Black Baptist Reverend Doesn’t Take the Race Bait

The Reverend Lawrence Ware is officially renouncing his ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention.  This is according to his scathing OP-ED piece entitled “Why I’m Leaving the Southern Baptist Convention” which was published in the New York Times on July 17, 2017.   It is apparently lost on the Reverend Ware (and the fact checkers at the world’s most prestigious newspaper) that he can do no such thing.  There is no such thing as a “Southern Baptist” ordination.  The Southern Baptist Convention does not ordain ministers.  This is because the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is not a church but rather a group of cooperating local churches that come together to engage in Christian mission work.  The Southern Baptist Convention has no ecclesiastical authority to ordain ministers; ordination is something its member churches may choose to do.  In fact, one cannot technically leave the Southern Baptist Convention.  The Southern Baptist Convention is a convention of churches, not individuals.  Thus, only a church can leave the Southern Baptist convention.  If an individual wishes to disassociate himself from the Southern Baptist Convention, he must disassociate himself from his local church or his church must disassociate from the convention.  In his article, the Reverend Ware did not indicate if he was leaving his church or if his church was leaving the convention.[1]  Throughout his article Ware conflates the Southern Baptist Convention with “the church”, thus demonstrating an embarrassing lack of understanding of Baptist ecclesiology and casting doubt upon the validity of his insider perspective of the Southern Baptist Convention.

A source has indicated to Pulpit and Pen that Ware is a Minister of Christian Education at the SBC-affiliated Prospect Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[2]  In his Times piece, Ware describes himself as a “black scholar of race and a minister who is committed to social justice.” According to his Oklahoma State University bio page, Ware is the Diversity Coordinator of the institution’s Department of Philosophy and the co-director of its Africana Studies Program.  Among other things, Ware is a contributor to the Democratic Left[3], a commentator for The Huffington Post, and the instructor of a class entitled “MLK, Malcolm X, and the Philosophy of Race.”  According to Ware, he plans to remain a minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention[4] which he describes as “a liberal black Baptist organization, founded in 1961 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”  Quite frankly, Ware is exactly the kind of liberal progressive that Pulpit & Pen has been warning about over the past few years.

In my recent article “The Color of Money in the Southern Baptist Convention: Dwight McKissic and the Economics of Race-Baiting” I indicated that the SBC has an economic incentive to increase its appeal to predominately black churches due to the shrinking membership rolls of predominately white churches.  This is exactly what Ware observed in the times writing that the SBC has “worked hard to convey the appearance of racial inclusivity in an attempt to attract black churches to shore up declining convention membership.”  Both Ware and I have taken issue with the resolution offered by Pastor William Dwight McKissic at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix that condemned the racism of the “Alt-right” political movement.  I have argued that the resolution was simple race-baiting, a patronizing and unnecessary appeal to black churches given that the SBC has already apologized for its racist past multiple times.  Ware, who is not taking the race bait, argues in the Times that the SBC’s apologies are not enough.  Ware contends that,

not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention. Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement, and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right. For all of its talk about the love of Jesus Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaction on the issues of racism and homophobia has drowned out its words…An organization with a history of racism does not change easily, and asking for forgiveness is not tantamount to doing what is needed to eradicate the lingering stain of it.

For Ware, asking forgiveness is not enough.

The only SBC leader of which Ware speaks positively is Russell Moore.  This is not surprising given that Moore himself has led the progressive charge in the Southern Baptist Convention and is himself a former Democratic political operative.[5]  Under Moore’s leadership, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has pushed a narrative of “racial reconciliation” that seems out of step with basic gospel proclamation, which is the bread and butter of the SBC.  However, issues of race seem to be of primary concern for Ware.  Not only does he teach a number of courses about the philosophy of race but boldly stated in the New York Times:

I love the church, but I love black people more. Black lives matter to me. I am not confident that they matter to the Southern Baptist Convention.

When I was a child growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I learned that “Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  The social justice progressivism espoused by Ware is antithetical to the gospel.  Ware is not only ignorant of Baptist ecclesiology but about the nature of Christ’s church itself.  It is composed of the elect of all nations and is not delineated by race or earthly nationality.  Yet there is something else Ware loves more than Christ’s church.  This should not be the attitude of anyone in any body, denomination, or convention.

Quite frankly, the SBC is better off without Ware and his ilk.  One can only hope that he and all of those of like mind will leave the SBC.  Disturbingly, Ware indicates in the Times that he and his fellow progressives have been working to “change a broken system from within”.  If the SBC, which has its problems, is indeed broken, the fix it needs does not involve the an anti-gospel social justice agenda of Lawrence Ware who has served to besmirch (for the wrong reasons) one of the last conservative, Bible-believing denominations in the world in the editorial pages of the world’s most liberal newspapers.  If this New York Times piece isn’t a wake-up call for the base of the SBC to rise up against the growing tide of liberal progressivism in their ranks, I don’t know what is.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church of which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.



[1] I reached out via email to the Reverend Ware to inquire about this today but as of publication time he has not responded.

[2] This has not been confirmed with the Reverend Ware of the staff of Prospect Missionary Baptist Church at the time of publication.

[3] Also known as the “Democratic Socialists of America”

[4] It is not uncommon for predominately black Baptist churches to be dually aligned with the SBC and a convention of other predominately black Baptist churches.

[5] Specifically, Moore was on the staff of a Democratic Congressman

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