Southern Baptist leaders meet after a crucial doc on racial principle sparked controversy
(RNS) – Southern Baptist Convention officials admitted it would have been better if they had contacted black leaders of their denomination before issuing a statement deciphering critical racial theory, resulting in the departure of several black pastors .
In response to weeks of responses to the declaration and the request for the SBC’s National African American Fellowship to meet, the denomination seminar presidents and fellowship leaders met on Wednesday, January 6th.
In late November, the leaders of the six SBC seminars – all white men – declared that critical racial theory, a set of ideas about systemic racism, was inconsistent with the creed of the country’s largest Protestant denomination.
After the presidents made their statement, several black church leaders announced that they would leave the mostly white denomination.
The only black person to serve as the denomination’s president, New Orleans pastor Fred Luter, signed a Justice and Repentance Declaration on December 18, adding: “Some recent events have led to the formation of many brothers of color and sisters feel betrayed and wonder if the SBC is working for racial reconciliation. “
Later in December, the presidents of the seminary told the Washington Post that they regretted the statement “accidentally badly injuring some black brothers and sisters.” That was not their intention, they said, “even as we expressed our sincere concern about what we consider to be dangerous ideologies.”
After the meeting on Wednesday, the heads of the National African American Fellowship and the Council of Seminary Presidents of the SBC said in a joint statement on Friday that they had an “honest and frank conversation” during the virtual meeting. They discussed “our different perspectives on all of these issues” and vowed to keep talking.
“We all recognize that talks of this kind should have taken place in advance,” they said in the statement. “The Council of Seminar Presidents regrets the pain and confusion resulting from the lack of prior dialogue. Together we all commit to condemning and combating racism in every personal and structural form in accordance with the 1995 SBC Resolution on Racial Reconciliation and the Faith and Message of Baptists. “
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The discussion included joint plans to maintain and increase the enrollment of black students in the seminars.
“Seminar presidents shared a belief that CRT is not taught in their seminars,” Rev. Marshal L. Ausberry Sr., president of the African American community, told Baptist Press. “It’s your job to make these decisions and we can respect that.”
Danny Akin, chairman of the seminary council, told denomination news service that the meeting showed that “everyone loves and respects one another”.
SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd and SBC President JD Greear also attended the meeting, which Baptist Press reported took about three hours.
Greear had confirmed the seminary presidents’ original statement, but had also urged Southern Baptists to consider the later Justice, Repentance, and SBC statement, which argued that “some in the SBC are more concerned with political maneuvers than race have “diversity.
He told Baptist Press that these discussions “require nuance, grace, and better mutual understanding,” and regretted the timing of the discussions.
“Our Brothers and Sisters of Color should have been around the table from the start as we thought about what a gospel-based response to racism is like in our country,” Greear said. “I apologize that many of our brothers and sisters felt in this whole situation. Your voices are important for shaping our common future. “
During the meeting, leaders learned of the unrest that broke out when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. The Baptist leaders paused and prayed for the land.
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