“SBC, Resolutions, and the Future of Christianity in America”
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Christian denomination in the United States, and its influence in the world (i.e. the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Africa) is outreaching, substantial, and historic. I pastor a small and new church (a church plant) that is affiliated with the SBC. Sometimes, I express mixed feelings about our affiliation; other times, I’m glad we cooperate with the SBC to be a truly an incarnational community that is committed to sharing the love and grace of Christ with a broken world and a fragmented people in our culture and in the world. I believe in the power of christian cooperation and fellowship, which is/could be an astounding witness (and the manifestation) of the Gospel in public and in both civil and political societies.
Further, the SBC has one of the most active rescue reliefs (i.e. to attend to natural disasters, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes) teams among other Christian denominations in the United States. SBC also boasts about its international mission agencies and projects in the world and its sustaining campaign in ending modern slave trafficking and rescuing orphans in our society. Yet I’m always puzzled about the SBC’s hunger for political power and cultural influence in society.
I’m appalled by SBC Christians’s support of public policies that hurt the poor and the immigrant, and the marginalized black and brown populations. I’m also puzzled by the denomination’s symbols and artifacts of racism, white supremacy, and anti-black racism. These unchristian issues and practices break my heart and awful witness to Christianity and the Gospel.
One of the reasons I write so much about racial justice and social justice issues in American Christianity and the SBC in particular is because I love the church (the people of God) and would like to see followers of Jesus in this nation and in the SBC become a peacemaking community as well as a faith community that practices ethnic diversity and racial inclusion, and reconciliation and racial unity.
Followers of Jesus in the SBC should be actively and energetically engage in the project of ending racism and white supremacy in the contemporary American society and in Christian circles and institutions as well as helping to reform the prison system and rehabilitate former convicts and felons back to society and to the church.
One of the chapters of my forthcoming book, “Evangelical Paradoxes,” is called “SBC 1845 and Resolutions on Race and Social Justice.” It chronicles the SBC’s paradoxes concerning these connected matters. The ambiguity lies in the rhetoric and the SBC praxis.
For this particular research, I read some 25 SBC Convention Resolutions on race, racism, and social justice issues, from its founding year in 1845 to the most recent SBC convention in 2019. In these historic Convention Resolutions, the language on race dominates the SBC’s 174 years of existence. Correspondingly, the rhetoric on social justice and racism is strong, clear, and eloquently defined.
In sum, I’m thankful to belong to a denomination that was founded on slavery (I’m not proud of that!) not on mission and evangelism as traditionally interpreted by some SBC theologians and leaders, but refuses to carry on its racist narrative in the twenty-first century SBC culture. There’s hope in Christ for the SBC community and family. May God give us more grace and a repentant heart toward justice and love, reconciliation and unity!