The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee affirmed a report assessing the progress the convention has made regarding racial diversity at their June 15 meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
The EC also voted to withdraw fellowship from a Huntsville, Ala., congregation based on what an administrative committee recommendation stated was “clear evidence of the church’s affirmation and approval of homosexual behavior.”
According to the EC’s racial diversity report, diversity has measurably increased in the SBC in the past 20 years, but more progress needs to be made in ethnic participation. The report was printed in the daily bulletin Tuesday (June 16) during the SBC’s annual meeting in Columbus.
The Executive Committee submitted the report as its written response to a 2014 motion that the SBC assign a task force to assess progress Southern Baptists have made in racial reconciliation since a 1995 resolution marking the 150th anniversary of the SBC. SBC Bylaw 26 requires that all referred motions be presented in writing at the following year’s annual meeting. The report acknowledged the “appropriateness” of the convention’s 1995 apology to African Americans for past racism that still reaps a bitter harvest.
The report noted that membership on SBC committees and boards in particular does not reflect the diversity the SBC has attracted since the 1995 Resolution on Racial Reconciliation.
“Using the eighty-three-member Executive Committee as a representative body of the composition of the other board and committees of the Convention, the Executive Committee reviewed its own composition during the twenty years since the adoption of the Racial Reconciliation Resolution,” the report stated. “If the membership of the Executive Committee serves as a microcosm of the other boards and committees, the presence of the intercultural make-up of the Convention was (and is) sorely lacking.
“Of the 249 individuals nominated and elected to serve on the Executive Committee since 1996, no more than eight were from non-Anglo racial or ethnic groups, representing only 3.2 percent of the members nominated and elected to this committee.”
While the appointment of non-Anglos to committees and boards has lagged, the number of non-Anglo Southern Baptist congregations has increased from 6,083 in 1998, or 13.4 of the total, to 10,103 in 2014, accounting for 20 percent of the total.
The SBC has made critical progress in racial reconciliation, the EC noted, including the election of national, state and associational officers from a diversity of nationalities and cultures, including the 2012 election of Fred Luter as the first African American SBC president.
While the report did not include statistics regarding ethnic diversity among employees of SBC entities, state conventions and associations, the EC noted the hiring of two African American professionals at its headquarters in Nashville, including Ken Weathersby as vice president for convention advancement.
“We applaud the numerous proactive steps our SBC ministry entities have taken to enlist qualified individuals of all races and ethnicities for senior staff positions; to serve on faculty; to be appointed as missionaries and church planters; to write, edit, and produce Christian resources; to service the retirement needs of pastors and church staff; to raise awareness of the moral issues confronting our nation; to equip leaders; and to otherwise serve our churches in a variety of ways,” the EC reported.
EC President Frank S. Page, in concert with the North American Mission Board, has appointed four ethnic advisory councils, namely Hispanic, African American, Asian American, and Multi-Ethnic, to submit reports to help the EC, NAMB and other SBC entities understand and appreciate the various racial and ethnic perspectives and concerns among Southern Baptists.
In its report, the EC affirmed that SBC entities are working to be more inclusive of ethnicities in addition to Anglos.
“The data indicate that many potential barriers to participation have been identified and are being systematically addressed. There are also numerous sign-posts indicating a higher degree of inclusion of individuals of every race and tribe and tongue in the total fabric of Convention life,” the report said. “And, clearly the conversation has changed: increased participation of individuals of all ethnic and racial backgrounds is a topic of intense interest and frequent discussion at all levels of Southern Baptist life.”
To promote the appointment of more ethnic leaders to SBC committees and boards, the EC recommended to Southern Baptists seven key steps “for at least the next five years so that they become ingrained in our normal way of doing business.”
These include proactive steps requesting the SBC president, the Committee on Nominations and the Committee on Committees have the names of ethnic leaders in full cooperation with the SBC, so that appointments and nominations to committees and boards can be drawn from such lists.
The EC noted the importance of the Annual Church Profile (ACP) in determining whether leaders may be nominated or appointed to serve on boards and committees.
“It is unlikely that someone from churches that fail to submit an ACP will be selected to serve the Convention,” the report noted, “with the result that the diversity their church brings to the Convention remains unknown, uncelebrated, and unrepresented.”
None of the recommendations can achieve true racial reconciliation outside of the power of the Holy Spirit, the EC reported. “Reconciliation is, at its core, a spiritual concept. True reconciliation is a condition of the heart.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press