As an African-American who has been spiritually nurtured by the men and women of the Southern Baptist Convention. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and indebtedness. Thankfully, more and more African-American brothers and sisters are joining the SBC ranks, locking arms for the cause of Christ.
I am grateful for the steps the SBC has taken toward the goal of racial reconciliation. This is a complex problem that requires leadership on multiple fronts, whether on the grass-roots level, in denominational strategies, or in SBC resolutions. Countless Southern Baptists have helped advance these critical issues, and I am encouraged by their continued work, and our steady movement in the right direction.
But we haven’t arrived.
The recent comments by Richard Land, president of the ERLC, regarding the death of Trayvon Martin are an example of this. The media and blogs have shown us in great detail what was said by Dr. Land and the extent of his apology. Because of this, I won’t be focusing on whether or not Land plagiarized, or whether or not the statistics are correct (although there is plenty that needs to be said and done). There is quite a bit of discussion on these issues already.
I simply want to say that in the wake of Dr. Land’s statements, apology, and the response from the ERLC, my spirit is broken for multiple reasons. First, my initial sorrow comes from the non-apologetic apology of Dr. Land and its acceptance by SBC leaders. I am aware that we will all make mistakes, but the journey toward racial reconciliation will be slackened without genuine confession and apologies. Admitting that you are sorry that others were offended is not a Christ-honoring apology. In addition, while a genuine apology is reason for forgiveness, the unquestioned acceptance of a non-apology raises more questions than it answers.
Secondly, many African-American brothers and sisters in the SBC are being pressured to leave. It’s difficult to articulate the kind of uproar these situations cause for us. Many non-African-American Southern Baptists would be surprised at how routinely we have to defend our participation in the SBC, and our spirits have been shaken by the unfolding of these events.
Lastly, I am an enthusiastic advocate of the SBC to those beyond our fellowship. It is my joy to promote the SBC’s love for the scriptures, passion for missions, and advances toward racial reconciliation. Occasions like this continually place asterisks by all of the good gospel-work being done in our convention and it is increasingly difficult to convince African-American brothers and sisters to stay, much less encourage others to join.
The process of healing this wound begins with we as a convention holding one another accountable to make real apologies for real mistakes. Also, I’m hoping that the SBC leadership will take steps to restore the shaken confidence of African-Americans in the SBC, granting us a leg to stand on both inside and outside of its fellowship.