emphasis on race relations and positions taken on race and law enforcement are the root causes of the Moore controversy. On each of the positions, Moore tended to voice the pain, fears, hopes and dreams of the majority of the minorities in the SBC. Trying to find a SBC minority person, who would object to Moore’s published statements on the above three items, would be like attempting to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Minorities in the SBC are ecstatic about Moore and his leadership.
What is it about the “tone” of Moore on race that is problematic for White Southern Baptist Churches?
When Prestonwood questions Moore’s “beliefs and values” not reflecting the Southern Baptist Convention, just who are they referring to?
When David Hankins, Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said to the Wall Street Journal: “The question before Southern Baptists now is, ‘Does the ERLC share our convictions and thus deserve our financial support’?” Whose “convictions” are Mr. Hankins referring to? In both instances they are referring to the White Republican constituency of the SBC.
Russell Moore’s “tone” is offensive to the base constituency of the SBC, but his text is a breath of fresh air for those of us who have longed for the SBC to address matters of race and justice. He is an anomaly in the SBC on race, and therefore he has to suffer for his “tone” while many of us celebrate his text.
One of the attractive features of the Southern Baptist Convention is its multi-ethnic inclusion and cooperation. However, most of the minorities in the Convention do not march in lock step with the Republican Party. The Executive Committee, by even launching this investigation, has moved dangerously close to consummating the obvious alliance between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Republican Party. If the alliance is consummated as a result of this unwarranted investigation, the message sent to all non-Republicans and to Black SBC churches is: “Pack your bags and leave.” This is the message that was recently spoken to me by Scott Young in a Facebook comment section of The Baptist Message, “SBC Executive Committee creates two panels to investigate SBC entities,” February 25, 2017, by Will Hall, Message Editor.
In response to my position that Black Churches may want to voice our displeasure of the investigation by reducing funds to the Cooperative Program; and Black Baptist Churches contemplating joining the SBC may want to await the outcome of the investigation before making a decision: “If that is truly your view, then pack your bags and leave the convention!” Scott Young was bold, unfiltered and brazen enough to say what I suspect the 80% Trump voters in the SBC want to say to Russell Moore and those of us who couldn’t get on the “Trump train” for ethical, convictional and racial reasons. Will the Executive Committee, based on their decision, in essence say to those not on the Trump train: “Pack your bags and leave”? It is profane to the Kingdom of God to intertwine ecclesiology and secular politics in a manner that is foundational to the concerns and complaints regarding Russell Moore.
All four issues Russell Moore is being investigated over have a race-based component: immigration, race relations, police brutality denouncement and his Trump critique. Moore has attempted to provide a Kingdom perspective to these issues. His critics are responding to the political and racial overtones of his message, while missing the Kingdom perspective.
President George W. Bush, whom I proudly voted for twice, because of his commitment to protect traditional marriage, stated concerning President Trump’s racial views:
“’I don’t like the racism and I don’t like the name-calling and I don’t like the people feeling alienated,’ Bush told People magazine in an interview…”
While not plainly labeled, President Trump is viewed as a racist by a Republican President. Yet, the Southern Baptist Convention is now investigating the Chief Ethics Officer for speaking a truth that a secular President can say, but not a Kingdom representative, assigned to ethics issues? Something is wrong with that picture.
Dr. Russell Moore is essentially under investigation by the Southern Baptist Convention for his accurate, biblical, prophetic and outspoken views regarding race in America. Prestonwood, Louisiana Baptists, Abilene Baptist in Augusta, GA, did not challenge or withhold funds or threaten to withhold funds when former ERLC President Richard Land made controversial racial remarks:
“In The Tennessean article, dated April 14, 2012, Travis Loller reports:
‘Land, who is white, said in an interview that he has no regrets. And he defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening: A black man is ‘statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.’”
Land referred to racism as a “central myth” in response to charges of racism relative to the Trayvon Martin shooting. Land dug in his heels and publically claimed that he’d received overwhelming email support from the Southern Baptist Convention people and leaders in support of his views. Yet, no large SBC church pastor withheld funds or criticized Richard Land. Russell Moore has only spoken the truth about race and four race-based issues, and they now condemn him. This is painful to watch. Thank God that Richard Land—after many weeks of stalling—apologized. I believe he was sincere, and I accepted his apology. Russell Moore has apologized for crimes he did not commit. Yet, the Convention wants to proceed with an investigation? Is the SBC troubled by Russell Moore because he does not view racism as a “central myth” as his predecessor once claimed?
I’m grateful and proud to be a Southern Baptist. I also hold dual membership in the National Baptist Convention, USA, because it is important to me to be a part of a Convention where entity heads include people who resemble me. The National Baptist Convention, USA, membership, contrary to the SBC, primarily has members who support the Democratic Party. The two most celebrated National Baptist preachers in the past 40 years are the late Dr. J.H. Jackson and the late Dr. E.V. Hill. Both were proud Republicans, and both were accepted and beloved in the National Baptist Convention. Admittedly though, there were times when there was strong opposition expressed in the National Baptist Convention regarding their political affiliations. Neither was investigated or threatened to be booted from office because of their politics. Dr. J.H. Jackson publically endorsed Richard Nixon for POTUS during his annual address as President of the National Baptist Convention back in 1972. His endorsement was met with loud, boisterous, boos from the massive audience. Yet he served as President of the Convention for 29 years and was elected annually following his Nixon endorsement until 1982. Although not affecting Jackson in his capacity as leader, Dr. Hill’s political leanings possibly did. Dr. E.V. Hill served as Vice President for many years under Dr. Jackson; but when Dr. Hill ran for President of the Convention, he lost to lesser-known, Dr. William Shaw. Many would say Hill’s defeat was in part due to his Republican affiliation. The Southern Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention tend to blindly follow the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively, regardless of the candidate. The Kingdom of God cannot be pleased with either Convention, relative to this partisan blind loyalty.
However, in SBC life, it is all but political suicide to admit that you vote Democratic. This becomes a huge problem for the SBC as it relates to minority outreach. I once read in a SBC blog comment stream that Fred Luter was the first SBC President that the Convention did not know how he voted for POTUS. Neither do I know; but what I do know is, if he voted Democrat and let it be known, the Southern Baptist Convention would have rejected him; and that would have been tragic, sinful and shameful.
Why is it that we know for sure that every previous President of the Southern Baptist Convention since the Reagan era voted for Republicans, but we don’t know how Dr. Fred Luter, the only Black President in SBC history voted? It’s because if Luter even hinted at supporting anyone other than the Republican Presidential Candidate, he likely would have been booed at the Southern Baptist Convention just as J.H. Jackson was booed at the National Baptist Convention. Our loyalty to the Kingdom must supersede our loyalty to political alignments and the breaking of fellowship if one gets out of line.
If Russell Moore is reprimanded or rejected, it would be difficult for me to be able to continue to say, I’m proud and grateful to be a Southern Baptist. I am not sure how a reprimand will affect many like-minded Black Baptists who are members of the SBC. For sure, it would be disheartening and disappointing. Therefore, this question must be raised: Should minority churches in SBC life financially increase or maintain their level of giving to a Convention that appears poised to respond punitively to an entity head, who would dare speak honestly and ethically—regarding a Republican Presidential candidate and race matters? Each minority SBC church will have to reach its own conclusion regarding this matter, pending the outcome of the investigation
Just as Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated by his generation, yet celebrated by the next generation; just as C.H. Spurgeon was vilified by his generation for preaching against slavery in Alabama, but he was lionized for preaching against slavery “out of season” by subsequent generations; and just as Jesus came unto his own, and “his own received Him not”; Dr. Russell Moore has brought a prophetic word to “his own” and “his own” receives him not. I predict in the next generation, Dr. Russell Moore will be celebrated as the Southern Baptists who had the greatest impact on race relations in her history and policies and positions that are objectionable to some Southern Baptists today, will be representative of the vast majority of Southern Baptists of all races in the next generation. The late Dr. T.B. Matson, former Ethics Professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, may be the only other Southern Baptist that would belong in the same sentence as Russell Moore in Southern Baptist history with regard to impacting race relations systemically and globally; thus, improving the image of Southern Baptists regarding racial issues, which is important to our Great Commission objectives.
History will vindicate Russell Moore. Now we will wait and see if the Executive Committee will.