Southern Baptists, Racial Reconciliation, and Diversity:
A Response to Aaron Weaver

June 10, 2011

By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

In a recent post on his “The Big Daddy Weave” blog site, Aaron Weaver questioned the nomination by SEBTS President Danny Akin of Fred Luter to First Vice President of the SBC this year, and the affirmation by SBTS Dean of Theology Russ Moore that Luter should be elected President of the SBC next year at the convention meeting in New Orleans.  Furthermore, Weaver discounted the set of recommendations coming from the SBC Executive Committee to the Phoenix convention to make “the convention’s leadership positions more reflective of the growing ethnic diversity in its churches” as an attempt at what Weaver labeled “Affirmative Action.” Weaver’s apparent rejection of these initiatives in the SBC to engage a broader ethnic/racial diversity in the SBC cause me concern at several levels. Let me respectfully voice several of these concerns, starting with some that are less important and moving toward the more important. My primary purpose is to endorse the candidacy of Fred Luter for significant positions of leadership in the SBC, and to affirm the recommendations about greater racial diversity being brought forward at this year’s SBC convention in Phoenix.

The Elder Brother?

To be clear, Weaver is not questioning these moves because he is opposed to greater racial diversity.  It doesn’t take long perusing his website (the pictures of Jimmy Carter, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Barbara Jordan among his heroes on the banner to the website might be a clue) that Weaver advocates essentially a liberal Democrat agenda.  It does appear clear, however, that his raising the Affirmative Action issue is something of a smokescreen or red herring to bash SBC leadership. Weaver has hosted the website for years, but through these hundreds of posts he does not have a single prior post specifically defending or addressing Affirmative Action.  There are, however, dozens of articles critical of SBC leadership. So let’s just be honest and acknowledge that the issue is not Affirmative Action in the first place, but Weaver using it as a pretense to demean SBC leaders.  At best, Weaver exemplifies the attitude of the elder brother when the prodigal came back home.  If the SBC has been slow to address adequately this issue of greater racial diversity, and Weaver has been further ahead on this issue, at the very least he “has an attitude” about us prodigals coming to ourselves, rather than entering into the joy of the Father for this step of progress.

Affirmative Action?
The major case that Weaver attempts to make is that by “making the convention’s leadership positions more reflective of the growing ethnic diversity in its churches,” the SBC is practicing Affirmative Action, despite the fact that many convention leaders (he cited ERLC President Richard Land) have voiced concerns about the continued practice of Affirmative Action in American society.  However, Weaver uses the word “Affirmative Action” rather ambiguously or disingenuously at points in his article. Weaver cited the Merriam-Webster definition of Affirmative Action, “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women,” or “a similar effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons.” Weaver also speaks later in his article about Affirmative Action in the SBC regarding “the race/ethnicity of a potential employee.” Since the first three paragraphs of Weaver’s article focused on Fred Luter’s nomination to office, accompanied by a large photograph of Luter, the obvious application of his worries about Affirmative Action relate to Fred Luter’s candidacy for office in the SBC.  However, the President of the SBC is not an employee of the SBC. It is an elective position. Fred Luter would continue his current position as Pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. He would not be an employee, would not be receiving educational opportunities, and is not disadvantaged.  Therefore, none of the criteria related to Weaver’s own chosen definition of Affirmative Action apply to Fred Luter’s candidacy for elective office in the SBC.  Likewise, the recommendations from the Executive Committee about “making the convention’s leadership positions more reflective of the growing ethnic diversity in its churches” may pertain primarily to nominated and elective positions as much or more than full-time employment.

However, one who thinks that Southern Baptists seeking racial reconciliation and greater ethnic/racial representation is a new thing is sadly misinformed. We have been working on this for years.  No less than eleven prior SBC conventions have passed resolutions favoring racial reconciliation and greater inclusiveness of racial/ethnic groups within the SBC. This very set of recommendations from the Executive Committee did not originate within that group itself, but was a response to a motion from the floor at a recent SBC convention. As I’ll note in the next section, ERLC President Richard Land has been working toward this for a couple of decades.

However, we have not initiated these efforts to be doing Affirmative Action, but rather (as the article referred to by Weaver states), to be representative of who Southern Baptists are (i.e., “making the convention’s leadership positions more reflective of the growing ethnic diversity in its churches.” The SBC is dramatically more diverse than it was a few decades ago.  In all, nearly 10,000 of the 45,000 SBC churches (nearly a fourth) are primarily focused on an ethnic or racial group.  We have over 3,000 African American congregations, over 3,000 Hispanic congregations, and over 1,000 Korean congregations, just to list a few. (By the way, despite all their rhetoric, do the statistics show that the CBF as ethnically and racially as diverse as the SBC?).

Regarding African Americans in SBC life , for example, there are now over 4,000 churches in the SBC that are primarily African American (almost 10 percent of the churches in the SBC), and many others attend racially mixed congregations. Over a million church members in the SBC have African heritage. At least 19 African Americans have been elected President of their state Baptist conventions, two have served as Executive Director of a state Baptist Convention, and others have served as Director of Missions for several associations.  African Americans have served as Vice President of several convention entities and of the SBC itself. Likewise, not only are about 1,000 Korean churches in the SBC, but the largest SBC church in the Maryland/Delaware Baptist convention is Korean. These diverse groups contribute to the Cooperative Program, and so not having representatives on boards would be “taxation without representation.”  That would not be just.

However, that this most recent SBC initiative was not Affirmative Action is obvious from the fact that the Executive Committee affirmed past processes in which “the concept of ‘quotas’ was resisted, choosing instead to support the selection of Southern Baptists ‘who are well qualified, without regard to any of the unalterable personal characteristics which God has bestowed upon them.’” Note that in the following recommendations being presented to the SBC, none require Affirmative Action quotas:

— 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.

I know that all the seminaries have been trying to nurture students who are African American, Korean, Hispanic, and other minority groups to complete PhDs so they can be elected to our faculties, and to design programs to provide theological education for every ethnicity. At NOBTS we have focused programs for the African-American church, Hispanics, French Haitians, Koreans, and several others in international settings. I can also say that two of our Anglo faculty members experienced forced terminations in churches in the South primarily because they took a stand for the inclusion of African Americans in the life of the church. Since I have been Provost at NOBTS, we have elected our first three African-American faculty members, two Hispanic faculty members, two Korean faculty members, and several others who were born in other countries.  This pattern is true at all the other SBC seminaries as well.  Indeed, we all need and desire many more minority faculty members who have achieved the credentialing to serve in this way. If you think we would consider faculty members who do not have adequate credentials, you are sadly mistaken. We aren’t doing this for Affirmative Action reasons. We are doing it so our seminary faculties reflect the racial diversity of our churches, and to secure their help in training the next generation of leaders. They teach us much about being sensitive to different traditions, and the way we say things, and our presuppositions. We need them more than they need us.

Land on Racial Reconciliation

Fourth, I believe that Weaver (perhaps unintentionally) misrepresented Dr. Richard Land’s position (and those of other SBC leaders) about race relations in an important way. The quote that was lifted from an interview of Land interview by a Nashville newspaper omitted some important material about the WHY of his concern about Affirmative Action, that answer quoted in full here:

“I believe affirmative action has run its course in American society and that it is now counterproductive to that which it seeks to achieve. Affirmative action exacerbates racism and prejudice when people (whites) are discriminated against in promotion and admission practices because of the past racial sins of their fathers and grandfathers — sins for which they are not responsible. When people are discriminated against because they are white, it exacerbates racial tensions. The controversy over the recent New Hampshire firefighters case (Ricci v. DeStefano) illustrates this point vividly.
Second, affirmative action largely neutralizes the most effective weapons against prejudice, which is performance and excellence. When African-Americans and other minorities are promoted or admitted to prestigious schools in the wake of affirmative action, it is all too often assumed they are admitted or promoted under different and lower standards than the majority-white community. They may, and often do, have the best test scores or the best performance reviews, but in the wake of affirmative action, it is too often assumed that race was a contributing factor to their promotion or admission. This vitiates performance and excellence as weapons against prejudice. As Chief Justice John Roberts so succinctly and eloquently stated last year in a Supreme Court case, ‘The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ If the goal is a truly, post-racial, multi-racial society, then we have to at some point, as a society, declare that discrimination is always wrong.”
(Readers can see the full interview here).

Weaver probably disagrees with Dr. Land on many issues, but I don’t believe that is the case on the race issue. In the interview noted above, Land mentions his fight for racial equality and justice as a college student, and it was among the first issues he confronted when he came to the ERLC. His parents confronted a racist Sunday School teacher in his church in Houston as a boy. As he tells in the link, as a college student he was stopped by policemen in the racially charged 1960s while bringing some of his African American friends home to Houston from Princeton.

When he came to the ERLC, one of the first things he did was to sponsor a listening session in which Anglos listened to key African American pastors to hear their hearts. The 1995 “Resolution on Racial Reconciliation apologizing for the SBC’s racism arose out of this meeting, penned and pushed by Dr. Land.  He also formed a Racial Reconciliation Task Force (on which I served) to give further attention to this issue. Land led a pilgrimage to key civil rights sites in Atlanta and Birmingham after this convention. Dr. Land has been criticized and received threats at times because of his stance, but he has not wavered. I have had Dr. Land in my classes a couple of dozen times through the years at SWBTS and NOBTS, and without exception he has made a strong case for Baptists addressing racism. Indeed, his concern about Affirmative Action is simply and specifically that it would further racism, as he illustrates was the actual result of Affirmative Action in the New Hampshire fire fighter case. So, I don’t think Dr. Land’s views on racial equity and racial reconciliation were accurately depicted by Weaver.

Fred Luter for SBC President.

Fifth, and most importantly, Fred Luter deserves to be elected President of the SBC because he is one of the best preachers and leaders in the SBC, not because of Affirmative Action. First of all, he would be elected, not hired (the same would be true of other ethnic minority representatives elected to boards of various agencies). Affirmative Action carries the connotation of receiving a job or scholarship despite not meeting the normal standards and credentials for the job, or even over more qualified Anglos. This is not the case with Fred Luter, and it is not the case with any other minority person I know of in Southern Baptist life. Fred Luter is Pastor of the largest Southern Baptist Church in New Orleans and one of the largest churches in the Louisiana Baptist Convention, with nearly 4,000 people in attendance each week (only three or four churches in New Orleans have more than 400 in church on Sunday). He started that church with a handful of people, and with God’s help has built a great church. Katrina destroyed their church building and scattered their congregation, but now the church has rebuilt and has almost reached their pre-Katrina numbers. He has preached at virtually every Pastor’s Conference and Evangelism Conference in the country. He’s a regular favorite here in chapel at New Orleans Seminary. He has accomplished what few ministers have in the SBC. Electing him would not be Affirmative Action. It would be recognizing a great Baptist pastor and leader.  Fred Luter has demonstrated that he has the leadership and vision to serve as President of the SBC.

By the way, although I am not a shaker or mover in Southern Baptist life, I am an early endorser of Fred Luter as President of the SBC.  Two years ago, in my “Editorial Introduction” to the Fall 2009 issue of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry (an issue which featured one of Brother Fred’s sermons), I expressed the hope that someday “he will be elected President of the SBC. (And there is no time better than when the SBC meets in New Orleans in 2012).”  I have endorsed Luter’s candidacy to many individuals, and I have encouraged Brother Fred in our personal conversations to allow his name to be presented as a candidate for the SBC Presidency.

Every minority member that I know of any SBC board is likewise well-deserving. We have two African Americans on our NOBTS Trustee Board. One is a very successful man who serves in a position of significance (and is a member of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church), and the other was a Vice President for Business Affairs at Howard University. To be very frank, I find the notion offensive that it would take unqualified ethnic persons to find positions of leadership for minorities in the SBC. Hopefully, Weaver was not suggesting that.

A Plea to Join Hands

Weaver is no fan of the SBC, and that’s fine. But hopefully he will not allow his personal agenda to overshadow some very positive developments toward racial reconciliation in the SBC.  This issue is important enough that we should rise above the fray and be of one mind, regardless of whether we are CBF or SBC. I hope we will all try to be more inclusive with regard to ethnicity and race so that Sunday morning is no longer the most racially segregated day in America. Let’s work together toward that goal.


Much of this material was originally posted as a response to Weaver’s article on his blog, but at the encouragement of other SBC Today editorial board members, it has been reformatted for this purpose.


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Dwight McKissic

Dr. Lemke,
I believe that you are totally and intentionally misrepresenting Aaron Weaver’s major point. Richard Land and the the majority of the SBC constituency is anti affirmative-action. The ethnic diversity initiative to be voted on in Phoenix is advocating involvement and empowerment in the SBC based on race, which is similar if not identical to what affirmative action does. That is the salient point Weaver makes.
Weaver did not, “discount the set of recommendations coming from the SBC Executive to the Phoenix convention,” nor did he “question the nomination by SEBTS President Danny Akin of Fred Luter to First Vice President of the SBC this year, and the affirmation by SBTS Dean of Theology Russ Moore.” Again he simply pointed out that the SBC diversity initiative and affirmative-action are similar. I fail to see how anyone with a clear conscience could debate that point. Peter Lumpkins in the comment section on Weaver’s article seems to agree with this point. Weaver is quite capable of defending himself, but as I read his article and your response, I must go on record as saying we have differing interpretations regarding Weaver has said.
However, we do share a common enthusiasm and excitement regarding the election of Fred Luter in Phoenix and New Orleans. And if this is your main point we’re brothers on the same team.
I honestly don’t recall you from SWBTS. You may be confusing me with my older brother who was at SWBTS in the mid to late seventies. It would be my pleasure to get to know you though. Unfortunately, I want be in Phoenix. VBS, a church plant that I’m serving while also continuing my pastoral role at CBC and a wrongheaded premature decision I made last year in Orlando not to attend the SBC this year because I anticipated another exclusively dominated Anglo convention caused me to make other plans for next week. This will likely be the most significant SBC meeting in history with regard to really moving the ball forward as it relates to racial reconciliation. If the Lord says the same I will see you in New Orleans when I come to vote for our mutual friend, Fred Luter. I hope to meet you then.

Big Daddy Weave

Thank you Rev. McKissic for your reply.

Let me add: I don’t believe that I have an agenda – at least not some well-thought out coherent agenda.

Like I wrote to Dr. Lemke earlier, I’ve been blogging since 2005. I observe, report on and offer (what I believe to be) informed opinion-analysis about all things Baptist related. I’ve blogged about National Baptists, Fellowship Baptists, the Alliance of Baptists, Southern Baptists, Independent Fundamental Baptists, and the list goes on. I generally try to incorporate an historical perspective into my posts as I am an interdisciplinary historian.

I’ve already replied to many of your points as you are aware. So, I will invite interested readers to read my original post, your comments and my several replies in their full and appropriate context at my blog (or I believe you can click on my name above)

Additionally, I am unsure as to whether I have blogged specifically about Affirmative Action in the past. I’m really not sure. However, I’m not unfamiliar with the subject. Once upon a time though, I wrote an op-ed for the University of Georgia newspaper on the subject that I credit with helping me land an internship working with civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis.

Big Daddy Weave

One more comment:

Dr. Lemke,

You have accused me of attempting to demean SBC leadership. It seems, however, that what I’ve done here is pointed out an inconsistency. SBC leaders, specifically Richard Land, have voiced their opposition to any and all programs with an affirmative action component.

That is a point that Barry Hankins makes via interview with African-American Southern Baptists in his book on SBC conservatives titled Uneasy in Babylon.

In light of that opposition, I found it interesting that the SBC is now embracing a rather progressive program to achieve ethnic/racial diversity. Kudos to the SBC by the way. As the Rev. Anderson of the Exec Committee noted in the Baptist Press article that I cited, diversity in leadership positions does not happen on its own. Intentionality is a prerequisite to achieving diversity.

Also, I don’t believe that I have questioned the nomination of Luter. I think Luter should be elected. An African-American should have been elected years ago in my opinion. The SBC is behind other faith groups on this front. Instead, I simply attempted to point out that Luter’s nomination comes on the heels of the Exec Committee’s announcement that ethnic diversity recommendations have been approved and will be presented to messengers in Phoenix. That fact seems to imply some intentionality (a good thing might I add once again).

I do regularly cast my ballot for Democrats as I’m sure you do the same for Republicans. Would it be fair to characterize your agenda as a conservative Republican agenda?

My banner also features the pictures of George Truett, Howard Thurman, E.Y. Mullins, Lottie Moon, Helen Montgomery and Billy Kim alongside Carter, Jordan and Rauschenbusch. Not sure those pictures really reveal too much about my agenda other than the fact that I admire Baptists who emphasize a freedom theology and Baptists who advocate on behalf of justice and equality (those should be goals shared by conservatives and liberals alike).

I must admit that as an historian yourself, you don’t seem to “get” what I do which is observe, describe and analyze individuals and groups in their appropriate historical context.

As to what you describe as my “obvious application,” I’ll be honest here. I started writing a post solely about the nomination of Fred Luter. As I was researching that subject, I came upon the ethnic diversity article in Baptist Press. Recognizing what seemed like a connection, I used the Luter nomination to address the ethnic diversity program.

If you don’t think the Luter nomination has anything to do with the Exec Committee recommendations, that’s fine. Perhaps I’m wrong drawing a link between the two. Being wrong about that connection has little to do with my other comments and analysis given about the ethnic diversity program.

What I find most interesting is your response to those two words: affirmative action. You really seem to not understand what I meant by affirmative action and what is generally meant by affirmative action (when not used negatively). There is indeed a difference between a goal and a quota. You use the phrase “affirmative action quotas.” I see what the SBC has proposed as affirmative action goals. Not quotas. In a secular context, quotas are illegal within affirmative action programs and have been per the Supreme Court since 1978. Affirmative action in this present context has nothing to do with quotas or programs that act like quotas. You may want to review some basic history on this subject for a better understanding.

Steve Lemke

I apologize if I confused you with your brother. I’ve thought for years that you were he. Unfortunately, that was about 40 years ago, and memory sometimes goes awry. Would you mind letting me know what he has been up to through these years, or ask him to get in touch with me? Tell him I said hi.

Dwight and Aaron,
You missed the point. The SBC is doing some good things. Yet you’re fault finding with side issues instead of celebrating some revolutionary and positive steps forward. Indeed, you have both made a cottage industry ouf of criticizing the SBC. So, I know this is hard for you, but repeat after me . . . “The SBC did something right. . . The SBC did something right . . . The SBC did something right . . . ” Keep practicing that looking in a mirror, and I’m sure you’ll start smiling before long.

The SBC is doing these things right. Let’s celebrate it, not choke all over it trying to find some way that the good step forward is flawed. Can’t you do that?

    Big Daddy Weave

    Dr. Lemke,

    Honestly – and my wife just made the same comment – I’m not sure you’ve really read what I wrote. I’ve stated over and over that what the SBC is doing with this ethnic diversity emphasis is RIGHT. This is a bit exhausting. Kudos means Kudos! As my grandfather, a long-time Southern Baptist pastor, used to say, Glory! Glory!

    Again, I was simply pointing out that it is interesting to see a group of people that has been opposed to affirmative action turn around and embrace a Baptist-style affirmative action program!

    You and I both know that when a group does something differently than it’s done in the past – in a sense changing course – then that is newsworthy! So I blogged about it!

    I’m not SBC. So the cottage industry line doesn’t bother me. But, that’s a bit unfair statement to hurl Dwight’s way. Mark 6:4 comes to mind.

Dwight McKissic

Dr. Lemke,
You can’t criticize the SBC. You are an employee of the SBC. I found out the hard way when you’re an employee, trustee or officer in the SBC, protocol,policy and tradition dictates that you can’t criticize the SBC. That is one among several reasons why I have no desire to serve in an elected or appointed position in the SBC.
I am Kingdom minded, prophetic, free, almost 55 years old, an from a NBC background where dissent and free speech is appreciated and celebrated. Our church has contributed $500,0000 or more to the SBC and related ministries and church plants during our history. We’ve actually contributed to your salary. Whereas you can’t criticize the SBC, I can.
I did not miss your point. I’ve stated repeatedly the SBC does great things. That’s why I’m a part of it. Aaron has affirmed the good the SBC does. You simply will not be honest an admit that. You simply will not interact with Aaron’s major point because you know it’s true.
I support affirmative- action. I support the SBC Phoenix diversity initiative. They footnote one of my writings in the report as having influenced their decision. I’m thrilled with the report. YES! The SBC has gotten this right.
However, that does not remove the fact that the SBC has and still does some things wrong. For instance, one of my mission pastors recently pointed out to me that Lifeway stores are selling evangelistic products called “The Good News Colors.” These products(coffee cups, book markers, “Colors of The Word-A Wordless Book”, cube block with “The Good News Colors” message) share the gospel by referencing six different colors and applying soteriological meaning to each color.
Color #1 in “The Good News Colors” evangelistic plan is Black. Picture this: I knock on a door of an African American. That person is gracious enough to allow me to share “The Good News Colors ” presentation. The very first thing I share with them or the first color they read about is Black, and hears what they are to hear or read next; “Black Represents Our Sin.” Every other color in this presentation is positive.
No self respecting Black pastor or Christian is going to present this plan in sharing the gospel with Black people. It would suprise me if any African American Lifeway employee signed off on this evangelistic tool. I talked to the highest ranking African American Lifeway employee and he was unaware of this product or the fact that it i being sold in Lifeway stores.
So, Dr, Lemke, it’s your turn to go to the mirror and say, “The SBC did something right–the Phoenix diversity initiative……but, the SBC also does some things wrong—like paying seminary teachers and faculty low salaries and marketing a racially insensitive evangelistic tool.” Oops, I forgot;you can’t criticize the SBC. You’re an employee.

Dwight McKissic

Dr. Lemke,
I forgot to tell you that my brother Ray is fine. He earned a D. Min. from Howard University Divinity School and currently serves on staff at a local church in a D. C. suburb. I’ll tell him you said hello.

Bobby Capps

Beloved Dr. Lemke,

I appreciate the Affirmative Action conversation. I get Land and your view at one level. At the level I work and play I don’t. There is still a large disparity among ethnic populations (AA especially) in the area of poverty, children born to single parents, graduation rates, etc. The children born into poverty and the children born to single moms (unequipped to care for their children) put their children especially at risk for undeveloped brains and subsequently unable to excel in academic fields like yours. I’m presuming you know this already. So here, in my view, is the AA dilemma or perhaps the continued call to action for the community: Your children and mine still have disproportionate access to excellent prenatal care, early childhood brain stimulation and therefore development, parental involvement and reinforcement during the academic process, not to mention the access and opportunity afforded by the communities in which we have access and influence. It’s not an even playing field. So when we see someone who is black or from another ethnic group who is able to “get the interview” and then by excellence and equal qualifications get the job, have we really evened the playing field? You live in a city where this disparity is chilling. So at one hand, the fireman and the professor or the SBC president level I see how AA exacerbates the racial tension. At a whole other place though, I still believe a disproportionate effort should be made to ensure that all children, no matter to whom or in what circumstances they are born, have opportunity and access to your university and all the future opportunities it may afford. And those children who suffer from the disadvantages of injustice must be served by those who thrive from the advantages of that same injustice.

Bobby Capps


If the SBC is going to adopt a goal of racial reconciliation, it needs to create its own methodology that derives entirely from the Bible. Racial reconciliation actions in the SBC need to be driven by biblical theology (and by that I do not mean in the neo-orthodoxy sense!) and not things imported from the civil rights movement and anything that the civil rights movement influenced (i.e. educational programs and government remedies).

The reason is that the civil rights movement was not started by Christians to help black people, but by Marxists to advance Marxism. To the extent that Christianity was involved, the civil rights leaders employed liberal or liberation theology, not Bible-based Christianity. Hence the long-standing civil rights canard that racism (and other ills) can be defeated through education and by the elimination of poverty. Even if it were possible to reduce or mitigate racism in a carnal sense with education and poverty programs, in a Christian context racism must be viewed as a sin issue that can only be addressed by regeneration and sanctification. So, by utilizing civil rights and other non-Christian tools to fight racism, the church hinders the goal of racial reconciliation by erecting an idol to take the place of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification.

In that vein, racial reconciliation in the church can only be accomplished by A) preaching and teaching that racism is sin and B) that we are all sinners who can only deal with this issue by regeneration and sanctification, whether black or white. That makes racial reconciliation as much the job of the black Christian as it is the white Christian, and it means that black Christians have to put in as much work and make as many sacrifices as do white ones. It also means that black Christians and white Christians have to be judged by the same standard, rule or canon as touching Christian behavior regarding race and everything else: the Bible.

Some examples. Is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a suitable religious figure for black Christians (or any other Christian) to hold in high esteem considering that the fellow rejected the deity, virgin birth, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and instead chose to subversively use a false liberation theology Christ as the basis of his preaching, teaching, and civil rights activism?

It is often said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. In these times, decades after the end of segregation, which racial group is most responsible for this state of affairs, and could end it by its own action starting as soon as the next church service?

Why do so many black churches who profess inerrancy and other evangelical or fundamental distinctives choose to remain in majority-black non-evangelical denominations? (This is particularly a point for the many majority black congregations who affiliate with such denominations in addition to the SBC.)

While racial reconciliation in the secular sphere is often depicted as a one way street, the Bible that governs Christianity says otherwise. With that in mind, in addition to the points aimed mostly at blacks above, it can be asked of theologically conservative white Christians: how long will white evangelicals continue in a “religious right” that has failed in nearly all its religious and secular objectives for over 30 years and counting, and has caused so many to start confusing or mixing “traditional American values” with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and has led to an increase in ecumenical/pluralistic attitudes among evangelical Protestants towards the Roman Catholics, Jews and Mormons that are in the religious right coalition?


OK. So the the purpose was of the Civil Rights Movement was to advance Marxism?

Does this mean that you oppose the successes of the Civil Rights Movement such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968?

Greg Thrasher

To start, I agree with Job about the correct path to racial reconciliation. An apology from white baptists to other ethnic baptists only serves to perpetuate a win/lose mindset. We all have to remember that we are all equally wretched before the Lord, and all equally in need of salvation by grace.

I have not read the post by BDW, so am not defending or siding with him. I do have my own issues with Dr. Lemke’s post, though. Namely, that there is no way to reconcile the following statements:

“choosing instead to support the selection of Southern Baptists ‘who are well qualified, without regard to any of the unalterable personal characteristics which God has bestowed upon them.”


1. “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.”
2. “the SBC president report the total number of appointees that represent the ethnic diversity when names for committees are released to Baptist Press.”
3. “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.”
4. “the Committee on Order of Business consider the ethnic identity of program personalities for annual meetings.”
5. “the Committee on Nominations form be amended to provide a place where a nominee may indicate his or her ethnic identity.”
6. “the Committee on Nominations include in its annual report the number of individuals among its nominees that represent the ethnic diversity within SBC life.”

It’s not that I disagree with a more racially-inclusive SBC, rather it’s the fact that we have to talk about it at all that shows our focus to be on the things of the world rather than the things of God. If our focus was properly aimed, these issues wouldn’t exist.


    I thought Russell Moore, Dean of Theology at Southern Seminary, made a great point today on Twitter:

    “If “gospel-mindedness” automatically led to racial inclusivity, without any action, then we wouldn’t have the tragic side of SBC history.”

      Greg Thrasher

      That begs the question of if there is a tragic side to SBC history, then were we really as gospel-minded as we thought? Anyway, I didn’t refer to being gospel-minded. I referee to being God-focused. Gospel-mindedness just indicates that you focus on evangelism. You can evangelize and still not be focused on God. (1 Cor 13:1-3). If we focus on living (and administrating) by Jesus’ example, race will be in it’s proper place. (Which is not in the conversation at all.)

      The problem with “race-relations” (in the SBC, in America, in the world) is that just by having that conversation, we are focusing on our differences. Paul, however, pointed out clearly in his writings that we are all the same in God’s eyes. We should focus, instead, on our commonalities. We are all fallen sinners in need to salvation by grace. We all struggle day by day to pick up our crosses and walk that narrow path. The only way to have a true “level playing field” is to focus on the ways in which we are the same. That’s the part that takes intentionality.

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