Failing to heed the call from Southern Baptist leaders to integrate their churches in pursuit of racial justice, two-thirds of evangelicals polled expressed no interest in seeing their congregations become more ethnically diverse, reports the Associated Press.
“In the church, a black Christian and a white Christian are brothers and sisters,” Rev. Russell Moore, who leads the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote recently in an appeal for more diversity. “We care what happens to the other, because when one part of the Body hurts, the whole Body hurts. … When we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to stand up and speak up for one another.”
The Southern Baptist church is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with nonwhite congregations making up 20 percent of the Southern Baptist Convention’s nearly 51,000 congregations, of which only 1 percent are multiethnic.
The vast majority of Southern Baptists attend churches predominantly attended by people of their own race; black, white or Hispanic.
A phone survey of about 1,000 churchgoers by Lifeway Research recently found that only 37 percent of evangelicals wanted to see their churches become more ethnically diverse.
The survey was not broken down by denomination.
“The church lacks the moral authority to address the world about race before we set our own house in order,” said the Rev. Dwight McKissic, a black Southern Baptist pastor in Arlington, Texas.
In 1995 — on the 150th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention — membership passed a “Resolution On Racial Reconciliation,” calling racism a “deplorable sin.”
“Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Sesquicentennial meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, assembled in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20-22, 1995, unwaveringly denounce racism, in all its forms, as deplorable sin,” the resolution read, citing Genesis 1:27 and Galatians 3:28, which reads: “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The Southern Baptist Church claimed 15.7 million members last year, with church rolls declining for the seventh straight year.
[Correction: The headline on this post previously said “Southern Baptists” instead of “evangelicals,” which misrepresented the polls findings.]