OKLAHOMA CITY — The first time I was called a nigger to my face was by a fellow camper at a Southern Baptist Convention retreat near Oklahoma City. I was 13, and it was 1995. Devastated, I complained to a counselor who suggested I pray for the ability to turn the other cheek. Since then, I have done just that and more: I’ve been an ordained minister in the convention for almost a decade.(I’m sorry that young Lawrence was insulted by a fellow camper at the age of 13, but it hasn’t ruined his life).
But I’ve had enough. Today I am officially renouncing my ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention…My reasoning is simple: As a black scholar of race and a minister who is committed to social justice, I can no longer be part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy.So let’s break this down.
An incident last month has compelled me not only to leave, but also to explain why. During the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, Dwight McKissic, a prominent black pastor in Arlington, Tex., introduced a resolution that denounced white supremacy and the “retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases and racial bigotries of the so-called alt-right.” The resolution should have been immediately adopted. It was not.A contingent of predominantly white, old-guard members refused to take the resolution seriously, even while many black and progressive clergy members advocated its adoption. It was not until chaos ensued that a reworded resolution vowing to “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” was adopted. [Links in original]So the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the resolution, but Ware objects that they didn’t adopt it immediately! And, some didn’t take it seriously. And I guess all that “parliamentary procedure” slows things down. But it finally was adopted overwhelmingly. In fact, Ware’s own op-ed contains a photo of almost entirely white SBC messengers (delegates) holding up green cards to denounce the Alt Right. Isn’t that a victory?Oh, but something else occurred at the convention…
What sort of “activists” were they? What were they doing to get “thrown out”? How is the denomination “failing its L.G.B.T.Q. members?” Does Ware object to the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention regards homosexuality as a sin? This is not made clear. Whatever the case, for Ware it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
What’s more, while they hesitated to adopt a resolution that condemned white supremacy, they did not hesitate to throw out activists who tried to raise awareness about the ways in which the convention fails its L.G.B.T.Q. members.
For me, the damage had been done. I wasn’t at the meeting, but after I heard about what happened, it became clear to me that it was time to go. I don’t know why I stayed so long.It sounds like Ware was just waiting for something to set him off.
This is just the most recent example of the kind of retrograde thinking on race by convention members. In April, five white professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth dressed in a way that mimicked gangsta rappers. They posed for a picture wearing hoodies, hats to the side and flashy necklaces. One of the professors was holding what looked like a gun.Ware is referring to a recent tempest in a teapot involving the School of Preaching at the denomination’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some professors, to bid farewell to a colleague who was leaving, posed for a photograph dressed up like rappers.It does look ridiculous, but it was decried “for portraying African-Americans as criminals”.[ Q: Who Shouldn't Dress Up as Black Gang Members? A: White religion professors, as Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary has learned. By Scott Jaschik, InsideHigherED, April 27, 2017]Huh? How do African-American rappers portray themselves?Of course, Southwestern rolled right over.
The university president apologized and lamented the “moment of bad judgment,” but nothing meaningful was done. To me, their performance constituted more than bad judgment. Mockingly stereotyping African-Americans revealed the moral bankruptcy of their souls. These men are responsible for preparing ministers for the work of the church, after all.Then Ware gets back to Trump-bashing.
Sadly, they are in good company. In April, the Pew Research Center reported that 78 percent of white evangelicals, many of whom are Southern Baptists, approve of President Trump’s job performance.And that, says, Ware, cannot be tolerated.
None of this is new. The convention has a history of being on the wrong side of history. It was founded in 1845 because white Southern Baptists disagreed with the antislavery attitudes and abolitionist activities of Northern Baptists. During the civil rights movement, members of the convention almost unilaterally supported segregation.Here we go again. The “original sin” of the Southern Baptist Convention, brought up again and again.
They have since worked hard to convey the appearance of racial inclusivity in an attempt to attract black churches to shore up declining convention membership. The convention even issued a formal apology in 1995 for its support of slavery and segregation.Yes, the SBC has approved various such resolutions and will probably continue to do so. But it’s never enough for Ware. They’re still racists—mostly:
To be sure, many prominent convention leaders have opposed Mr. Trump and the alt-right. Indeed, one of them, Russell Moore, went so far as to voice his criticism before the election.Ah yes, Russell Moore. [Email/Tweet him] The New York Times’ favorite evangelical, has gotten to write several op-eds blasting his fellow evangelical Christians—and Donald Trump. [A White Church No More, May 6, 2016]
But not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention.The “institutional nature of white supremacy” —whatever is Ware talking about? No matter, it sounds very authoritative.
Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement,So if you don’t jump on the Black Lives Matter racket, that’s a sin?
…and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right.Wait a minute, I thought THEY PASSED A RESOLUTION AGAINST THE ALT RIGHT!
I’ve discussed my concerns with many other black ministers my age, and virtually all of us have questioned our membership. At least five of them have quietly left the convention over the past year.But Ware is still a Baptist:
(To be sure, I will still remain a minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a liberal black Baptist organization, founded in 1961 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)OK, so he’s still in the denomination MLK founded.
An organization with a history of racism does not change easily, and asking for forgiveness is not tantamount to doing what is needed to eradicate the lingering stain of it. To be sure, seeking to change a broken system from within has merits, and in this age of Trump, we need institutions that can bind us together. Yet it saddens and scares me to think that the church, especially given its role in the black community as a place for moral correction and existential validation, may no longer be able to serve that purpose. Despite our need for such a place, acquiescence in the face of racism and homophobia won’t heal them; it will only allow the wounds to fester.I’m getting the impression that nothing white people do is going to please Professor Ware.
I want to be a member of a body of believers that is structured around my Christian beliefs of equity, not one that sees those issues as peripheral. The equality of all people should be a fundamental principle that is a starting point of the convention’s existence, not a side issue to be debated.Professor Ware is saying that he can’t be in a church unless everyone agrees with him on political, social and racial issues.Christianity is a big tent. It’s a global religion. It includes many sorts of people. Though they all agree on belief in Jesus Christ and the fundamentals, they may disagree on a whole lot of other things. That’s true diversity.And looking at the entire Christian population in 2000 years of history, only a tiny fraction of Christians have held the same political and social beliefs of 21st- century American liberals.Yet if Southern Baptists don’t agree with Ware, he condemns them.He concludes:
I love the church, but I love black people more. Black lives matter to me. I am not confident that they matter to the Southern Baptist Convention.Bottom line: Nothing the Southern Baptist Convention can do will satisfy those of Lawrence Ware’s persuasionThat’s why I advise the Southern Baptist Convention to dissolve, if they are so ashamed of their heritage, and let all the local congregations continue as independent Baptist churches.American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan`s wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here ; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.