“Under deep conviction by the Holy Spirit…I must do something as a Christian, a pastor, and as the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention, this past Wednesday, I conducted a conference call with four of our SBC African American pastors and two Anglo pastors…The conversation we had on this conference call led to this article…”
Under a “deep conviction of the Holy Spirit,” Ronnie Floyd decided that he must do “something” regarding racial tension in the nation. Something is kind of vague for direct, divine revelation, but the Holy Spirit eventually led Floyd to issue a statement calling for the following imperatives:
- “We rise up together and cry out against the racism that still exists in our nation and churches, and subsequent injustice.”
- That “pastors, churches, leaders and laypeople of the Southern Baptist Convention…repent personally and collectively of all racism and injustice.”
- We “need to repent of our racism and injustice and return to the first commandment of loving our Lord, Jesus Christ.
- We restate what was already said in the BF&M(2000); racism is sin and we should oppose it.
These imperatives were supported in Floyd’s letter by the following indicatives (parphrased).
- Our African American brothers and sisters have deep pain and hurt, and the Bible would have us feel their pain and sympathize with them.
- There is only one human race and different ethnicities comprise one universal body of believers.
- Just as Jews and Gentiles were to be reconciled in the Gospel, so too are we to strive for reconciliation with members of all ethnic groups.
- If we love Jesus, we will love people; all people.
- When grace is experienced personally and collectively, love is demonstrated loudly and consistently.
- We are a “Jesus Convention” and not a convention consisting of one particular kind of ethnicity.
The Baptist Press’ article prefaced Floyd’s statement with stories from pastors of different ethnic backgrounds in support of the statement that would follow. In those quotations from various Southern Baptist pastors come some bold, if questionable, claims…
- “Without racial reconciliation, the U.S. will not experience the revival for which Southern Baptists have long prayed.” – Pastor Terry Turner, Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church of Mesquite, Texas.
- “We’ve come to a point where, if we’re going to have revival in our country, then our convention will have to address the issue of racism that has been prevalent in our country since the 1600s and has kept us as a people divide. Until we can come together as a unified people of God … [and] deal with that issue, true revival can’t come, because it won’t provide the oneness that God requires of His people.” – Turner
- “Until our convention comes together…revival won’t come, because oneness won’t be there in the body of Christ.” – Turner
- “I’m praying that God will pour out His Spirit… with genuine fruits of repentance, from the sins of racism and injustice, that have been a systemic satanic stronghold in our Nation so that we will see loving unity in the body of Christ, which will usher in an unprecedented revival, spiritual awakening and healing in our land.” – K Marshall Williams, Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA.
It was no surprise that the Holy Spirit would deeply convict Ronnie Floyd to address racial reconciliation. After all, deep conviction of the Holy Spirit is how mega-leaders have any good idea. It’s not Russell Moore’s infatuation with the topic or that he’s becoming the darling of the press for focusing on the issue and taking the socially-progressive position. It’s not that most Southern Baptist leaders – including Richard Land, ironically enough – have already jumped on the bandwagon and the anointed leader has been thus-far left behind in the dust. It wasn’t sticking his wet finger into the wind to determine which way the wind was blowing. No. It was the Holy Spirit who deeply convicted him.
So, now that the Holy Spirit has deeply convicted (and with convenient timing!) our anointed leader to direct us in this way, I have to wonder why He has not deeply convicted Ronnie about the heretical material being peddled out of Lifeway or a fire-engine baptistry laden with a confetti cannon; you know, stuff that Floyd can actually fix. But hey, when the Holy Spirit calls you to fix vastly complex socio-political issues with far-reaching and complicated cultural nuances, you listen, man.
My own cessationist incredulity aside (and let me ignore the “prophet-on-the-mountain” delusions of grandeur narcissism from which Floyd suffers in his warped imagination that he’ll bring in the next Great Awakening by the sheer power of his charisma and anointedness), let’s cut to the chase on his spirit-led pronouncement.
First, this is a call to reiterate what Southern Baptists have already said and done in regards to racism. As the BP article pointed out, the SBC has already confessed the sin of racism and issued an apology concerning it and asking forgiveness from those hurt by it. In fact, twenty-thousand Southern Baptist messengers approved the resolution – by landslide margins. The resolution said:
- Racism has divided the body of Christ, and Southern Baptists in particular, and separated us from our African American brothers and sisters.
- Racism profoundly distorts our understanding of Christian morality, leading some Southern Baptists to believe that racial prejudice and discrimination are compatible with the Gospel;
- That we affirm the Bibles teaching that every human life is sacred, and is of equal and immeasurable worth, made in Gods image, regardless of race or ethnicity (Genesis 1:27), and that, with respect to salvation through Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for (we) are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28);
- That we apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously (Psalm 19:13) or unconsciously (Leviticus 4:27)
- That we ask forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters, acknowledging that our own healing is at stake;
- That we hereby commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry;
- That we commit ourselves to be doers of the Word (James 1:22) by pursuing racial reconciliation in all our relationships, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 2:6), to the end that our light would so shine before others, that they may see (our) good works and glorify (our) Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16);
The Holy Spirit deeply convicted Floyd that what Southern Baptists have already corporately apologized for, we should continue to corporately apologize for. Is this what we are to believe?
How many times should the SBC corporately apologize for racism before we acknowledge that those refusing to forgive us are the ones who are in willful, unrepentant sin?
Forgive my lack of political correctness in stating the following, but my church was founded in 1980. We’ve never had a history of racism and we weren’t founded in the midst of an argument about slave-holding missionaries. My church has White people, Black people, Asian people, Native American people and Middle-Eastern people (yes, all of the above – even in Montana) and we do not and never have struggled with racial divides. So what does Floyd want me to apologize for?
Perhaps Floyd could lead us by example and confess his own racism or the racism of Cross Church. I have no idea if Floyd is a racist or if his church has racist tendencies. But if you’re going to confess sin “personally and corporately” I would suggest starting with yourself.
Furthermore, so long as we’re talking about racial reconciliation being a “Gospel Demand,” (it is a Gospel consequence, not a Gospel demand), let’s talk about another Gospel consequence – forgiveness. Something tells me that when folks discuss “racial reconciliation” that means something beyond the reconciliation that is found in the Cross. It’s here that the the lines are blurred and nobody seems to understand what people mean when our leaders say “racial reconciliation.” Jews and Gentiles were reconciled in Christ on the Cross (2 Corinthians 5:18). Grafted together as one people (Romans 11:11-31), brought together into one nation and one royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), building together one spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5), God does his work of reconciliation through the Gospel. And yet something tells me that when evangelical or Southern Baptist leaders say “racial reconciliation” they’re envisioning long summits, special meetings, handshake deals, more articulate apologies, photo-ops, concessions and compromises, sociology lectures and statistical surveys, a little graveling and a lot of intelligent words drafted into resolutions and special task force reports.
Reconciliation is had in Jesus. The Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, brought a multitude of tribes and tongues together under one, Gospel-laden tongue. The curse of Babel – the separation of men on ethnic, geographical and linguistic lines – was symbolically shattered by the Gospel and the Holy Spirit’s gifting. That curse of separation was defeated by the Gospel and as a consequence of the Gospel. As people grasp the Gospel, they feel the unity in Christ with all believers who are reconciled with God, and so become reconciled to one another.
And to prove the curse of Babel had been lifted, the church is exhorted to make no distinction between those of ethnic variations (Galatians 3:28) – particularly in the vitriolic friction between Jews and Gentiles in ancient Palestine. How were Jews and Gentiles to reconcile? They were to forgive one another and understand that if you are baptized in Christ you are joint heirs of the same promise (Galatians 3:29). The New Testament church did not battle racism by long summits, special meetings, handshake deals, more articulate apologies, photo-ops, concessions and compromises, sociology lectures and statistical surveys, a little graveling and a lot of intelligent words drafted into resolutions and special-task force reports. No, the New Testament church handled the vitriolic friction between Jews and Gentiles by preaching the Gospel.
That seems overly-simplistic, I know. That doesn’t make for headlines. There’s not a fancy bandwagon to jump on. It doesn’t seem to the secular press that we’re trying to solve the problem when, in fact, we are. There’s no confetti cannon to shoot in celebration when a multi-ethnic task force comes to an agreement on yet another carefully-worded apology on behalf of all Southern Baptists. And yet, the Gospel is the solution. The Gospel teaches us to stop making distinctions except between those who are in the race of Adam and those who are in the race of Christ. The Gospel teaches us to forgive people when they ask forgiveness, or risk remaining unforgiven ourselves. The Gospel teaches us to suck it up and move on after we’ve been wronged because God has moved on in grace from the ways we’ve sinned against Him. The Gospel gives us calls to repentance that, like God, shouldn’t be a respecter of men; refusing to forgive is as sinful as not asking to be forgiven, looting or burning property in anger is as sinful as racism and ought to be as equally rebuked, bearing false witness against police officers is a sin much like abuse committed at the hands of police officers. Call it sin, call people to repentance, ask forgiveness where necessary, forgive at all times, rinse and repeat.
Also absent from the New Testament record is any indication that Gospel advancement couldn’t happen until the church resolved the vitriolic relationship between Jews and Gentiles. Quite the opposite was true – the vitriolic relationship between Jews and Gentiles couldn’t be resolved until the Gospel was advanced.
This is why some have rightly opposed the “Gospel demand” language, as though certain things must take place or deeds be done before the Gospel can do what the Gospel does – change hearts. Baloney. There is no prerequisite that the church has to meet before the Gospel becomes an effectual tool in the anthropomorphic hands of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). A Gospel-centered revival is the catalyst for racial reconciliation; racial reconciliation is not the catalyst for Gospel-centered revival. I’m sad that the Southern Baptist pastors who signed Floyd’s statement got that so terribly backwards.
[Contributed by JD Hall]