Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, hosted an hour-long conversation on race on between himself and five men, where one of the panel guests, Charlie Dates, made some rather startling remarks with nary a rebuke or raised eyebrows to be seen. During one of his sessions, he criticized SBC college presidents for refusing to “explore black theology” and expressed his desire that said SBC leadership will not become black faces with white theology.
Featured participants were Pastor Charlie Dates, Pastor K. Marshall Williams, Willie McLaurin, Kevin Smith (Executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. He recently went on a tear about how the SBC is not drifting liberal and that all the criticism is coming from outside the SBC from ne’er-do-wells who only pastor 15 people). Also featured was Pastor Rolland Slade who is also the newly elected chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.
In one particular exchange that has raised some eyebrows, Kevin Smith sets the context, talking about how due to inaction, insensitivity and a failure to address racism and race issues by Bible-believing Christians, the church has been seen as silent and ineffective in this regard, leading Christianity to be seen by some as the “white man’s religion”, with a side effect of that being the crippling of our gospel message.
“I just feel like maybe the last 8 to 10 years the insensitivity and the indifference concerning the supposed pain- pain of brothers and sisters has not been a good testimony for Christianity. When a sister is bruised about issues of sexual assault or something, other brothers in Christ can’t be indifferent or insensitive towards that. When a black man is incensed or wounded about racial injustice in the United States, or excessive force used by police, because someone is black, we can’t be indifferent to that if we say we are the family and the household of God.
Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church of Chicago, responded with the following:
The Southern Baptist Convention started primarily over race issues. Or the issue of slavery and funding missionary work and the like. Those origins, those roots, seem to yet pose a perennial problem.
To date, southern Baptist seminaries are not presidented by a black person. Your position Dr. Floyd ,which is a wonderful slot from what I understand, I’m learning all of this as we go along, is not presidented yet by black person. The faculty at some of these schools is predominantly white men. You’ve got presidents at some of these schools who refuse to even explore black theology, a responsible black theology. The dominant narrative within the publishing presses are largely controlled by white interests.
It’s hard for me, aside from personal relationships that I’m developing, even with you D Floyd, aside from those relationships it’s hard for me to chart significant progress to the point where younger black people, younger black pastors, will actually want to become part of this convention. Because to Dr. Smith’s point, the last 10 years have not necessarily been glorious.
And so I think that if some strategic moves are made, beyond resolutions and declarations, but some strategic moves are made in the coming years, then the Southern Baptist Convention actually has a strong hope of putting feet to its gospel proclamation within Americas original sin. I’m not talking about missions and evangelism, overseas and so forth and so, but I’m actually saying reconciling with its original community that it sinned against. There are major opportunities within which to do that .
But if every time God’s appointed man for a particular position is a white man, and if all these conversations are initiated by and led by white people, then really what you have are, and I say this gingerly, but what you have are opportunities for black people to be heard, but not for black people to actually affect change and to lead indigenously.
So I’m hopeful. That’s why I’m here. You asked me to come, Dr. Floyd, and I am exhausted and fatigued, but I’m here because I’m hopeful that it will not simply be black faces with white voices. Black faces with predominantly white theology, or black faces with predominantly white ideas, but black people who can lead within this convention and actually bring about change, and I’ll stop talking there before I get in trouble, but thank you for letting me. “
Responding then to Dates, K. Marshall Williams gave his”Amen” by saying:
“Because we haven’t acted on the resolutions and dealt with America’s original sin, it has hindered the heathen from hearing when we holler about the holy. They can’t hear us.”
We need relational incarnation. Every person, not only African American, but every white person needs to go to the African American museum, and learn about our history, It’s painful. I didn’t get off the first floor because it was so painful. Learn about what happened, not only to us but to native Americans, and repent. We need to call a convention to lead a nation, in repentance.
The relevant conversation starts at the 43 minute mark or so.