Fred Luter Jr, SBC’s first African-American first vice president, talks about race

Black Baptist says church shouldn’t be defined by race

“This convention, unfortunately, has a past that we’re trying to move forward from, and that’s how I look at it”

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There are 25 Comments

Jeffrey Dean's picture

The civil rights movement saw liberal churches stand shoulder to shoulder for justice with the black community. Ever wonder why conservative black churches often support largely liberal candidates? On big factor is blacks remember who fought for civil equality. It wasn't the SBC (or IFB). Liberals bled and in some cases died beside blacks.

The history of the SBC during that time was mixed. The SBC either ignored injustice or in many cases supported it. Mending fences will take serious repentance and hard work. The SBC has a sordid past concerning race equality.

Andrew Comings's picture

In my increasingly humble opinion, the tragic position of conservative evangelicals on the "race issue" during the "civil right's era" is at least partially responsible for our current lack of credibility on other social issues.

And we need to consistently remind ourselves of this so we don't make the same mistake again.

Missionary in Brazil, author of "The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max" Online at: http://www.comingstobrazil.com http://cadernoteologico.wordpress.com

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Hold on Andrew. Civil rights is not a matter of biblical dogma and certainly no social order has been mandated by God that the church must demand of the society around it with regard to social structure, advantages and disadvantages to various groups. That is a national matter concerning government and its citizens with a wide range of philosophies regarding social structure upon which the Word of God places no binding social order with respect to peoples and governments. It might be government borrows concepts or principles from the Word of God or other weighty documents because they are deemed valuable but your response about civil rights is as if racial, ethnic or any kind of genetically based social segregation was or is explicitly forbidden in the Bible, and this is not the case at all. So to say "so we don't make the same mistake again" is quite a matter of opinion and not theological/biblical dogma with respect to civil rights.

However, with respect to ecclesiastical rights, this is another thing since God gave the explicit protocol for the body of Christ and it is not a matter of opinion. Non-segregation is mandated in the Scriptures with regard to the church, its membership and all of the benefits, duties and privileges which accompany this membership. And this is because the body of Christ is a spiritual body, fundamentally a foreign structure to anthropologically or socially based divine institutions such as government and the church, being a spiritual body, has a distinct protocol, namely that each person is to be viewed as a spiritual species and is related to one another by virtue of spiritual ancestry.

And this is where some of - as you call them - conservative evangelicals, failed which was allowing racial segregation within a spiritual structure. But positions on civil matters is entirely a matter of opinion.

James K's picture

Why do people try to gain credibility on social issues with those who are wrong? The inhabitants of the world are people who need to be converted, not coddled.

They are spiritually dead, in darkness, and every other description that is opposite the believer. Their approval means nothing. Nothing.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Andrew Comings's picture

...I could not disagree more. As you have represented it above (and if I understand correctly), how we behave toward others in a "church context" is one thing, and it is perfectly OK to act differently toward others in a "non-church" context. Are you implying that it would have been perfectly acceptable for a white believer at that time to insist that his "colored" brethren use a separate drinking fountain in the public park, so long as he was treated as an equal in the church? That is what I am getting from your response...I hope I have not wrongly interpreted your remarks.

How would it be at all coherent for anyone to preach that all men are created in the image of God, and then participate in, and defend, a system that routinely treated a particular subset of those men as secondary citizens? Or, to bring it a little closer to where I live, how can we preach that all are equal before Christ, and yet prohibit a man from one subset of humanity from marrying a woman of another subset. This is hypocrisy, and (now in reference to James K's comments) it does indeed bring dishonor to Christ and discredit His Church.

But...for the sake of argument...let's assume that the following statement is true:

Quote:
Civil rights is not a matter of biblical dogma and certainly no social order has been mandated by God that the church must demand of the society around it with regard to social structure, advantages and disadvantages to various groups.

At this point the "conservative evangelicals" of the segregation era still stand condemned, because in defending the status quo, they were in essence defending a particular social order (segregation) as mandated by God, and demanding that society maintain it, with all its advantages to them and disadvantages to people of color.

Missionary in Brazil, author of "The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max" Online at: http://www.comingstobrazil.com http://cadernoteologico.wordpress.com

James K's picture

Andrew, the church is already discredited by the world. Read closely the NT. People are not to be won over to a moralistic point of view. The gospel brings life to dead men. Sadly, too many do not understand this.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

christian cerna's picture

the new testament writers never wrote that slavery was wrong. on the contrary, they wrote that slaves should be submissive to their masters. slavery was a normal part of the culture of the time, something we seem unwilling to comprehend. the whole notion of slavery itself being evil is a modern notion. and it is typical of americans to try to view and rewrite history for our point of view. and if anything doesn't fit into what we call normal or acceptable behavior, we see it as wrong. that being said, paul also wrote that masters should treat their slaves justly and fairly, for they too had a master in heaven.

we seem also to forget that slavery, or bond-service, still exists. every person who works for someone else, has in essence made themselves a bondservant of that person/company. they have given up their rights to those 40 hours a week which they have agreed to work for that person, in exchange for food and shelter, and some security. if any of you in the wok force think you are free men, then i say to you, "why don't you tell your boss NO, next time he tells you to do something."

We have been so thoroughly trained by our masters, that we don't even recognize our true condition. The only free men in this country, are the men who have retired, or the men who are without work. Everyone else is just living in a programmed pattern set by the company(our lives revolve around our jobs), day after day. I bet that most of us give more time and energy to our jobs(pleasing our masters) than to our own wives and children.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

christian cerna wrote:
we seem also to forget that slavery, or bond-service, still exists. every person who works for someone else, has in essence made themselves a bondservant of that person/company. they have given up their rights to those 40 hours a week which they have agreed to work for that person, in exchange for food and shelter, and some security. if any of you in the wok force think you are free men, then i say to you, "why don't you tell your boss NO, next time he tells you to do something."
Bold added
This is a ridiculous statement; you argue against yourself. I can quit my job any time I want and do anything I want or nothing at all. There is absolutely no comparison here.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Greg Long's picture

I can't believe what I'm reading on this thread. Christian did you seriously just equate slavery in America with employment? Unbelievable.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Andrew Comings's picture

I hope I am not being too awfully reductionist when I summarize the following arguments:

Alex: "God didn't prescribe a specific system of government, so Christians shouldn't be concerned about social issues...unless said concern is in maintaining the status quo."

James K.: "The world already despises Christians, so this gives us license to be as despicable as we would like."

Christian Cerna: "Your job is equal to being bought and sold as human chattel."

Fair?

Missionary in Brazil, author of "The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max" Online at: http://www.comingstobrazil.com http://cadernoteologico.wordpress.com

Jamie Hart's picture

This is an encouraging and signifiant event for the SBC and really the evangelical church as a whole. The sad reality is, we who should be leading in this area are far behind. And this thread evidences some of the reasons why. To sum it up...it's just not that important to us. We may have various reasons why we believe that...but the end result it, we don't think about it much at all. But that is simply not the case in the black community. They think of it often. WE think we have achieved integration when a black family attends our church...even though our leadership remains completely white. Our black brothers and sisters notice this, still feel separated, but also feel they lack the freedom to say anything about it.

We are white. We think white, see the world from our white perspective, and we really have no clue what concerns the black the community and how often they feel neglected and separated. Dr. Luter's election will help the SBC change that all white perspective. It's encouraging and needed...and for those of us who are ministering in diverse areas of the country, it should challenge us to expand our perspectives. There is a large group of people in desperate need of biblical, Christ-exalting churches...but they want to feel really and truly included...and they want to know we care about what matters to them. And if/when true integration really happens, I believe it brings glory to a God of nations/ethnicities, etc.

christian cerna's picture

Andrew Comings wrote:
I hope I am not being too awfully reductionist when I summarize the following arguments:

Alex: "God didn't prescribe a specific system of government, so Christians shouldn't be concerned about social issues...unless said concern is in maintaining the status quo."

James K.: "The world already despises Christians, so this gives us license to be as despicable as we would like."

Christian Cerna: "Your job is equal to being bought and sold as human chattel."

Fair?

eh... close enough.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Andrew Comings wrote:
I hope I am not being too awfully reductionist when I summarize the following arguments:

Alex: "God didn't prescribe a specific system of government, so Christians shouldn't be concerned about social issues...unless said concern is in maintaining the status quo."
Fair?

If what you said represented a reduction of my earlier statement it might make sense but I said nothing about "maintaining status quo" or "Christians shouldn't be concerned about social issues".

What you did was not reduce but embellish, to say the least, but more accurately you simply added new categories to what I said when I said no such thing nor implied it.

The first part, "God didn't prescribe a specific system of government (for non-theocracies)" is the only reasonably accurate but clearly unqualified statement representing anything I said.

Now, time does not permit my further elaboration until the weekend but it is my objective to hold class here and provide some very needed instruction as to the matter. So then, after that and with any inquiries you might have addressed, it might be better to try a bit of reductionism. In part I do not blame your error on you seeing you may have, at worst, assumed my further views. But still it is what is called a swing and a miss on two of three parts of the "reduction" which actually exists as an "addition". So here is to the weekend.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Jamie Hart wrote:

We are white. We think white, see the world from our white perspective, and we really have no clue what concerns the black the community and how often they feel neglected and separated. Dr. Luter's election will help the SBC change that all white perspective. It's encouraging and needed...and for those of us who are ministering in diverse areas of the country, it should challenge us to expand our perspectives. There is a large group of people in desperate need of biblical, Christ-exalting churches...but they want to feel really and truly included...and they want to know we care about what matters to them. And if/when true integration really happens, I believe it brings glory to a God of nations/ethnicities, etc.


Sorry Jamie, "we" are Christians, our race is a spiritual one with respect to method of identifying our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Anthropological properties are anecdotal. You are practicing what is called "Race Based - Special Interest Theology and it is a grave error based on humanism. You completely miss the phenomenal transformation and categorical change from God and new protocols for the church, God's people, the body of Christ, when you approach it based on anthropological properties.

Jamie Hart's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:

Sorry Jamie, "we" are Christians, our race is a spiritual one with respect to method of identifying our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Anthropological properties are anecdotal. You are practicing what is called "Race Based - Special Interest Theology and it is a grave error based on humanism. You completely miss the phenomenal transformation and categorical change from God and new protocols for the church, God's people, the body of Christ, when you approach it based on anthropological properties.

Alex...your accusations are a big jump...and are inaccurate. You haven't the personal knowledge my ministry practices to be able to give them any label. You may be able to say that the ideas I expressed where similar to your perception of "Race Based-Special Interest Theology"...but you have no idea what I practice. My encouragement to you would be to ask questions prior to making accusations...but that's really beside the point.

I completely agree that we are one spiritual race and that Christ has broken down ALL walls of separation (Eph. 2). And in heaven, we are really going to enjoy that reality. But in the meantime, we minister in a world full of perceptions based on culture. And to be effective at preaching the gospel in the varying cultures around us we are wise to know them better and to adapt to them...as long as we do so within biblical boundaries.

Quote:
"To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews."-1 Cor. 9:20a
"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." - 1 Cor. 9:23

James K's picture

Andrew Comings wrote:
I hope I am not being too awfully reductionist when I summarize the following arguments:

Alex: "God didn't prescribe a specific system of government, so Christians shouldn't be concerned about social issues...unless said concern is in maintaining the status quo."

James K.: "The world already despises Christians, so this gives us license to be as despicable as we would like."

Christian Cerna: "Your job is equal to being bought and sold as human chattel."

Fair?

Um, no. Where did I say anything about having a license to be as despicable as we would like?

Maybe focus less on coddling the unbelieving mentality. Eye of the tiger Andrew. Focus.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Jamie Hart wrote:
Alex Guggenheim wrote:

Sorry Jamie, "we" are Christians, our race is a spiritual one with respect to method of identifying our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Anthropological properties are anecdotal. You are practicing what is called "Race Based - Special Interest Theology and it is a grave error based on humanism. You completely miss the phenomenal transformation and categorical change from God and new protocols for the church, God's people, the body of Christ, when you approach it based on anthropological properties.

Alex...your accusations are a big jump...and are inaccurate. You haven't the personal knowledge my ministry practices to be able to give them any label. You may be able to say that the ideas I expressed where similar to your perception of "Race Based-Special Interest Theology"...but you have no idea what I practice. My encouragement to you would be to ask questions prior to making accusations...but that's really beside the point.

I completely agree that we are one spiritual race and that Christ has broken down ALL walls of separation (Eph. 2). And in heaven, we are really going to enjoy that reality. But in the meantime, we minister in a world full of perceptions based on culture. And to be effective at preaching the gospel in the varying cultures around us we are wise to know them better and to adapt to them...as long as we do so within biblical boundaries.

Quote:
"To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews."-1 Cor. 9:20a
"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." - 1 Cor. 9:23
Andrew, my comment was in direct response to your comment and no further. Within your comment their was an exercise of doctrinal belief hence, a practice. Again it looked no further than that. Time permitted I will aporoach your now, more qualified, comments.

Andrew Comings's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:

Andrew, my comment was in direct response to your comment and no further. Within your comment their was an exercise of doctrinal belief hence, a practice. Again it looked no further than that. Time permitted I will aporoach your now, more qualified, comments.

I think you meant "Jamie"...although I have my own thoughts on the matter. These will have to wait, however, as I am preparing guide a group of American Christians through a week-and-a-half of fellowship with Brazilian Christians, or, if you prefer--ten days of experiencing "anecdotal differences". Wink

Missionary in Brazil, author of "The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max" Online at: http://www.comingstobrazil.com http://cadernoteologico.wordpress.com

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Just Brazilians? The number of anthropologically different Christians with whom I have worshipped and fellowshipped, taught and observed, from Europe to Asia to the Middle East and North and Central America is enough for me to know, practically speaking (neverminding the principles), that if a group of Christians properly abide by sound doctrine in forming their spiritual identity and its expression both individually and corporately then indeed their anthropological properties will be viewed anecdotally in this context.

By taking a moment before posting you would have seen I addressed the matter of my previous post regarding to whom I was speaking.

Andrew Comings's picture

Sorry, as soon as I posted my correction, I saw your correction. I thought about going back and correcting my correction, based on your correction...then I thought, meh.

I firmly believe that such discussions are better carried out over a Coke in a diner somewhere, and I get the impression that such a conversation with you would be delightful. But, as I am in Brazil and you are most likely not in Brazil, a comment thread at SI will have to suffice. I look forward to following--as time will allow--your "class", and responding in more detail after the 18th.

Missionary in Brazil, author of "The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max" Online at: http://www.comingstobrazil.com http://cadernoteologico.wordpress.com

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Alex

I agree, face to face with Coke would expedite the conversation. And though I am developing a series for my blog, a 4 part on marriage and it is consuming my limited free time, on Friday I anticipate putting aside an hour for a thorough post here. And it is a good thing my class is free online Smile

Alex

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Andrew Comings wrote:
As you have represented it above (and if I understand correctly), how we behave toward others in a "church context" is one thing, and it is perfectly OK to act differently toward others in a "non-church" context.
You have stated a truth, though crudely. I will give you the most immediate and obvious example.

With respect to the body of Christ, a (the) spiritual construct, I approach my Christian family and respond to them based on spiritual protocols. For example, no member of the body of Christ is given greater privilege to spiritual blessings than another which, in my part, would involve the teaching of God's Word. Everyone has equal access, no one is restricted by deliberate design.

On the other hand, several of us in a local assembly are members of the military. I stand guard at an entrance to a room segregated for Officers only. An enlisted member, who is also a Christian and co-member of my local assembly but more so, a spiritual family member of Christ, seeks access. I deny him this access. He is offended because he is a Christian brother but now I treat him as a subordinate. I treat him differently, now, than I do within the body of Christ. And for good reason. He is operating in another, anthropological structure, which operates on a different protocol. Now, I am no less courteous, this principle always applies and is not proprietary to the body of Christ, but the principles and protocols of equal access do not apply here. The military has the divine commission (that is, has the approval and responsibility to do so if they see fit from God, for those reading and unfamiliar with this term) to set up this protocol for their anthropological interests in which the protocols for the spiritual construct, called the church or body of Christ, do not get to override.

This is but one example of many which demonstrate a few things; namely that the properties of social or anthropological structures differ than that of the spiritual structure (the church) and that they follow a separate protocol, though they may share some principles or protocols but for different reasons and objectives, and thirdly that the protocols for one construct may not be imported into or onto the other in the attempt to force that construct to operate by the protocols intended for another construct.

Andrew Comings wrote:
Are you implying that it would have been perfectly acceptable for a white believer at that time to insist that his "colored" brethren use a separate drinking fountain in the public park, so long as he was treated as an equal in the church? That is what I am getting from your response...I hope I have not wrongly interpreted your remarks.

Again, the crudeness of your reflection does not deny its general truthfulness but how it is stated carries certain implications of negligence on the part of those who would exercise such liberties. The formulation is thus and again, reflected above. Protocols for the church, the body of Christ, and its spiritual egalitarianism, are not mandated for social/anthropological structures outside of the body of Christ. Otherwise even your family could not segregate itself as a family unit based on the principle you seem to wish to hoist upon anthropological structures. There is no mandate in Scripture for social segregation or any condemnation. So dogmatism in this case is absent which makes certain condemnation of racial, ethnic, or cultural forms of segregation invalid.

Andrew Comings wrote:
How would it be at all coherent for anyone to preach that all men are created in the image of God, and then participate in, and defend, a system that routinely treated a particular subset of those men as secondary citizens? Or, to bring it a little closer to where I live, how can we preach that all are equal before Christ, and yet prohibit a man from one subset of humanity from marrying a woman of another subset.

Equal in the image of God does not equate to inherent equal civil rights in a government. Equal in God’s image does not equate to or even demand, equal among men. This is an assumed misnomer by some a a deliberate one for others. This is turning a coin on its other side and saying if it is heads on one side why can't it be heads on the other?

That is, not all men are equal among men though we are all equally men. And government serves the interests of men for their preservation, perpetuity and prosperity which God commissioned it to do. If a group of people determine that the inherent properties of another race are fundamental incompatible with the first group, nothing in Scripture condemns their self-preservation from segregating. In fact, one could argue it is negligent as a government to do otherwise in keeping with the divine objectives of government. Yes, government can be altruistic but not to the injury of its self.

It is one thing to seek to destroy another group purely for their racial properties, which is condemned as unjustifiable homicide, but it is not treated as sinful to segregate and seek a national advantage, even if national preservation, perpetuity and advantage requires forms of racial, ethnic and cultural segregation. That is not condemned in Scripture.

I do agree that it is arguable, constitutionally, I do agree with that, but not Biblically. And I do agree, practically speaking, polyglotism is not easily approached and forms of apartheid can become impractical. But this is practically speaking. And I do recognize that there are principles on both sides so non-segregationist are not without argument.

My argument is neither, per se, but in response to an earlier argument that with regard to civil rights and races, there is only one biblical side. That is a fundamental error.

As to marriage, that is separate category and though racial considerations for marriage are quite legitimate one can not say emphatically to marry another race is “wrong” or sinful. We are not mandated either way. But may government set up such a policy? Again, government is a social or anthropological institution (though a divine institution) which operates on differing protocols than the body of Christ which is a spiritual construct. So one cannot condemn government for failing to carry out a policy or protocol meant only for the body of Christ. BTW marriage is a social or anthropological construct, not a spiritual one, and trying to import spiritual protocols into marriage does not work either. Yes, I am aware of Ephesians, I cover that in my marriage series.

Andrew Comings wrote:
At this point the "conservative evangelicals" of the segregation era still stand condemned, because in defending the status quo, they were in essence defending a particular social order (segregation) as mandated by God, and demanding that society maintain it, with all its advantages to them and disadvantages to people of color.
If they have argued it is “mandated” then they are in error, but if they have argued it is permissible and that there are principles from Scripture to which they can point, I agree, in principle, they have such arguments though I am not necessarily agreeing with the liberties they exercise. Neither has been mandated.