Ralph D. West, pastor of Houston, breaks ties with Southern Baptists for important rejection of racial idea
(RNS) – A pastor who is a PhD student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, announced in an editorial on Wednesday, December 16, that he was retiring from his degree and that his mega-church was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention because of a recent statement by his seminar presidents on critical racial theory.
The move by Rev. Ralph D. West, founder and pastor of Church Without Walls in Houston, is the latest backlash from the November 30 statement by six presidents of the Southern Baptist seminary denouncing critical racial theory and intersectionality.
READ: The presidents of the Southern Baptist Seminary have no critical theory of race
The presidents, all six white men, made the statement that the racial theory was “incompatible” with the central confirmation of the denomination, the Baptist Faith & Message. West, a black pastor, is only the youngest to criticize the testimony of leaders of the nation’s largest Protestant body, which has 14.5 million members.
Commenting on the Texas SBC publication Baptist Standard, West writes, “It was during this time that these men chose to castigate a framework that points to a truth that cannot be denied. American history was marked by racism. America codified it. And what’s more, our public and private institutions have promoted it. “
Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention’s National African American Fellowship asked to meet the presidents of the seminary and said their testimony was impervious to blacks.
READ: Black Southern Baptists incriminate civil servants’ critical criticism of racial theory
Others criticized the statement as well, pointing out that the Southern Baptist Convention, founded in 1845 by Christians who believed missionaries could own slaves, still couldn’t shake its troubling racist past. (In 1995 the denomination officially apologized for slavery, saying, “We really regret the racism for which we are guilty.”)
Critical race theory has come under fire in conservative and right-wing circles who reject the idea of systemic racism and criticize the Black Lives Matter movement. In September, President Donald Trump issued an ordinance banning critical racial theory from government-sponsored race and gender training.
In their statement, the seminary presidents did not explain how critical racial theory collides with the core beliefs of the Southern Baptists.
The theory is used in many academic circles to explain how racial inequality cannot be understood without social, economic, and legal systems that benefit white interests.
West said he was retiring from Southwestern Seminary and severing all ties between his church and denomination while maintaining his affiliation with Baylor University, which is not affiliated with the SBC.
The pastor could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
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