Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. -G.K. Chesterton
There can be no doubt that the Southern Baptist Convention plans to increase its membership roll in the coming years by adding more color, as in skin tones (and we applaud this long overdue strategy). Even before the SBC Annual Meeting took place, seminarians made public pronouncements that the next president of the convention should be African-American. Here is how it was reported in the Associated Baptist Press:
“A seminary professor says the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention should be an African-American. Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said via Twitter that he thinks Southern Baptists should elect Fred Luter next year when the convention meets in New Orleans.”
The article later states:
“In his own Twitter feed, (Danny) Akin indicated that he agreed with Moore that Luter would be a good choice to make history as the first black president of the convention formed in 1845, a split with northern Baptists over slavery.”
And as previously reported, the SBC recently made history by electing Fred Luter, an African-American, as second in command (first vice president) of the convention. With such high-powered endorsements from Southern Baptist leaders, it certainly sounds like Luter is well on his way to becoming the next president of the SBC when it meets in New Orleans, where Luter grew up.
According to the ABP article:
"Last year Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said electing a black president would make the denomination more effective in reaching the kind of people discussed in a “Great Commission Resurgence” proposed by SBC leaders. McKissic, who is African-American, called for Southern Baptist to “repent of systemic, institutionalized and historic negative attitudes toward women, race and dissenters.” Luter said McKissic was one of several people who suggested that he seek the office in 2010."
While we appreciate the fact that Southern Baptists are finally taking tangible steps toward achieving solidarity with African American Christians as well as those of other ethnic backgrounds, we have to wonder whether predominantly black congregations will be inclined to affiliate with the SBC given their theological position regarding women. An insightful article entitled “The Role of African American Women in the Black Church” reveals the following:
“Faith is a strong guiding force in the lives of many African American women. And for all that they receive from their spiritual communities, they give back even more. In fact, black women have long been regarded as the backbone of the black church. But their extensive and significant contributions are made as lay leaders, not as religious heads of churches. The congregations of African American churches are predominantly women, and the pastors of African American churches are nearly all male.”
While African American women may be accustomed to male leadership in the pulpit, we wonder how well they will embrace the BF&M 2000 given their vital positions in both the church and the home. We highly doubt the ideologies being touted by patriarchs at Southern Seminary will be embraced by female African-Americans. It will be interesting to see whether Russell Moore, for example, will be able to demonstrate sensitivity to the matriarchal culture that has developed in the African-American church. Remember that it was Patriarch Moore who stated that the word “complimentarian” was not a strong enough term for him.
The Bayly brothers, who hail from the Presbyterian Church of America denomination, took great pleasure in quoting Russell Moore as follows:
“Russell Moore: Gender identity and complementarianism… I hate ….the word 'complementarian', I prefer the word 'patriarchy'...”
And it was Moore who wrote the paper “After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians Are Winning the Evangelical Gender Debate”
A domineering attitude by Southern Baptist leaders could negate the entire approach of integrating African-American congregations into the Southern Baptist Convention. In fact, it could lead to civil discord in the denomination if SBC leaders oppress female African-Americans who selflessly serve their families, churches, and community.
And who can forget the highly publicized SBC scandal of 2008 involving LifeWay? This was how Fox News reported it — “Magazine Featuring Female Pastors Pulled From Shelves, ‘Treated Like Pornography’.LINK Here’s how the article begins:
“The five women on the cover are dressed in black and smiling — not an uncommon strategy for selling magazines. But these cover girls are women of the cloth, featured in Gospel Today magazine's latest issue, which the Southern Baptist Convention has pulled from the shelves at its bookstores, though the magazine is available for sale upon request. The group says women pastors go against its beliefs, according to its interpretation of the New Testament. The magazine was taken off stands in more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the country, including six in metro Atlanta. Published for nearly 20 years, Gospel Today is the largest and most widely distributed urban Christian publication in the country, with a circulation of 240,000. The magazine's publisher, Teresa Hairston, said she was just reporting on a trend, not trying to promote women pastors. "They basically treated it like pornography and put it behind the counter," she said. "Unless a person goes into the store and asks for it, they won't see it displayed."
As racial solidarity is promoted in the SBC, it will be fascinating to observe how African-American Baptist respond to the demands of submission by Southern Baptist leaders, including Fred Luter. Speaking of the SBC’s newly elected First Vice President, how many black churches like Luter’s are currently affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention? Well, here’s the answer, which we obtained from Urban Christian News. “Luter's church is one of an estimated 3,400 black churches in the nation's largest Protestant denomination, a small minority of more than 45,700 total SBC-affiliated churches with about 16 million members total.”
In the years to come, it will be fascinating to see whether a predominantly white Southern Baptist Convention headed by a black president can entice racially diverse congregations to join ranks with them. We’ll do our best to keep you posted!
Lydia's Corner: 2 Samuel 1:1-2:11 John 12:20-50 Psalm 118:19-29 Proverbs 15:27-28