Several Black pastors within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are weighing leaving the convention due to a lack of racial sensitivity from the predominately white convention.
According to the Associated Press, one of the primary sticking points came from a statement issued by six white seminary presidents in November of last year. The statement declared that critical race theory— the study and critique of systemic racism—was incompatible with the scripture-based tenets of the SBC.
Obviously, this rubbed a lot of Black pastors within the convention the wrong way.
“The optics of six Anglo brothers meeting to discuss racism and other related issues without having ethnic representation in the room in 2020 — at worst it looks like paternalism, at best insensitivity,” Virginia pastor Marshal Ausberry, president of the organization that represents the SBC’s Black pastors, told Baptist Press.
Ausberry wrote a letter to the presidents explaining that critical race theory is necessary to “help us to see and discover otherwise undetected, systemic racism in institutions and in ourselves.”
The presidents eventually apologized for issuing a proclamation about race without actually talking to the people it affects, but have remained steadfast in their belief that identifying racism somehow isn’t in line with the Bible.
Dwight McKissic, a Texas-based pastor who has been with the SBC for over 45 years, attended a meeting with the presidents on Jan. 6 and said that while it was polite, “the outcome was not respectful to who Black people are in our history.”
Another point of contention is the possibility of Rev. Albert Mohler being elected SBC president. Mohler is a high-profile conservative who was vocal about his support of former President Donald Trump throughout the 2020 election. Mohler was also a key figure behind the statement denouncing critical race theory. McKissic believes that Mohler’s support of Trump “should disqualify him from being SBC president.”
The general indifference to race has led to several Black pastors already leaving the SBC. Rev. Charlie Dates of the Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago left the church, calling the statement regarding critical race theory “the last straw.”
“The hard reality of the seminary presidents’ statement is that Black people will never gain full equality in the Southern Baptist Convention.” Dates wrote in a an op-ed for Religion News Service.
Rev. Joel Bowman has abandoned plans to add his congregation into the SBC. “I genuinely believe the SBC is headed in the wrong direction,” Bowman told AP. “White evangelicals have gotten in bed with the Republican Party.”
McKissic has said that he is willing to stay in the SBC until June, when the convention has its national meeting in Nashville. McKissic is prepared to exit the convention should delegates vote to make the sentiment against critical race theory an official policy.
“If they adopt that statement in June, it would be the feeling to me that people you trusted hit you in the face with a baseball bat,” McKissic said.