FROM BOYS TO MEN
My Response to the SBC Seminary Presidents’ CRT Statement

BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (I Corinthians 13:11 CSB)

I am often asked the question, why do I remain in the Southern Baptist Convention? A recent joint statement on race made by the six seminary presidents of the SBC has brought that question back into discussion once again. The crux of the seminary presidents’ statement is as follows:

“In light of current conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention, we stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.”

Initially, for the sake of unity and in the name of Christian charity, I was supportive of the statements released by the council of presidents and the resolutions committee. However, it then became apparent to me that these statements were merely paving the way for rescinding Resolution 9 at the upcoming annual meeting.

The first half of the above quote is innocuous. All believers and Baptists could and ought to give a hearty “Amen” to every single word up to the word, “and.”

The bombshell comprises the phrase on the other side of “and”: “we also declare that the affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message.” Those 25 words have created a fault line in the SBC that will have lingering repercussions and ramifications until Jesus returns or God sends a revival.

The repercussions are already occurring. African American SBC pastor, Rev. Joel Bowman of Louisville, Kentucky, upon reading the seminary presidents’ statement posted:

“I’m done with the Southern Baptist Convention! It took them 150 years to condemn chattel slavery, but only 1 year to condemn Critical Race Theory. It has no credibility on the issue of racism! None!!!

President Obama’s election was historic. However, it did not remove white supremacy from the US. Likewise, Fred Luter’s historic election as president of the Southern Baptist Convention did not remove white supremacy from it.

Many “Reformed” theologians aggressively teach the “total depravity” of Man. Yet, they won’t admit that depraved humans can create racist systems that must be confronted? Such denial is evidence of their own depravity.”

There may be one, but I am unaware of any SBC African American lead/senior pastor who would sign on to the seminary presidents’ statement without qualifications and caveats. Therein lies the fault line. Black pastors and churches, almost without exception, would oppose the above SBC presidents’ council statement.

Do Black pastors oppose the seminary presidents’ statement because we are advocates and proponents of Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Absolutely not! Black pastors do not preach CRT; we preach C-H-R-I-S-T. Black pastors do not preach Karl Marx; we preach from the gospel of Mark.

Dr. Tony Evans’ statement regarding this subject should be embraced by all Southern Baptists, no matter their race. Dr. Evans was prompted to comment on this controversy because he was unfairly quoted out of context. Here is a link to his full quote, lest I also be guilty. Dr. Evans’ tweet that includes his statement and sermon link: https://twitter.com/drtonyevans/status/1334275756164321281

“Members of the 2019 Resolution Committee of the SBC, without my awareness or permission, used my name in recent Affirmation of Recent Statements from Christian Leaders on Critical Race Theory. Upon reading this affirmation, I need to state that their use of my name and what I said in a sermon titled Race & Reconciliation released on 11/15/20 needs clarification of what I fully said. They have referenced a portion without giving it the context of my sermon. I have a great deal of respect for the SBC and the work that they do around the nation and the world, and this misunderstanding does not diminish that in any way.

As I stated in my sermon, which I encourage everyone reading this to watch, I again affirm that the Bible must be the basis for analyzing any and all social, racial or political theories in order to identify what is legitimate or what is not legitimate. But I did not say, nor imply, that CRT or other ideologies lack beneficial aspects—rather that the Bible sits as the basis for determining that. I have long taught that racism, and its ongoing repercussions, are real and should be addressed intentionally, appropriately and based on the authority of God’s inerrant Word.”

There is only one phrase in Dr. Evans’ statement that would differ with these seminary presidents’ statement: “I did not say, nor imply that CRT or other ideologies lack beneficial aspects.” That one phrase is considered controversial, untrue, “liberal,” “Marxist,” “woke,” and in the minds of some, in conflict with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and/or the Bible.

There it is, my friend. The current dispute, dissension, division, and debate in the SBC would boil down to who would agree or disagree with that statement.

Most SBC voters in the annual meeting in Birmingham approved of a resolution including language very similar to Dr. Evans’ statement. Here is a complete copy of the Resolution (Critical Race Theory, Resolution 9):

“WHEREAS, Concerns have been raised by some evangelicals over the use of frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality; and

WHEREAS, Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience; and

WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality have been appropriated by individuals with worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, resulting in ideologies and methods that contradict Scripture; and

WHEREAS, Evangelical scholars who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture have employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics; and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states, “[A]ll Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (Article I); and

WHEREAS, General revelation accounts for truthful insights found in human ideas that do not explicitly emerge from Scripture and reflects what some may term “common grace”; and

WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin, yet these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences; and

WHEREAS, Scripture contains categories and principles by which to deal with racism, poverty, sexism, injustice, and abuse that are not rooted in secular ideologies; and

WHEREAS, Humanity is primarily identified in Scripture as image bearers of God, even as biblical authors address various audiences according to characteristics such as male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free; and

WHEREAS, The New Covenant further unites image bearers by creating a new humanity that will one day inhabit the new creation, and that the people of this new humanity, though descended from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, are all one through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:16; Revelation 21:1–4, 9–14); and

WHEREAS, Christian citizenship is not based on our differences but instead on our common salvation in Christ—the source of our truest and ultimate identity; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to racial reconciliation built upon biblical presuppositions and is committed to seeking biblical justice through biblical means; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, affirm Scripture as the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills, and we reject any conduct, creeds, and religious opinions which contradict Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the gospel of Jesus Christ alone grants the power to change people and society because “he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6); and be it further

RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists will carefully analyze how the information gleaned from these tools are employed to address social dynamics; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches and institutions repudiate the misuse of insights gained from critical race theory, intersectionality, and any unbiblical ideologies that can emerge from their use when absolutized as a worldview; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we deny any philosophy or theology that fundamentally defines individuals using categories identified as sinful in Scripture rather than the transcendent reality shared by every image bearer and divinely affirmed distinctions; and be it further

RESOLVED, That while we denounce the misuse of critical race theory and intersectionality, we do not deny that ethnic, gender, and cultural distinctions exist and are a gift from God that will give Him absolute glory when all humanity gathers around His throne in worship because of the redemption accomplished by our resurrected Lord; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches seek to exhibit this eschatological promise in our churches in the present by focusing on unity in Christ amid image bearers and rightly celebrate our differences as determined by God in the new creation.”

From my 46 years of being engaged in SBC life, there are two unprecedented things happening here:

  1. The presidents of the seminaries have never, ever, attempted to redress a resolution passed by the Convention.
  2. The SBC has never, ever in her history rescinded a resolution, as now those opposed to Resolution 9 have pledged to do. The seminary presidents’ statement gives them the greenlight to now do so.

I have deeply appreciated Dave Miller’s recent remarks article about Resolution 9 (What’s YOUR Problem with Resolution 9 – Be Specific). He has graciously asked critics to provide substantive criticism of its text, and it appears no one has been able to do so without overgeneralization or name-calling.

The seminary presidents’ statement represents a broken promise to the SBC, and especially to the African Americans in the SBC. In 1995, the SBC approved the following in a resolution:

“Be it further RESOLVED, That we apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously (Psalm 19:13) or unconsciously (Leviticus 4:27); and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we ask forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters, acknowledging that our own healing is at stake; and”

The centerpiece of CRT is the existence of systemic racism and injustice, or the lingering repercussion and effects of the Jim Crow era. By denouncing CRT in totality, the seminary presidents have contradicted and taken back the words of the SBC in 1995. This is painful to watch. It is understandable why hundreds of African American Southern Baptists are reassessing their relationship to the SBC.

I am grateful that Dr. Danny Akin has offered helpful and clarifying words since the publication of their statement. Dr. Akin granted me permission in writing to reference his view on systemic injustice. The following was sent to me in a direct message:

“Dwight…I believe in personal and structural (systemic) racism. Sinful humans will inevitably build sinful structures. Again, I have been clear.”

Just as we all can embrace Dr. Evans’ statement, we all should be able to embrace Dr. Akin’s statement. It really feels icky belonging to a convention that debates the reality of systemic injustice and whether or not, as a means of general revelation or common grace, a secular ideology may express something beneficial.

As a boy, I appreciated the SBC. Although our church was and remains NBC, back home in Arkansas, we enjoyed great fraternal relations with Arkansas SBC churches. Dr. Robert Ferguson was the director of National Baptist relations for the SBC in Arkansas. He built a great rapport between Black and White Baptists in our state. He preached revivals in our churches. He funded, through Southern Baptists, the Arkansas AM&N/UAPB Baptist Student Center. He opened Camp Paron to Black churches in the summer to conduct camps that were otherwise unavailable to us. He funded scholarships for Black ministerial and missionary students to Baptist colleges. I was the recipient of one to Ouachita Baptist University. He hired me as a chaplain intern at Tucker Prison in Arkansas to minister full-time in the summers and on weekends twice a month while I was a college student. My point is my relationship and view of Southern Baptists in my early years were quite positive, and that remains true (though there is some tarnish on it now).

When I planted the church I currently pastor at age 27 through a partnership with Tate Springs Church, Tarrant Baptist Association, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, they provided our congregation over $200,000 during the first three-four years of our existence. That included pastoral funding, building payments and general budget expenditures. This was from 1983-1986. I was told at the time that our funding exceeded most White church plants. They wanted to use me as a test case to determine the potential of an adequately funded Black church plant. By God’s grace, we passed the test! I am grateful!

I have really been blessed with wonderful experiences being a Southern Baptist. I have had an opportunity to preach on many platforms all over Texas and America. In some instances, this was directly connected to my SBC affiliation. I am grateful!

It has taken me 39 years to complete my Master of Theological Studies Degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The past two years on campus under Dr. Jeffrey Bingham (Interim President) and Dr. Adam Greenway (current President) have been wonderful. I have nothing but praise for Southwestern. My wife also graduated from SWBTS this year. My youngest son, J.E., is currently enrolled in their Master of Worship program. I highly recommend SWBTS and have watched them do everything possible to make Black students welcome and be extraordinarily generous in providing scholarships. I was blessed to have been granted opportunities to preach in chapel under the Dilday, Hemphill, and Patterson administrations. Grateful!

For many years, I looked at the SBC through the eyes of a boy; and I really saw a very beautiful picture. But as Paul said, when I was a child, I thought like a child; I reasoned like a child. [But] when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (I Corinthians 13:11).

As a man, I have sat at SBC tables and watched White churches pay 0% interest on small church loans, while Hispanic and Black churches had to pay 6%.

As a man, while touring the SBC Nashville headquarters and requesting information concerning the highest-ranking person in the seven-story facility, I was introduced to the head custodian.

As a man, I watched the SBC EC in Nashville grant the SBTC the right to launch another Texas convention because they wanted to be distinct and clear regarding inerrancy. When I requested the EC to allow another convention in Texas to be affirmed so there could be doctrinal distinction and clarity within the Baptist Faith & Message on spiritual gifts, my request was denied. The only difference was the skin color of who was making the request.

As a man, I watched the Chair of the Resolution Committee in Phoenix, Arizona, from the floor of the SBC, critique my alt-right resolution—something that was unprecedented—and call it, “poorly written and incendiary.” Never has any other resolution been criticized from the podium before.

As a man, I am watching the 2019 resolution committee having to eat humble pie and walk back Resolution 9—again, in an unprecedented fashion—led by a Black professor, Dr. Curtis Woods.

As a man, I was threatened to be removed by convention vote from SWBTS Trustee Board for making it known that I would vote against investing SWBTS money in liquor, cigarette, and gambling stocks. They labeled it “violating confidentiality.” Another man, who happened to be White, actually violated trustee confidentiality; he was never threatened with removal from the trustee board.

I know what it is like to participate and benefit from the SBC as a boy. I also know what it is like, as a man, to have contributed financially to the SBC far, far more than they gave our church in those early years.

I have been a boy in the SBC, and like most Blacks, I have sat at the kid’s table. Blacks have systemically been excluded from entity head positions in SBC life. In 70 years, the SBC has never seen it fit to appoint a qualified Asian, Hispanic or African American to serve as an entity head.

But on this issue and Resolution 9, we will not take this like a boy. We are going to fight back, like a man.

The reason I have not and will not leave the SBC is because I would rather fight than switch. This is my Convention too! I regret deeply that the seminary presidents would release a statement regarding race, but not have other races sit at the table for discussion. It is also worth noting that, historically and systemically, African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics have been excluded from that room.

There is on overwhelming consensus among African American pastors in the SBC on this issue. I have been very encouraged by the recent remarks of the president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Marshal Ausberry (NAAF, Ausberry respond to seminary presidents’ statement).

Think about this for a moment: a council of seminary presidents (that, again, has never once seated a minority) released a statement that has labeled and limited what an African American pastor must say in his pulpit regarding race and CRT in order to remain within this new SBC “orthodoxy.” This is staggering!

Resolution 9 does not contradict the Baptist Faith & Message. Resolution 9 does not contradict the Bible.

Just as Richard Land invited eight Blacks and eight Whites into a room to hammer out the 1995 statement on race (a unifying moment for our Convention), I am saying to our Convention, as a man, that you need to bring all races into the room. If Resolution 9 is to be tweaked, all of us should have a say—not just six White men—because some of us have paid our dues to the SBC as boys. We are now ready to stand up and be men. We will not take this sitting down!

I am beginning to field questions regarding whether or not African Americans should enroll in or maintain their current enrollment in SBC seminaries. I believe in the mission of the six Southern Baptist Seminaries. A quality ministerial and theological education can be attained at our seminaries. I am partial to SWBTS. My wife and I recently graduated with the Master of Theological Studies degree. I have found Dr. Adam Greenway and Provost Randy Stinson to be friendly, faithful, accessible, and affirming. I love Dr. Greenway’s “Big Tent” vision, which is in part why I yet affirm and appreciate SWBTS. My prayers and financial and moral support will continue at SWBTS.

I remain enamored and highly recommend the Kingdom Diversity initiative at SEBTS led by Dr. Walter Strickland. Like Adam Greenway, I also totally believe in the heart of Danny Akin on the issue of race. I also remain extremely grateful for Southern Seminary’s $5,000,000 scholarship commitment named in honor of Garland Offutt, the first African American graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It certainly represents fruit worthy of repentance.

However, for those who feel if trust between the SBC seminaries and your convictions and sensibilities have been breached beyond repair, I highly recommend you consider Truett Seminary as a viable evangelical alternative to pursue theological studies.

I am grateful for a long-term friendship with Dr. Joel Gregory, who was a professor of mine in the 80’s at SWBTS. Dr. Gregory has preached for me at Cornerstone Church many times. I requested he forward me a statement expressing the thinking of his current teaching post. This is Truett Seminary’s position on matters currently under discussion:

BAYLOR UNIVERSITY’S GEORGE W. TRUETT THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, BLACK LIVES MATTER, AND CRITICAL RACE THEORY

In the living of these days, every institution has a moral responsibility to speak clearly and transparently addressing the issues of our times related to justice, equity, and biblical solidarity with persons of color.  Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of color in our ongoing cohesion and commonality with every effort of shared aims.  We are humans only as we are in community with other humans.  “God has made of one blood all people of the earth” (Acts 17:26).  There is no place for ambiguity in opposition to racism, either individual or embedded in systems of oppression.  We further believe this must not only be an expression of empathy or sympathy, but rather active intervention to right historic wrongs, confront the powers, and stand with others in unity.  To that end George W. Truett Seminary.  We deplore any effort that marginalizes or diminishes the seriousness of the situation of the struggle.

Truett Seminary:

-Has established a black church studies program led by Rev. Malcolm Foley, noted leader and PhD candidate at Baylor, who is also on President Linda Livingstone’s cabinet as a special advisor on racial issues.

-Has inaugurated the African American National Preaching Conference with an emphasis on the history and present practice of prophetic Black preaching;

-Has entered into an agreement with the alumni of now closed (1988) Bishop College to be a center of reserving the legacy, spirit, and documents of that storied school;

-Has for years has had an empowered Truett Black Students Association that regularly stages events and brings speakers that keep issues before the entire student body;

-Has for 15 years observed a two-day E.K. Bailey preaching event, honoring the life and legacy of that famed black preacher;

-Has joined with the larger Baylor African American community to stress campus-wide at the world’s largest Baptist University a zero tolerance for racism in any of its demonic forms and to stand in solidarity with brother and sisters of color to transform every area of university culture.  One impact of this is a student body that is 37% visible minorities;

-Has joined with Proclaimers Place® as an academic sponsor certifying the attendance of nearly 1500 African American ministers in biblical exegesis and preaching.

-Has identified with Compassion International in its global effort to relieve children from poverty in Jesus name, most of whom are children of color.  An African American graduate of Truett, Rev. Arbra Bailey, leads the Compassion African American team.

In each of these and more beside Truett stands with our African American brothers and sisters in the fight against racism, oppression, marginalization, tokenism, and stereotyping of any kind.

In this COVID-19 and George Floyd era, African Americans will make choices about where they invest their money, time, votes, and ministry alignments based on where there is a mutual, reciprocal, and beneficial relationship. Unfortunately, these six seminary presidents’ statements moved in the opposite direction.

I recognize, however, the pain the seminary presidents have caused. A group of White alumni and current seminary students will soon release a statement voicing their displeasure with the presidents’ statement. For that I am grateful. Their objection to the presidents’ statement was not just based on race, but also the unwise notion of making what one believes about CRT something more than a matter of conscience, but a test of orthodoxy.