When I tell a new friend that I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and that my current church belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention there’s moment of wondering how they might respond. When it comes to racial reconciliation throughout American history, not all Christians have been on the right side; not all churches either. That is true of our SBC churches and members. But I am thankful to know that our identity is not the sum total of our past sins. The Gospel of Jesus transforms sinful hearts. A lot has changed over the years within our association of churches for which we should give praise to God. More transformation is still needed through which our Lord will surely, by faith, lead us.
It is good for us to be reminded often of these things so that we will rejoice and press forward. Below, I have included an article with good information provided for our churches by one of our denomination’s agencies.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][The following article was written by Joe Carter and distributed in The Weekly by the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Read more from the ERLC here.]
- In 1814, Baptist churches in the U.S. joined together to create the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination. By 1845 the churches were divided over the issue of slavery. As church historian Miles Mullin explains, Baptists in southern states desired to make slavery a non-issue, while abolitionist forces in the North (and among northern Baptists) desired the convention to take a moral stand against it. The following year group of representatives from Southern churches created a new denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. Despite having been founded on racial division, the SBC has become increasingly racially diverse. Today, there are more than 3,500 Southern Baptist congregations that identify as predominantly African-American, comprising about seven percent of all SBC churches.
- In 1995, on the denomination’s 150th anniversary, the Convention voted to adopt a resolution on racial reconciliation that apologized for its racist roots, for condoning and perpetuating individual and systemic racism, and committed to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry. 3. At the 2009 SBC annual meeting tasked an Executive Committee study group to examine “how ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders can be more actively involved in serving the needs of the SBC through cooperative partnership on the national level.” After two years of study, the committee released their report, A Review of Ethnic Church and Ethnic Church Leader Participation in SBC Life. The committee recommended that:
- entities annually submit a descriptive report of participation of ethnic churches and church leaders in the life and ministry of each entity.
- the SBC President’s Notebook given to each newly elected president encourage him to “give special attention to appointing individuals who represent the diversity within the convention, and particularly ethnic diversity” among his appointees to various committees.
- the SBC president report the total number of appointees that represent the ethnic diversity when names for committees are released to Baptist Press.
- the SBC President’s Notebook encourage the president to encourage the selection of annual meeting program personalities that represent the ethnic diversity within the convention.
- the Committee on Order of Business consider the ethnic identity of program personalities for annual meetings.
- the Committee on Nominations form be amended to provide a place where a nominee may indicate his or her ethnic identity.
- the Committee on Nominations include in its annual report the number of individuals among its nominees that represent the ethnic diversity within SBC life.
- entities give due consideration to the recruitment and employment of qualified individuals who reflect well the ethnic diversity within SBC life.
- the Executive Committee, through its various publications and news outlets, continue to provide news coverage of interest to individuals of all ethnic interests and to highlight what God is accomplishing through Baptists of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
- the Executive Committee receive a report from EC staff each year during its February meeting concerning the participation of ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders in SBC life.
- At its annual convention in 2012, the SBC elected as president Fred Luter Jr., the first African American to hold the position. As ERLC president Russell Moore said at the time, “A descendant of slaves elected to lead a denomination forged to protect the evil interests of slaveholders is a sign of the power of a gospel that crucifies injustice and reconciles brothers and sisters. The election of Fred Luter doesn’t mean the question of racial justice is settled for Southern Baptists, but it is one small step toward our confessing that Jesus Christ and Jim Crow cannot exist in the same denomination, or in the same heart. One has got to go.”
- In 2015, twenty years after the original racial reconciliation resolution, the SBC adopted another resolution vowing to “rededicate ourselves to the holy responsibility and privilege of loving and discipling people of all races and ethnicities in our communities.” The resolution urges churches to demonstrate their heart for racial reconciliation by seeking to increase racial and ethnic diversity in church staff roles, leadership positions, and church membership, and also calls on Southern Baptist entities and Convention committees to make leadership appointments that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the body of Christ and of the Southern Baptist Convention.