On Thursday, The New Yorker published an in-depth analysis of how the Southern Baptist Convention — initially founded in support of slavery — faces increasing internal conflict as they fight over issues of confronting racism.
"For the past few years, prominent members of the S.B.C., including Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the denomination's oldest academic institution, have demonized C.R.T., calling it, among other things, Marxist and anti-Biblical," reported Eliza Griswold. "Critics have frightened S.B.C. members with the prospect that the theory could soon be used in public schools to indoctrinate children against conservative values. During the organization's yearly conference in 2019, the resolutions committee attempted to address the tensions over C.R.T., putting forth a statement that acknowledged incompatibilities between Biblical teachings and the academic theory, yet upheld the reality of structural racism."
"Within a week, hard-line conservatives within the S.B.C. seized upon the resolution and cast it as a threat from the left," said the report. "Throughout 2020, state chapters passed resolutions rejecting critical race theory. Then, last November, on the heels of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, the presidents of S.B.C.'s six seminaries issued an incendiary statement calling C.R.T. 'incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.' This outraged many pastors of color; none had suggested applying the teachings of C.R.T to the church, but they felt that its blanket rejection was being used by white leaders to dismiss the realities of racism."
One SBC pastor from Arlington, Texas, Dwight McKissic, was shocked at the anger and hate he got from urging the conference address racial issues better, receiving a letter from Southern Baptist author John Rutledge filled with racist hate and claiming that "the Negro" remains "savages." And John Onwuchekwa, a Nigerian-American pastor from Atlanta who abandoned the conference, said, "Y'all are arguing over a theory that is just trying to accurately describe the reality I live in. It's like someone is bleeding out on the floor and these guys are fighting over how many pints of blood a person can lose."
These sorts of issues are nothing new for the SBC to tackle — many of its members took a stand when President Donald Trump praised the Proud Boys at a presidential debate last year, denouncing white supremacy as a "scheme of the devil." But conflict is only increasing.
According to the report, the SBC will select its new leader at a conference in Nashville next week — and their selection will decide the future of the organization.
"One candidate is [Albert] Mohler, the seminary president who was the face of the charge against C.R.T.," wrote Griswold. "He told me recently that C.R.T. goes against 'both Christianity and modern political, classical liberty.' Another contender is Mike Stone, a pastor from South Georgia who is even more conservative than Mohler; when we spoke, he called C.R.T. a 'weapon of division.' The third is Ed Litton, a soft-spoken pastor who has been involved in racial-reconciliation efforts in Mobile, Alabama, and who believes that the fight over C.R.T. has become a way to avoid talking about the need for structural change in the Southern Baptist Convention. 'We have to exercise the muscle of Biblical truth, and also extend compassion to those who have suffered injustice,' Litton told me."
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