Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Mohler: “This is an important day in the life of Southern Seminary. Just now, we release the ‘Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.’ It is a massive project and a moral reckoning.”- SBTS


….just until the question of “are we reaching our communities” is answered clearly in the affirmative, and when people are very clear on the fact that no, we are not going to tolerate the attitudes of the past which were (and remain in many places) a blight on our communities. And let’s be honest here; “our tribe” has been digging this hole for 350-400 years, really. It’s going to take a little while to dig out.

I applaud what the SBC has done here; it’s a great start. The key issue going forward, though, is to see what attitudes in our “corporate culture” ultimately have the same roots, and figure out how we fix that.

And of course not everyone is going to be persuaded, but what you achieve with genuine cultural change is to isolate the fringe. People are actually smart enough to figure these things out, and quite frankly, a lot of the guys who are advocates in one area in one year aren’t in the next. To wit, the father of some of the kids my church has served in AWANA one time regaled me about BLM (his version, there are several), and then the next time, he’d left that behind. All I had to do to figure this out was to listen.

In other words, if we see what’s been done, figure out what it’s affected, and take real steps to fix our culture, the vast majority is going to figure out we’ve “owned” that and eliminated it.

Hard for you to do in Huntington, but 25 miles up the road in Fort Wayne, you’re going to find some partners who will be very willing to help you figure out how to address this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.…

The following 13 points constitute a summary of the findings in the 66-page report:

  1. The seminary’s founding faculty all held slaves.
  2. The seminary’s early faculty and trustees defended the righteousness of slaveholding.
  3. Upon Abraham Lincoln’s election, the seminary faculty sought to preserve slavery.
  4. The seminary supported the Confederacy’s cause to preserve slavery.
  5. After emancipation, the seminary faculty opposed racial equality.
  6. In the Reconstruction era, the faculty supported the restoration of white rule in the South.
  7. Joseph E. Brown, the seminary’s most important donor and chairman of its Board of Trustees 1880-1894, earned much of his fortune by the exploitation of mostly black convict-lease laborers.
  8. The seminary faculty urged just and humane treatment for blacks.
  9. Before the 1940s, the seminary faculty generally approved the Lost Cause mythology.
  10. Until the 1940s, the seminary faculty supported black education and the segregation of schools and society.
  11. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the seminary faculty appealed to science to support their belief in white superiority.
  12. The seminary admitted blacks to its degree programs in 1940 and integrated its classrooms in 1951.
  13. The seminary faculty supported civil rights for blacks but had mixed appraisals of the Civil Rights Movement.


The institution of the SBTS didn’t own up to their history until now. When your founder (Boyce) was a slave owner, when the undergrad college is still named after that same slave owner, when your chair of theology is named after a slave owner, and the list goes on and on, you need own up to your history, instead of glossing it over. (In the document, Mohler mentioned that they don’t plan on changing any names within the institution) Mohler mentions that this document should’ve accompanied the SBC resolution over 20 years ago. Its not repenting over and over again. Its actually going into detail of the actual sin. When institutional sin has been allowed to fester, a detailed report such as this helps because it exposes the sin so that true repentence and reconciliation can take place. Think of the Pii investigative report that exposed ABWE when it comes to dealing with institutional sin. It wasn’t just Dr. Ketchum that sinned against the many ABWE MKs. It was many of the missionary administrators in power whose decisions created a depraved culture that allowed a predator like Dr. Ketcham to continue to sexually harm young girls.

Why are you so defensive about something that has nothing to do with you? In this situation, who is asking you to repent about racism on behalf of other white people? (the answer is no one). Sadly, your response (defensiveness and accusations of critical race theory) is one of the main reasons why Black Christians hardly ever come through the door of a fundamentalist church or desire association fellowship with them. If conservative Christians did alot more listening and showing empathy instead of trying to prove (from a distance and without relationships) that black Christians are being influenced by secular sociological theories, there would be significant progress when it comes to racial reconciliation.

It is no secret from my posts that I believe in the concept of White Privilege, although I define it differently than secular sociological theories so that it aligns with authority of Scripture. As one the pastors of our multi-ethnic church, every so often we have to address racial prejudice, and it isn’t just from white people. Earlier this week, i had to confront a black brother of mine that I disciple (who is part of our church) over his attitude towards the white people in our church. He had missed church for the past 3 weeks and as I probed as to why, it came out that he was assuming that the white people at our church had the same attitudes as White Christians who show their racist colors on social media such as facebook (Unfortunately facebook stokes the flames of racial conflict). I brought him to II Cor. 5:16-17, in that because of who we are in Christ, we no longer view anyone with a worldly point of view. He owned up to his prejudice and repented of it. By the way, he didn’t show racial prejudice because of accepting critical race theory, rather his racist attitude came out of a life-time of having to endure racism from law enforcement, schools, and business institutions and his frustration with Christians that he doesn’t even really know (from social media) That doesn’t excuse his sin which was an offense against God and his white brothers and sisters in Christ.

A quote from NPR, “Now, 173 years later, Southern Baptist leaders are not just acknowledging their dark history; they are documenting it, as if by telling the story in wrenching detail, they may finally be freed of its taint.” Seems to me that by says ‘as if by telling the story …they may finally be freed of its taint’, the article is saying that more needs to be done than just telling the story. Maybe I am missing something.

“Making a statement about Confederate monuments might be a next step,” says Alison Greene, a historian of U.S. religion at Emory University in Atlanta, “or taking a stand on questions of voting rights in the 21st century. That would be really significant.”

Greene, who was raised as a Southern Baptist, found the seminary report lacking in its failure to acknowledge any consequence of the denomination’s recent association with conservative politicians and the policies they have promoted.

“It papers over a generation of hand-in-glove cooperation with efforts to roll back every single social program that served African-Americans or promised to rectify, even in the smallest ways, the gross economic and social effects of enslavement and segregation and inequality on black communities,” Greene says.

I doubt if the well intentioned report will be as well received by the liberal communities of our nation.

No matter what any institution does or says to apologize for past sins, it will never be enough for the internet. I think Mohler (et al) understand that, but I also think they believed they had to try.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

I doubt if the well intentioned report will be as well received by the liberal communities of our nation.

But the point isn’t pleasing liberal sensibilities, or we could jettison the core doctrines of our faith. The point is owning our (in the global sense) failures. This is a great first step - to fix a problem, you have to acknowledge a problem. While we could undoubtedly nitpick this report or decision to death, as some appear to want to do, just the fact that they did something to acknowledge these issues is notable and praiseworthy.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Perhaps you, too, have ancestral sins you must apologize for. One of my cousins said, “I’d be interested in finding out my ancestry but I’m afraid I’d find too many horse thieves in it.” Knowing him, possibly apt.

In any case, I encourage everyone to search through your own past and be sure to grovel for your ancestral sins. You will be doing something to acknowledge your own issues.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay, I appreciate what you are saying, and I am not trying to nitpick the report. You made my point when you said, “This is a great first step - to fix a problem, you have to acknowledge a problem.” Ok, what would be the second step? Third Step? How many steps do we need to take? I appreciate Dr. Mohler. I enjoy his preaching, blogs, and his humble walk with God. I sincerely want to know what is next?

Racism is wrong. It is sinful. It is not like Christ.

I don’t know what the next steps are, because I am not in a position in make those decisions. It may be that the next step IS to rename some of the buildings and positions that others have commented on. Maybe it’s something else. I can’t say.

When BJU announced that they were dropping the inter-racial dating ban, they could make an apology (which I believe BJIII did via Larry King Live), drop the ban, and that was all that was needed. Confronting and fixing the challenges described in this report is going to take some time, some careful thinking, and well thought through and executed plans. We will have to see where it goes. But I still want to encourage our brothers in the Lord as they do so, even if I am not an alumnus or donor to SBTS.

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” - Proverbs 28:13

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Definitions and what’s going on here. There’s:

The Southern Seminary report is history and it’s important because!

Don, the trick here is that we’re not talking about the horse thief six generations back. We are talking about the majority culture of the SBC not that long ago, not to mention southern fundamentalism and probably also a good sector of northern fundamentalism.

The interracial dating ban is a great example of how to peel back the onion. First step is to repeal the policy and apologize for it. Done, great, awesome. Next step is to take a serious look at the arguments made to promote it, as they likely are linked to other attitudes we might want to know about. Can the arguments supporting it be readily refuted? Are the refutations getting around so we all can learn?

As commendable as the SBC report and the BJU apology for the interracial dating ban are, I’m persuaded that we’re still in that middle stage of figuring out why we did this and eliminating the support for those positions. And that’s fine, as long as we’re still moving in the right direction.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Given we still hear from those opposed to Christianity about the Crusades, and how “Christianity” is responsible for them (not making any distinction from changes since 800 years ago, or what the Bible actually says), I suspect that no amount of apology for institutional racism will ever be enough. And, as others have said, I can’t really apologize for things others have done anyway, even if I can regret that they happened.

All I can do is to do my best with God’s help to not further the sins of the past (like forced “conversion” or racism) and try to be the best Christian I can be today. That might include extra reaching out to those who have been affected by racism, listening to them, and trying to understand, but it certainly does not include eternal groveling or incessant apologizing for things I can’t control (like my skin color) or things done by others supposedly in God’s name.

Dave Barnhart

seriously? How does a culture sin? Who is responsible for cultural sin? (Answer: rich white makes, usually.) Can a culture ever be forgiven? (Answer: no, you can never repent enough for something you never did, but must enter a constant self-abnegation mode.)

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3