After some parliamentary snafus amid wide publicity the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual gathering has voted overwhelmingly to condemn “white supremacy,” “white nationalism” and “alt-right” perspectives.
Here’s the conclusion:
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
Southern Baptists years ago officially repented their early role in supporting slavery and abetting racial prejudice. This resolution responds to the recent high profile of new forms of pseudo intellectual racialisms advocated by Alt Right advocate Richard Spencer and others. Southern Baptist Joe Carter outlines this movement here. The Alt Right tends to be secular and anti-Christian, but opposing new iterations of racialism was important to Southern Baptists who recall their own history.
Decades before the Southern Baptists, Mainline Protestants repeatedly denounced racism. In the 1950s and 1960s, and even before, courageous Mainliners opposed segregation when unpopular to do so. Sadly, over the last 40 years, frequent Mainline pronouncements against racism have become vacuous and sanctimonious, often tied to wider political agendas. In the 1990s a special Mainline-backed World Council of Churches human rights commission, seeking United Nations intervention, cited the 1994 GOP congressional victory as evidence of American systemic racism.
Amid all these outspoken pronouncements, Mainline Protestantism has demographically remained about 95 percent white. Its professed commitment to racial outreach and harmony never translated into denominations that better reflect America’s racial and ethnic diversity, failing especially with the growing Hispanic population. Meanwhile, the Southern Baptists, even amid a decade of overall membership decline, have founded hundreds of new predominantly black and Hispanic congregations. Their recent resolution says over 20 percent of Southern Baptist congregations, or about 11,000, are now non-Anglo. A black pastor from Texas submitted the original draft resolution.
The Southern Baptist resolution was backed by many senior church leaders, including seminary presidents, but young pastors were especially outspoken. One in particular was Garrett Kell, whom I’ve met, who’s helped revive a dying Northern Virginia congregation, and who has a powerfully personal pro-life testimony.
Besides Alt Right internet trolls, who will criticize the Southern Baptist resolution against racism? One early critique comes from a liberal United Methodist clergy, who believes white evangelical theology, with its stress on Christ’s sacrificial atonement on the cross and new birth through Him into the church as a new color blind community, with its “generic, ahistorical account of Christian salvation,” is inherently racist. He explains:
Instead of the collective healing and restoration proclaimed by Mary’s Magnificat, Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth, and throughout Paul’s epistles, the generic individualist salvation of white supremacy consists in Jesus convincing God not to torture some people forever provided they are officially “justified” by “accepting him as Lord and savior.”
Read the rest of his critique here.
Meanwhile, the Southern Baptists also, with less publicity, passed a resolution affirming the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the embodiment of God’s “perfect love” and “perfect justice.” Doubtless this liberal United Methodist blogger will be distressed and unsurprised. But this message of God’s perfect justice and love for all revealed in Christ is the church’s most powerful weapon against racism and all human acrimony.