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When one reflects on the history and current reality of systemic injustice in America, there are some tenets that have been handed down to us that are beneficial in discussing and assessing structural racism in America. Structural racism in America today is not as potent and prevalent, or as visible and vicious as it was in previous generations, but it still exists. Therefore, it must be prophetically, educationally, and legally addressed and readdressed. We see it present in real estate appraisal differences based on color, prison sentencing differences based on color, job hiring discrimination toward names indicative of minority ethnicities, school discipline disproportional meted out toward minorities, income and net worth disparities that are generationally impacted, etc.

What are some tenets that have been handed to us that can inform society in grappling with structural racism today? Let me identify just three:

1. The value of storytelling. Many Americans are simply unaware of the racial atrocities of the past, that have an economic impact on today, regarding passing on generational wealth. The 1921 Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK, massacre of 300 African Americans, and the destruction of their buildings and businesses by an angry White mob over an alleged sexually inappropriate contact between a young Black male and White female. The White female refused to press charges; and the Black male was released after several months in jail. Yet, vigilante justice ruled. The most vital economic center for Blacks in America was destroyed, and insurance companies refused to make them whole. Not one arrest was made, for the White Tulsa citizens, who perpetrated this vicious and violent act. Similar stories can be repeated in at least 19 other southern cities.

An 88-year-old man in my congregation, with tears in his eyes told me the story of being physically and sexually violated by a White male in a rural area, of a southern state he was raised in. When I asked him, if he reported this incident to the law at the time, he said, No! Because law enforcement at the time in America would arrest you if you reported a White person violated you, sexually. He has simply had to live with the pain and shame. All the White pastors and the Council of Seminary Presidents have never had to listen to such stories. Every SBC Black pastor, have people in their congregations with similar stories. We dare not allow the SBC to devalue, regulate, or invalidate the stories of our people, due to their misunderstanding and biases against a theory designed to acknowledge the value of telling these stories.

2. The value of recognizing and including diverse people racially in all aspects of American society. We learn from the past that if we exclude persons on the basis of race, it prohibits a segment of America from contribution to society at large, in a way that is beneficial to all. Can you imagine baseball without Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron? Can you imagine golf without Tiger Woods or Lee Elder? Can you imagine historical theological contributions without J. Deotis Roberts, James Howard Thurman, James Cole, Tony Evans, or Martin Luther King, Jr.? Can you imagine the American church landscape without the AME Church, founded by Richard Allen, and the Pentecostal churches and the Church of God in Christ, whose roots can be traced back to William J. Seymour, Charles Harrison Mason, and C.P. Jones? Even the Assembly of God roots spawn from these movements.

Can you imagine the suffrage movements without Sojourner Truth, traveling across the country preaching “Aint I a woman?”

American life is much richer because of diversity that has had to be fought for long and hard against all odds, in order for substantial progress to take place. The diversity, inclusion efforts led to America electing, in 2008, a Black president of the USA, that many of us thought we would never see in our lifetimes.

To ignore the value and need of diversity is to be satisfied with, and to accept, exclusion. The advances in inclusion we see throughout America, are a result of marches, protests, demonstrations, legislation, prayer and exposing the fact that White America is often content to function without any minorities holding cabinet lever, corporate entity head or leadership positions as has been in the Southern Baptist Convention throughout her history.

Jesus affirmed the value of diversity and inclusion when He commissioned His disciples to evangelize the world from the theological and spiritual foundation of unity surrounding His incarnation (John 17:21).

3. There is value in acknowledging where systemic injustice exists and is embedded in societal structures, and applying biblical principles to root it out, as we see in Acts 6, where the complaint of the Grecian widows with regard to food distribution, was responded to with the appointment of Greek men to serve in the distribution, assuring fairness.

These aforementioned tenets are central to Critical Race Theory, and they are also compatible with the Bible and the BFM2K.

Derrick Bell, who is considered the father of Critical Race Theory, denied any Marxan influence or European scholarly influence on his development of CRT. He purposefully excluded them, he said, so that his work would be only influenced by persons such as Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglas, WEB Dubois, and Martin Luther King. If you want to know what CRT is, it is everything Martin Luther King has written, including his “I have A Dream Speech.”

It is totally dishonest and intellectually bankrupt, to discredit CRT by falsely associating it with Critical Theory. Again, Derrick Bell denies any connection. You would have to call him a liar to believe or write such.

If, as some argue, CRT declares all White people everywhere are racists, solely by virtue of being White—I reject that, and so does the Bible.

If CRT declares, as some argue, that Blacks cannot be racist, I reject that notion—and so does the Bible. Racism is a sin, and there are no sin Black people cannot commit—including racism. Because there are those who hold some aberrant, unbiblical views who may place them under the rubric of CRT, is not a valid reason to throw out the entirety of CRT, as the SBC is poised to do.

It would be a slap in the face of Sid Smith, George McCalep, L.B. George, Emmanuel McCall, and so many of the Black SBC pioneers to denounce CRT in its entirety. The SBC may indeed do so, though. If they do, I will not be leaving because they rejected CRT. I will be leaving because they dishonestly rejected CRT; and in the process, denied and denounced (1) the value of storytelling; (2) the value of diversity and inclusion; (3) the value of intentionally opposing systemic and structural injustice and racial sins—all in the name of rejecting CRT.

Honestly, it takes great audacity, given the SBC’s history, to take such a bold step, to denounce the entirety of CRT—particularly with the National African American Fellowship of the SBC unanimously opposed to denouncing CRT in its entirety. I am often asked how many Black churches may leave the SBC if Resolution 9 is rescinded. I honestly have no idea, and no desire to influence any to leave, which is one major reason why I am not going to attend the Nashville meeting. I do not want to be accused of leading churches away from the SBC. But what I do know is—as for me and my house—if the major thesis and thrust of Resolution 9, passed by a majority in Birmingham 2019, is gutted or rescinded—we will exclusively align with the National Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

By Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

I am sure those who adamantly opposed Resolution 9 from the 2019 Birmingham SBC Annual Meeting, will inevitably oppose The Lost Cause Theory, Christian Nationalism and QAnon. Please read the following resolutions that I am forwarding to the 2021 SBC resolutions committee. Thanks.

  1. On the Dangers of QAnon and Related Conspiracies
  2. On Christian Nationalist and Christian Identity Groups
  3. On the Lost Cause Theory of the Civil War

By Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

WHEREAS, on January 6, 2021, armed insurrectionists stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to prevent a joint session of Congress from counting the electoral votes that certified Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Kamala D. Harris of California as the duly elected President and Vice President of the United States, respectively; and

WHEREAS, photographs and videos taken outside the Capitol showed the disturbing appropriation of Christian symbols by the rioting mob; and

WHEREAS, multiple Southern Baptist leaders and every Southern Baptist entity head condemned the attack and appropriation of Christian symbols as unbecoming of both American citizens and Christians in various statements; and

WHEREAS, Christian Nationalism is an ideology that maintains that one cannot be a productive and patriotic citizen if one is not a Christian; and

WHEREAS, Christian Nationalism seeks to restrain the religious liberty of those who are not Christians; and

WHEREAS, leaders of Christian Nationalist and Christian Identity groups, along with those who subscribe to their ideologies, have engaged in various acts of domestic terrorism; and

WHEREAS, Article XVII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 affirms that “no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others,” and that “The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends”; and

WHEREAS, religious liberty, soul freedom, and liberty of conscience are all historic Baptist distinctives; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 15-16, 2021 condemn Christian Nationalist and Christian Identity groups, along with their respective sinful ideologies; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we further condemn any and all attempts—past, present, or future—to overthrow human government, an institution ordained by God for the good of all people (Rom. 13:1-7), so that it may be replaced with a Christian theonomic state; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists vigorously and proudly renew their commitment to religious liberty and soul freedom for all people, recognizing that these are implicates of our Lord Jesus Christ’s call to precious souls to follow Him.

by Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has a tragic and dark racial history steeped in the legacy of white supremacy and slavery, a history acknowledged in the 1995 “Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention”; and

WHEREAS, In 1863, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the “Resolution on Peace” as a response to the then-ongoing Civil War, a resolution that stated, “we justify ourselves in this conflict with our enemies” and hailed Confederate General Stonewall Jackson as a “noble Christian warrior” who had left a “glorious example” for Christians to follow; and

WHEREAS, In 2016, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the resolution “On Sensitivity And Unity Regarding The Confederate Battle Flag,” which called on “our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African American brothers and sisters”; and

WHEREAS, In 2017, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the resolution “On The Anti-gospel Of Alt-right White Supremacy” which decried “every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ”; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky recently expressed deep lament, established a multimillion-dollar scholarship for African American students in the coming years, and vacated the Joseph Emerson Brown Chair of Christian Theology as a response to the sinful slaveholding legacy of its founders; and

WHEREAS, Article XV of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 states, “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism,” along with many other sins; and

WHEREAS, Revisionist accounts of the Civil War began to spread among Southerners, including among those in the Southern Baptist Convention, almost immediately after the War; and

WHEREAS, Some of these revisionist accounts have persisted even to this day in public, private, and homeschooling curriculum, academic journals, white-supremacist organizations, and so-called Confederate “heritage” groups; and

WHEREAS, One such revisionist account, commonly known as “The Lost Cause,” maintains the following, among other things: that the Confederate cause was noble, justified, and righteous; that the issue of slavery was not a primary cause of the War; that Northern Aggression and states’ rights were the primary cause of the War; that historical accounts and descriptions of the godless and barbaric practice of chattel slavery were often exaggerated or inaccurate; that the Union sought to destroy the noble Southern way of life; and, finally, that secession from the Union was lawful; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 15-16, 2021, condemn, repudiate, and reject the revisionist account of the Civil War known as “The Lost Cause” as pseudo-historical, false, and racist; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we reaffirm the following words of the 1995 “Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention”: “RESOLVED, That we lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest, and we recognize that the racism which yet plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past”; and be it finally RESOLVED, That we commit to continue to address the sinful remnants of this Southern Baptist Convention’s legacy whilst celebrating what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do through us as we joyfully cooperate

By Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture indicates that “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Prov. 12:22); and

WHEREAS, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ affirmed that He alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 15:7); and

WHEREAS, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ further affirmed that God’s Word “is truth” (John 17:17), and that this truth “will set you free” (John 8:32); and

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture commands Christians to love one another “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18); and

WHEREAS, God loves and delights in those who are faithful in telling the truth (Ps.  51:6; Prov. 16:13); and

WHEREAS, Christians serve a God who, by His very nature, does not and cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18); and

WHEREAS, Recent unrest in our nation, such as the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, has been both the intentional and unintentional result of the widespread dissemination of false conspiracy theories on social media and other platforms; and

WHEREAS, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicated in an unclassified report on May 30, 2019, that “anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories very likely motivate some domestic extremists, wholly or in part, to engage in criminal or violent activity”; and

WHEREAS, Some families, organizations, local churches, and many in our nation have been tragically divided from each other because of the rise of such conspiracy theories; and

WHEREAS, Article XV of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 affirms, “Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 15-16, 2021, condemn in the strongest possible terms every form of disinformation, conspiracy, gossip, slander, vain speculation, and violent domestic political extremism; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we admonish all spreaders of disinformation and sowers of discord to repent of their sins and receive the grace of God as offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, assuring them that they can be forgiven if they will place their faith in the sin-atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on elected officials spreading disinformation that is harmful to our nation to cease doing so immediately, and for other elected officials to hold their colleagues accountable in this matter; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on social media platforms and web service providers to adopt clear and enforceable content policies that prohibit the dissemination of extremist ideas, demonstrably false information, and hate speech and calls to violence toward our fellow image-bearers of different biological sexes, races, ethnicities, national origins, creeds, disability statuses, and political persuasions, while also steadfastly maintaining a commitment to the free dissemination of diverse ideas; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we recommit ourselves to the commands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Scripture to love and disagree peaceably with one another if and when there are any differences of opinion among us in matters unrelated to our cooperation in evangelizing a lost and dying world (John 13:34; Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:2).

Last Monday I posted a letter I received from John V. Rutledge, that was clearly racist and expressed low regard for the intellectual capacities and Christian understanding and commitment to the biblical faith. A common response to the Rutledge letter from some Southern Baptists (SB) was that he was not representative of the SBC, and he has not been active in the SBC for the past 20 years (although he was active for 50 years).

The reason I posted the Rutledge letter was to make people aware that racist attitudes exist among some SB; and I raised the question, “what percentage of the SBC is represented by the mindset conveyed in this letter by John V. Rutledge?” I have no way of quantifying this percentage.

Today, I am publishing a letter written by Dr. Paige Patterson, former president of SWBTS, to Dr. Jimmy Draper, President Emeritus of Lifeway Christian Resources, an SBC entity. Roughly, from 1975 to 2020, Paige Patterson will be viewed by historians as the most influential personality in the SBC and the one who shaped the trajectory and doctrine of the SBC more so than anyone during that time frame.

My point is Paige Patterson is not a peripheral figure in SBC life and he currently is an active participant in SBC life. A copy of this letter is posted below. My sincere question is: what is the difference between the Patterson and the Rutledge letter? For sure Dr. Patterson does not use vile language to describe persons of African descent. But he does express a very similar discomfort with African American leadership and engagement with the SBC based on his perception of their lack of understanding of SBC issues—which is a polite way of referring to SBC African American pastors as ignorant of SBC doctrine.

Furthermore, he acknowledges that the election of a Black man as president caused him “quaking…a bit.” The letter indicates he believed the election of a Black pastor, Dr. Fred Luter, could result in a “slide a long way back” for the Convention. I am struggling to find—other than Patterson’s use of diplomatic and less offensive or alienating language—a difference between the Rutledge letter and the Patterson letter. They are both in agreement that Black leadership is unsettling and unwelcomed in the SBC, due to a perception that Blacks are somehow intellectually and doctrinally deficient.

Finally, you will never convince me that Paige Patterson’s mindset is not a significant current mindset of SBC pastors and congregants, although I want to believe they will be less than 50%.  The Conservative Baptist Network organized in 2020, represents the Patterson faction of the SBC. In their inaugural announcement, they made it very clear that they were anti-social justice. The Conservative Baptist Network (CBN) has also come out expressing full support for the Council of Seminary Presidents (CSP) statement that is a total denunciation of Critical Race Theory (CRT), and it is incompatible with the BF&M and the gospel.

The mere fact that the CSP, CBN, and former President Donald Trump are all in agreement on this issue is quite troubling for African Americans in the SBC. I am not sure why people want to paint Rutledge as an outlier when his views are represented in this Paige Patterson letter. The CSP statement is sanctioned by the Patterson-Trump faction of the SC which is a large segment of the SBC. How large? We don’t know. For all those SBC leaders who denounced the Rutledge letter should also denounce the Patterson letter. Rod Martin, a current member of the SBC Executive Committee called Ralph West a “Marxist.” Steve Swofford, also a current member of the SBC EC, called Madam Vice President, Kamala Harris, “Jezebel Harris.” Neither have been denounced by the SBC EC board.

Furthermore, there needs to be a walking back of the CSP statement if there is to be a rebuilding of the trust between African American Southern Baptists and the SBC. I assure you…trust has been broken, and it needs to be restored before we get to Nashville in June 2021. Evidence flies in the face of the SBC, that Rutledge is merely a lunatic and outlier, detached from current SBC mindsets. The current racial posture of the SBC is extremely disturbing.

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

In 2006, Dr. Jim Richards, the recently retired (2020) executive director of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBTC), made a startling statement regarding pastors in the SBT—which included me—who believed in the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit listed in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and I Peter 4, and their practice in the life of believers and churches today, gifts that are particularly often exercised in private worship. The backdrop of Dr. Richard’s comment was in response to a sermon that I preached in chapel at Southwestern Seminary in August 2006 entitled, “The Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit.”

In this message, I challenged the International Mission Board of the SBC to rescind their policy adopted in 2005, that placed absolute restrictions on the SBC missionaries from praying and praising in tongues in private, because their policy was simply in direct contradiction to the plain teaching of Scripture; and it violated the religious liberty and conscience of the missionaries who were gifted by the Holy Spirit to pray, praise and give thanks to God in tongues, as practiced and preached by Paul (I Corinthians 14:2-5).

Dr. Paige Patterson responded to the sermon by releasing a public statement declaring my message was “harmful to the churches”; and he removed the recording of the message from the seminary archives, making it unavailable to the public. No chapel message in SWBTS chapel history had been treated like mine, not even the one preached by Dr. Karen Bullock in chapel, prior to Dr. Patterson’s arrival.

In 2015, under David Platt, President of the IMB at the time, the SBC-IMB reversed their anti-tongues policy and permitted missionaries to pray in tongues in private. In 2018, Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, then Interim President of SWBTS, restored my sermon to the seminary archives. Dr. Adam Greenway said to me, that if Dr. Bingham had not restored the sermon, he would have restored it upon becoming SWBTS’ new president. I love and appreciate Southwestern Seminary.

Back to Dr. Jim Richard’s statement: In 2006 in response to my chapel sermon, he stated, “If you have a private prayer language, you may ride on the bus at SBTC, but you will not be able to drive the bus.” I found that statement incredibly offensive as an African American and as one who has been spiritually gifted to pray, praise, intercede and give thanks in tongues, under the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit, as is taught in I Corinthians 14. I shared my pain and disagreement with Dr. Richards. He assured me that his comment was not intended to imply a racial connotation, only a theological one. Dr. Richards was gentle, respectful, and kind in his response to me, although he disagreed with my beliefs and practice. I visited him in 2006 to express to him why our church was withdrawing membership in the SBTC. However, I remained a member from then until today, simply to not break fellowship over a tertiary issue. I DECIDED TO STAY ON THE BUS FROM 2006 UNTIL JANUARY 2021. But, today, I have decided it is time to “get off the bus.” I no longer want to ride, and I certainly do not want to drive!

In November 2020, the SBTC adopted a strongly worded, anti-CRT policy that denounces all aspects of Critical Race Theory.  There are certain aspects of CRT I also disagree with. For instance, if it is an accurate representation of CRT teachings that only Whites can be racists, I totally disagree with that premise. Racism is a sin. And there is not one sin a Black person is incapable of committing, including racism. However, there are beneficial aspects of CRT that cannot be denied. And because the SBTC, and it appears the SBC, are poised to deny any beneficial aspects of CRT, in a most dishonest fashion, I have decided to get off the bus. The purpose of this article is to explain why.

There is a current debate in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT). The SBC , in her Annual Session in Birmingham, AL, June 2019, adopted a Resolution regarding CRT (Resolution 9). The resolution committee was chaired by Dr. Curtis Woods, who at that time, was a professor in the Black Church Studies Department at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and also Associate Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist State Convention, which is affiliated with the SBC. Dr. Woods is the most articulate person in SBC life about CRT, having completed his doctoral dissertation related to the subject.

Resolution 9 was passed by the “Messengers.” In the time since the 2019 Convention, there has been major opposition to the Resolution from various sources in SBC life. The opposition disagrees in totality with any beneficial aspects to CRT. Those of us who support Resolution 9 agree with aspects of CRT. Dr. Tony Evans, who is associated but not affiliated with the SBC had the following comment on the subject:

“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.”

The reason this is a major concern for me, and by extension, the Cornerstone Church family, is because of the practical implications and ramifications of what could happen if Resolution 9 is rescinded or a 2021 resolution supplants/trumps the 2019 resolution. The most respected and major opposition is coming from the Council of Seminary Presidents (CSP) of the SBC. It is unprecedented for the CSP to take a defiant position to the resolution committee’s decision and the majority vote of the messengers. This link contains the seminary presidents’ (CSP) full statement. The crux of the CSP statement, which is the last 25 words, is the point of disagreement. The rest of the statement is innocuous, and we agree with it:

“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.”

The following are the reasons why the existing CSP statement (and the proposed SBC statement) could have impact upon our churches, and by extension, African American SBC churches, at large:

1. If this CSP statement is adopted in the June 2021 SBC Annual Session, in any form or fashion, thereafter when one addresses the subject of CRT or “race” from a seminary class, local church pulpit, or Sunday School class, “it could be interpreted” by the SBC/CSP policy as violating the SBC/CSP statement/policy on CRT, which could make any professor, pastor, preacher, or Sunday School teacher that is judged by this SBC/CSP policy, “incompatible with Baptist Faith and Message (BFM).” This could be used as grounds to dis-fellowship that church from the SBC or dismiss professors from their teaching assignments.

I am not willing to concede that type of power to the SBC/CSP based on an academic policy that originated with six Anglo seminary presidents.

2. The perceived image or impression by persons outside of the SBC/CSP will be to view Cornerstone and African American churches as being subjected to the SBC/CSP regarding what we can teach about CRT, and by extension, race, and remain in compatibility with the BFM2K based on the CSP existing statement, and what could become the SBC statement in June 2021.

I am not willing to allow them to dictate what the belief systems, definitions and authoritative binding, academic and ecclesiastical decisions regarding how race is to be communicated in the local church or be subject to SBC interrogations and investigations for having spoken outside of the CSP-SBC CRT policy.

3. We are not willing to sign-off on SBC seminaries and affiliated entities to be able to indoctrinate African American congregations and seminary students regarding CRT. Why? (A) Because this policy was developed without consulting with at least one African American in its origination; and (B) this policy fails to acknowledge that there are beneficial aspects to CRT. To affirm this policy is to affirm a dishonest approach to CRT.

4. The existing and proposed CSP/SBC policy empowers entity heads who happen to be all Anglo, to be in a final decision-making authority to determine the content of all literature that flows to our churches on the subject of CRT, and by extension, the subject of race.

4. Given the SBC’s history on race, it is preposterous to ask African American churches to blindly trust their interpretations regarding CRT—and by extension, “race.”

5. I have absolutely no clue what Dr. Malcolm Yarnell was addressing in the following tweet. However, it is applicable in my judgment to the Council of Seminary Presidents statement on CRT.

“Theologically speaking, to require an affirmation of something not addressed by Scripture or to require a condemnation of something not addressed by Scripture—both of these equally contradict the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.”

Make no mistake about it, I believe the Bible speaks with supreme authority in every area, including race. Where any racial theory contradicts Scripture, Scripture rules overall! This is applicable to the CSP/SBC CRT kerfuffle.

7. The SBC is openly rejecting the collective wisdom of men like Fred Luter, Tony Evans, Marshal Ausberry, The National African American Fellowship of the SBC, hundreds of African American pastors, and her own African American professors by dismissing our claims that there are beneficial aspects to CRT.

For these reasons, we are pulling out of SBTC; and if the CSP/SBC policy is ratified in June, we are discontinuing our affiliation with the SBC also. We are “getting off the bus”!

Finally, let me be clear: we are maintaining and strengthening our relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT); we are also maintaining and strengthening our relationship with the National Baptist Convention, which I am humbled for the opportunity to serve as a member of their Executive Committee. Furthermore, we may explore partnering with and launching a church planting, disciple-making, cross cultural fellowship—Kingdom collective, whose DNA is interracial from the outset.

A gentleman said to me, “Please pastor, wait for a season. Just as the SBC in 2006 rejected your message on respecting liberties in private worship, and reversed course in 2015 and 2018, they may reverse course and recognize certain beneficial aspects to CRT.” The gentleman could be right.

However, a better solution is to treat CRT in the same way we treat a bruised apple. If you cut out the bruised part, no matter how large it may be, and you consume the rest. If the SBC would take a “bruised apple” approach to this controversy, the division over CRT immediately halts.

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.

I am grateful for the $5,000,000 scholarship commitment named in honor of Garland Offfutt, the first African American graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It certainly represents fruit worthy of repentance. It speaks to the past and to the future. Hats off to Dr. Mohler and the trustee board for this historic decision that is a step toward healing. It remains my deep conviction that there is a moral inconsistency with the orthodox Christian Faith that cannot reconcile the celebration and honoring of men stealers and child abusers with the inerrant and infallible Word of God.

Here is a letter I penned to Dr. Mohler this past Friday in anticipation of today’s decision that summarizes my full response.

October 9, 2020

Dr. R. Albert Mohler
2825 Lexington Rd.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, KY 40206

Dear Dr. Mohler,

Thank you for the candor and transparency you expressed in our 35-minute cordial conversation on Thursday evening, October 8, primarily regarding my request to remove the names of the slaveholding founders of SBTS.

You honored me by asking, what message would I want you to deliver to the trustees at Southern Seminary. I hope that you will convey to them this entire email, or whatever sentiments that I have expressed here, that you would want to pass on.

It remains my deep conviction that, there is a moral inconsistency with the orthodox Christian Faith, that cannot reconcile the celebration and honoring of men stealers and child abusers, with the inerrant and infallible Word of God (I Timothy 1:10; Matthew 18:6). There is an orthodoxy within me that will not permit the advocacy of an idea that is not biblically grounded. Honoring those who dishonored the Imago-Dei in others for profit, is simply not an honorable thing to do, or continue to do.

I am also persuaded that the next generation will not accept this moral inconsistency and will change the names of these unrepentant abusers of mankind, in their lifetime. They will be driven by biblical and ethical values, that will weigh heavier to them than the legitimate historic, emotional, and administrative challenges and ties, that makes this decision a heavy one on all involved. I pray the Lord will let me live long enough to see it.

It was, and is, my desire to obey God by bringing this matter to your attention and the SBTS/SBC’s attention.

For the sake of unity and peace in the Southern Baptist Zion, I too, accept your recommendation regarding the disposition of this matter and appreciate the serious deliberations you and the trustees are giving to this matter.

Furthermore, I honor you, Dr. Mohler, and the SBTS trustees for your preliminary proposed initiative to honor Garland Offutt, the first Black graduate of SBTS, with the generous funding of generous scholarships to be awarded to African American students. In a practical sense, the funding of these scholarships will be more meaningful to the recipients, than removing the slaveholder’s names.

Additionally, I am really elated by any consideration and recommendation that you may give to honoring the 51+ slaves, who actually contributed greatly to the initial funding of SBTS by virtue of the wealth they provided to Boyce, Broadus, Manly, and Williams, with their involuntary free labor.

Honestly, if the unnamed slaves are given a significant memorial, tribute prominently displayed on campus, it would go a long way toward reckoning and righting the wrong (the moral wrong) of the founder’s names being prominently displayed. I will be glad to contribute to a noteworthy, highly visible memorial in honor of the slaves who have never been recognized for their mammoth financial contribution to the school. I am grateful for your heart to consider giving honor to whom honor is due. This may be a “Solomonic” solution to addressing needs and concerns of all who care about this situation.

Finally, thanks again for your phone call. I sincerely enjoyed and was edified by the conversation. Much appreciation and respect for you! May God continue to smile upon your ministry at SBTS.

For His Kingdom,

Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr., 
Senior Pastor
Cornerstone Baptist Church

When the Past Meets the Present

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

 “Sitting in Broadus Chapel waiting for my Christian Preaching Class to begin. Oddly enough the man who this chapel is named after would have likely observed me as an individual that he just had to deal with or even in his own words, ‘one who belongs to a very low grade of humanity.’ As I’ve walked across the campus today, I realize that an unfortunate reality is that the attitude and heart of John A. Broadus still exists. Nevertheless, I know who I am. I know what I am. I know who I belong to. I know what I’ve been called to do and I’m thankful to be learning under the teaching of Dr. York.” (Deryk Hayes)

The reason I am so passionate about addressing the topic slaveholders’ names being prominently embedded in the life of Southern Seminary, can be illustrated by this Facebook Post of a current SBTS student, Deryk Hayes, having to reckon with the words of John A. Broadus, the namesake of Broadus Chapel, speaking of his assessment of African descendants: “one who belongs to every low grade of humanity.”

The past and the present shook hands as Deryk Hayes began his seminary journey at SBTS. Those in the undergraduate school at SBTS, Boyce College, must wrestle and reckon with an equally racist posture of their namesake, Dr. James P. Boyce. No student of any race should have to begin the first day of class having to process an unwelcoming posture, advocated by prominent historical personalities in the school’s history.

The late Dr. T. Vaughn Walker was a well-known, highly respected preacher, professor, and pastor who, if I am not mistaken, was the first Black tenured professor in SBC seminary history. He predates Al Mohler at SBTS. My congregation recently donated $5000 to a scholarship fund in honor of Dr. Walker, that we are now requesting be given to Deryk Hayes.

My friend, Dr. Tom Nettles, recently responded to my letter to Dr. Al Mohler, wherein I requested the name of Dr. James P. Boyce no longer be given the place of honor it has been given at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He specifically called me to task by arguing that the removal of the name of Boyce would require the removal of the school’s commitment to engage in theological education at the undergraduate level and at the doctoral level. Moreover, he implied that to deny Boyce the place of a hero at Southern Seminary would cast into doubt the need for the school’s Abstract of Principles, and for the truths it upholds, such as biblical hermeneutics and Baptist polity.

While I have not responded to Dr. Nettles at length before now, please allow me the privilege of addressing certain questions about Boyce and the racist slave legacy which hinders the future prosperity of our Louisville seminary. I will not defend my previous arguments, since there is nothing within Dr. Nettles’ presentation which undermines the fundamentals of what I previously said. (I do appreciate Dr. Nettles affirming that we should seek freedom if possible, according to 1 Corinthians 7:21. I hope he will one day see that the whole message of the Bible is for human freedom, in body and soul.) Here, I only want to engage with Dr. Nettles about Boyce in particular. Dr. Nettles has written a large biography full of appreciation for Boyce, among other books and articles detailing his professional passion for the early Southern Baptists.

Please remember I am fully supportive of the educational mission of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as it has been authorized by our Southern Baptist Convention of churches. I am merely arguing for the removal from their current place of honor the names of Boyce and others who bought, sold, or continued to hold kidnapped human beings precisely. I am arguing for this so that Southern’s mission can be maintained with integrity. As long as our seminary makes heroes of those who were “menstealers,” she elevates those who taught “contrary to the sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:10).

Southern Seminary wants to be “trusted for truth,” but if it continues to elevate Boyce, it contradicts the truth given to the Apostle Paul, which he said was “committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:12). I want to help Southern Seminary be trusted fully among those who love God and believe his inerrant Word but who do not, like Nettles, see Boyce as a hero. Many of us see him as a problematic person with a checkered legacy, who does not deserve the status of hero that he has been given.

Second, I disagree with Nettles’ contention that to remove these names somehow undermines the educational mission and theological integrity of the seminary. He argued in flowery language that maintaining respect for persons like Boyce is necessary for maintaining respect for the principles of the seminary. He said Boyce and other slaveholders constructed, or even are “immovable pillars, made in denominational identity and theological perpetuity in the establishing of the institution itself.” Nettles seems to believe that persons and principles are so bound together that if you disagree with a person then you must reject everything he said. I certainly do not believe this. As we preachers used to say, “God can make straight licks with crooked sticks.” But the sticks must still be seen as crooked.

Nettles’ way of thoroughly integrating truths with persons, making the truth itself dependent upon the messenger of truth, is what encourages the “cancel culture” he says he dislikes. Nettles’ method feeds into “cancel culture” because it encourages “hero-worship” toward fallible men. One of us exalts Boyce as a hero; the other reminds us of his moral failure. Dr. Jonathan Arnold, one of Nettles’ own former colleagues at Southern Seminary, says in a recent podcast we must be careful to avoid the opposite errors of “hero-worship” and “cancel culture.” I agree. Let’s remove the hero-worship and, in this way, avoid the cancel culture. Let’s keep Boyce in our studies. But let’s not exalt him as a hero. Let’s treat him as a real person with real faults who gloriously confessed Jesus as Lord but then went on to say some true things and some false things.

Third, let’s talk about Boyce for a moment. Perhaps Nettles wants us to treat Boyce as if he actually repented of his support of slavery. Nettles cites one letter, written immediately before the Civil War, in a number of different places. In that letter, Boyce said, “I believe I see in all this the end of slavery. I believe we are cutting its throat, curtailing its domain.” Boyce then conceded, “Yet I bow to what God will do. I feel that our sins as to this institution have cursed us.” Such a concession almost sounds like repentance for the institution of race-based chattel slavery itself. But this most certainly is not repentance. For, in the sentence between his prophecy of slavery’s demise and his concession to divine providence, he states unequivocally, “And I have been, and am, an ultra pro-slavery man.” The letter itself was written in defense of secession from the United States and for the establishment of the Confederacy.

What is going on with Boyce? Why did he say these things? John Lee Eighmy, a highly respected historian who taught at Oklahoma Baptist University disclosed in his book, Churches in Cultural Captivity: A History of the Social Attitudes of Southern Baptists, that such sentiments were part of the southern apology for white supremacy and slavery. Southern Baptist slaveowners developed a strategy for supporting slavery, by expounding first, “on the fanaticism of abolitionism,” second, “the scriptural support of slavery,” and third, “the need for humane treatment and religious instruction of slaves.” Boyce wasn’t arguing against slavery but against inhumane practices within slavery, all while failing to recognize his racist chattel slavery is not biblical and not humane.

Eighmy also says the Southern Baptist slavery apologists argued for the institution as a means of reaching the heathen: “justification of slavery ultimately rested on the opportunity the system provided for the African’s salvation from heathenism.” Nettles himself buys into this same argument for the institution of race-based chattel slavery. In Teaching Truths, Training Hearts, Nettles writes, “Dagg’s vision of the evangelistic advantages of the providence of slavery is not wholly indefensible.” I appreciate the founders’ concern for the souls of my ancestors, but there was a better way to bring them the gospel than by kidnapping them, chaining them, abusing them, selling them, buying them, and holding them as property. Evangelism is very, very important, but the human beings we evangelize are important, too. The founders could have followed Jesus’ Great Commission by “going” to my ancestors with the biblical message of freedom rather than by forcing them to come in chains to the “masters” who bought them like things.

Whatever Boyce’s daughter said about his treatment of his own slaves, before or after the war, I am not aware that Boyce ever actually repented of his own actions and support for an institution established for the stealing of precious human beings made in the image of God. Conceding to providential judgment is not the same thing as repenting of “man-stealing.” This is why, with all due respect to Dr. Nettles, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary should bring down their names from the place of heroes so that we can remember that they were but men. Southern’s first president was a man, who could be saved by grace through faith in the abused Son of God, just like any of us can be. But Boyce was also an “ultra pro-slavery man” and not a hero. Jesus Christ, who never owned a man but bought us freedom with his own blood, is our true hero. 

NOTE: Due to the demands of two seminary classes, three outside speaking engagements, and regular pastoral responsibilities, my time for commenting and responding to comments, will be very limited.

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