The Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting this week (in St. Louis, with 6,000 attending), addressing racism, homosexuality and the Orlando massacre in statements inclusive and critical by turns. The Southern Baptists invited and included “the president of a historically black denomination in a rare address to their national gathering.”
From Religion News Service:
“Those who would like to suggest that racism is not indeed a problem for the church but rather it is a sociological problem, I would argue it is without question a sin problem,” the Rev. Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, told the predominantly white Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday (June 14).
Young’s appearance was the first time a president of the black denomination had addressed the nation’s largest Protestant denomination in at least 35 years. Outgoing Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd extended the invitation, saying that any form of racism defies the dignity of human life.
The convention also passed a resolution against the display of the Confederate flag. In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The group overwhelmingly approved a resolution at its annual conference saying that the flag is perceived by many as a symbol of “hatred, bigotry and racism” and asking people to take it down.
“We call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole body of Christ, including our African American brothers and sisters,” the resolution said.
The Washington Post gives some historical context on the connections between the Southern Baptists and the Confederate flag:
The Southern Baptist Convention is linked from its origin with the history of the Confederacy and of race in America, as Dwight McKissic, the black Texas pastor who proposed the Confederate flag resolution, pointed out in blog posts. The denomination was founded in Georgia in 1845 by Baptists who split from the northern Baptist church because they disagreed with its anti-slavery positions.
The church has acknowledged its ugly past and apologized to African-Americans in previous resolutions, and it elected a black president in 2012.
Still, McKissic wrote, rejecting the Confederate flag would help mend the still-raw wounds of the denomination’s history.
…and includes some of the comments on McKissic’s blog opposed to the removal of the flag:
“If this resolution passes, the SBC will never get another dime of mine. No offerings, no support for fund raises and no attendance. Period…. I could give many historical examples of why the South was right in seeding [sic] from a tyrannical government.”
“I will leave the Convention if this is pursued, and I have been in SBC churches FROM A BED BABY! … I am the Daughter of some 34 Confederate veterans and the niece of some 120. NONE OF WHICH HAD SLAVES.”
The topics of violence and race met in a remembrance of the shootings nearly a year ago at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston:
Right after Young spoke, the leader of a prominent Southern Baptist church in Charleston, S.C., spoke of the “grief and grace” that filled his city after the shooting deaths of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church almost exactly a year ago.
“Racially motivated murder hurt all of us,” said the Rev. Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston. “The white community for the first time in some ways was experiencing the depth of the pain, for the first time beginning to understand it was our church that was attacked, our people, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors.” [from RNS]
…and in prayers for and condemnation of the shootings in Orlando. While speaking out against “bigotry, hatred [and] violence,” Floyd
also condemned what he said were sales of aborted fetus parts by Planned Parenthood and the lighting up of the White House in rainbow colors after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
“These days are not some new morality,” he said. “They are signs that our nation is on the ragged edge of moral insanity.”