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

Discussion

http://www.sbts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Racism-and-the-Legacy-of…

From p 6:

The history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is intertwined with the history of American slavery and the commitment to white supremacy which supported it. Slavery left its mark on the seminary just as it did upon the American nation as a whole. The denomination that established it spoke distinctly in support of the morality of slaveholding and the justness of the Confederate effort to preserve it. The seminary’s donors and trustees advanced the interests of slavery from positions of leadership in society and in the church. The seminary’s leaders held to the contradictory commitments enshrined in the nation’s foundational commitments. In 1776 Americans declared that all men were created equal and were endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. In the United States Constitution, however, Americans effectively consigned black slaves to inequality as non-persons whose inalienable rights to life and liberty were indeed alienated. The contradiction went far deeper. As Christians, the seminary’s leaders regarded blacks as equal in human nature and dignity because God created all humanity from one person. They therefore labored to save the eternal souls of blacks no less than of whites. They urged them to repent of their sins and entrust themselves to God’s mercy through faith in Jesus Christ, who suffered for the sins of blacks and whites alike, and rose again from the dead to give eternal life to all who believed in him, to both blacks and whites, in order to make them one body. They contradicted these commitments however by asserting white superiority and defending racial inequality. The racism that was fundamental to the defense of slavery in America endured long after the end of legal slavery. The belief in white supremacy that undergirded slavery also undergirded new forms of racial oppression. The seminary’s leaders long shared that belief and therefore failed to combat effectively the injustices stemming from it.

Interesting that this posted today. I have been reading Thomas Nettles’ biography of James Boyce. Nettles writes about the slavery issue and the Seminary’s founders views about it. I found myself trying to put myself in the shoes of those men and what they struggled with, I think we need to be careful of having an attitude of moral superiority about ourselves compared to those like Boyce and Broadus who supported slavery. Just because we don’t believe in slavery doesn’t make us morally superior to them. In fact, their service to Christ and sacrifices for the Lord were significant. Don’t let their beliefs about slavery obscure that. The SBC seems preoccupied with this issue. How much self-introspection and criticism is enough? How many times do they have to say “I’m sorry”? I am skeptical of the huge emphasis in the SBC (and other groups) on this issue.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

We could see this as an exercise in moral posturing, as Wally and C.D. point out, but I think what is going on here is that the Southern Baptists are looking at their demographics vs. the demographics of their communities, and they are realizing that ~ 250 years of support for slavery and ~ 100 years of support for Jim Crow (support which continues in certain pockets) has created a cultural divide which makes it difficult to impossible to reach their own communities.

Since no sane person will argue that past history is irrelevant, their only recourse is to “own” that history—admit what happened, what their part was in it, what they’ve learned about the matter, and then they can move forward applying what they’ve learned.

My guess is that this process is going to go on for quite a bit longer, and if they do it right, it’s going to be one of the most blessed things they do. Lot of layers of the onion to peel back, sad to say.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Most communities that have SBC churches also have Baptist churches of other associations. ALL of us are having difficulty reaching people with the gospel, and I don’t think it has anything to do with the slavery issue or anything about our past.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Al Mohler holds the Joseph Emerson Brown Chair of Theology at Southern. Brown was a slave owner and unabashed racist all his life. Mohler might want to look closer to home if he’s got a conscience about this stuff.

As for me, I fear that what we’re seeing with the discussions on racism (real and unreal), and women and ‘Revoice’ does not augur well for evangelicalism at all. It will dilute the Gospel.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Did Wally or CD or Paul even read this document before commenting? For instance, “The Report on slavery and racism in the history of SBTS” deals with Brown from pages 33-38, so I think Mohler actually is looking closer to home.

Also, In Mohler’s introduction, he mentions that they were “like Luther, creatures of their own time and imagination.” He also states that “this report is not the shattering of images. Boyce, Broadus, Manly, and Williams would be first to make that clear. As Christians, we know no total sanctification or perfection in this life. We await something better, our future glorification by Christ.” It doesn’t sound like any moral posturing or moral superiority.

Wally, as one who has spent the past 27+ years discipling hundreds of mostly young urban African-American men, I can attest that racism, and perceptions of racism within white churches (whether true or not) is the biggest or one of the biggest barriers for reaching them with the gospel. It was one of the main reasons that I left the 2nd oldest GARBC church in my city to help start a multi-ethnic gospel coalition church. By the way, the biggest barrier among black churches for reaching young urban black men is the health and wealth gospel. Most of the young black men that I connect with (several hundred) perceive black churches in their neighborhoods as hustling money from the poor (they also see it with TV preachers such as Joel Olsteen).

The young men that I am actively discipling would see a document like this as very positive. They are so used to much of American culture sweeping racism under the rug and pretending it never happened or that it only happened a long time ago, even when they’ve faced multiple racist situations throughout their life times, within institutions such as law enforcement, schools, stores/businesses, or housing/landlords (the list goes on). They would see this document as owning up to one’s racist history (as part or repentance) in order for there to be true reconciliation.

Paul, why did you bring Revoice and Women into a discussion about SBTS owning up to their racist past?

How many times must someone “own up” to past sins before the situation is settled? What is “true reconciliation”, who specifically must be reconciled, how many people must be involved, and how do you know when everyone has been “reconciled”? I grew up in the deep South, went to school during desegregation, rode buses for 45 minutes to achieve integration, experienced & saw racism from people of ALL races, and yet had many friends from other races. My point is very simple: Certain people in the SBC are preoccupied with this issue. When will it end? Where is the ending point?

OK, in certain areas evangelism can be difficult because of actual or perceived (or convenient accusations of) racism. But this can’t keep going on forever. At some point, people have to grow up and move beyond the past. I am not guilty for the racist sins of my race. Neither is anyone else for the racist sins of their race. I am accountable for my sins only. But according to modern racist theory, because I am a certain race, I will always be guilty and there’s nothing I can do to atone for it. In fact, denying I am racist proves I am racist, according to modern racist theory.

I am very skeptical of this “racial sin” ideology, even though I know some people have legitimate concerns and have been the objects of racist behavior. But like any sin done to me, deal with it, get over it, and move on in grace.

I sometimes wonder if the SBC is focusing on this issue because they see the numerical decline in their denomination and the attitudes of their young people, and are trying to use the racial issue as a way to stop this decline. I may be wrong about that, but I wonder. The document is long and has some good history in it. But I wonder where all of this is headed.

Oh, and by the way: The fact that people like or dislike someone’s comments is irrelevant. Means nothing to me. :)

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

No surprise to see the responses here. Just the typical reaction from the traditionalists when someone dares to suggest that the good old days were not so good.

Greg: Your comments are way off the mark, assuming what no one has said or implied, using a label (traditionalist) to create a negative impression. Very Strange.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

[WallyMorris]

Greg: Your comments are way off the mark, assuming what no one has said or implied, using a label (traditionalist) to create a negative impression. Very Strange.

If you care to read what I said, I did not assume anything about what you or anyone else believes and I don’t have to assume what has been said. I just have to read it. I merely said that the reaction here is predictable whenever anything is published that is somewhat negative about that period of time.

I frankly find people like you very strange. Supposedly, your belief in evangelicalism would lead you to break down barriers that might interfere. Racism is clearly one of them. Yet every time someone tries to address it, people like you are quick to pop up with the tired “I am not responsible for the past” and “how many times do you have to apologize?” rhetoric. Why don’t you just get on board and see what you can do to break down the barriers so when you try to evangelize African Americans, they might actually listen to you a bit more?

No I have not read the whole report, just Mohler’s letter. My point is that Brown was not simply a Jonathan Edwards, R. L. Dabney, James Boyce slave owner, he was an avid racist who promoted white supremacy. My point - which it should not be necessary to clarify - is that before going to all the bother to sniff out racism Mohler might start with his own job title! I hope that is clear now.

I am aware that many blacks have experienced what they identify as racism. I think some of it is racism. A lot of it is fear and/or culture. You yourself speak to some of it. I have known several black pastors who have told me that there are often hierarchies within black churches based upon income etc. So it’s complex. On the more mainstream front, men like Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell say that most of the racism that is complained about is not really racism, but is falsely labeled as such.

Now you ask why I introduced women and LGBT? It’s because these things are being brought to prominence at the same time, and I do not believe it’s a coincidence. I firmly believe that the evangelical world will be split over these issues. They are the wedge that open the split.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Greg: Of course you made assumptions, particularly about people (myself) you have never met nor do you know. Your comments generalize certain reactions into rigid categories and assume motives. You seem to assume that the reason “people don’t listen” is because of some racial reason. And you seem to assume the problem is because people do not “get on board”. I have given the gospel to many people of a different race than I am, and they have never rejected the gospel because I am not the same race as they are. Nor do I think that racism is “clearly one” of the reasons people reject the gospel. That’s ludicrous. I think it IS an excuse, but not a reason. But this is getting somewhat off topic. My concerns relate to the never-ending self-introspection about racial issues. I have friends & relatives in SBC churches and who pastor SBC churches, and they do not like the current SBC obsession with race. They believe it is not helping evangelism at all; in fact, interfering with it. This has nothing to do with Fundamentalists, traditionalists, or any other pejorative label.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Wally does ask a good question about “how many times” must one “own up to past sins”. Really, wouldn’t the answer be “with about the same frequency as the manifestations of your movement’s previous racism”? Figure out the blatant things, make sure that’s unacceptable, then figure out the more subtle things in your church’s culture that might be pushing people away and fix that.

Really, it’s along the lines of what the early church may have done when the widows among the “Grecian” (hellenized) Jews were being neglected in charity; 7 men with names indicating they were Grecian Jews (Greek names) were chosen as the original deacons.

So really, it’s not just a one time apology, though that’s helpful, but rather a change of culture as we realize what we’ve done, what its effects are, and so on.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Yes, Bert, but the “same frequency” approach will be infinite, never ending. I don’t think “the same frequency as the manifestations of your movement’s previous racism” really solves anything practically. Why should I be continually apologetic for something that occurred decades before I was born and had nothing to do with? If someone wants to make a formal admission of guilt and repentance for a “movement’s” pasts sins, OK. But let’s not keep doing it over & over & over.

The situation in Acts 6 is not similar enough to be that helpful, although helpful in solving practical problems that involve different people groups. “The “change of culture” approach can be helpful, of course, but again people who have accepted modern racism theory will not be satisfied with anything we do. Many want to keep certain racial groups guilty & apologetic in order to punish that group for as long as they can and receive preferred treatment for as long as they can. Not denying genuine racial problems which must be fixed. But I do not accept this continual, never-ending apologetic attitude.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com