Reflecting on recent comments about race and the Trayvon Martin case from the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land, Jonathan Merritt writes at the Huffington Post that the group needs a change of heart.
The SBC drags behind it a shameful history on matters of race. The first Southern Baptist churches were birthed out of a desire to appoint slaveholders as missionaries. Preachers in the denomination vocally opposed the civil rights movement and supported Jim Crow laws. In 1956, Texas pastor W.A. Criswell, still considered a paragon among contemporary Southern Baptists, argued before a joint session of the South Carolina legislature that de-segregation was un-Christian.
In the last 30 years or so, however, the SBC has made progress. Criswell apologized for his position before he died, and the convention passed a Johnny-come-lately "Resolution on Racism" in 1989 stating, "Southern Baptists have not always clearly stood for racial justice and equality." Better late than never.
Additionally, the denomination is expected to elect their first African-American President in Fred Luter at the upcoming annual convention in June. And a top-level task force will recommend an alternate name, "Great Commission Baptists," in part because of the racial baggage their historic name holds.
Read Jonathan Merritt's entire piece at the Huffington Post.