Concerns are building among some black Southern Baptists about a predominantly white conservative church movement to redirect funds away from the denomination’s policy arm because of disagreements with Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.
Earlier this week, the Southern Baptist Executive Committee set in motion a study surveying churches to pursue “redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds,” according to the Baptist Press on Monday.
A study of this nature has been brought about in part because of congregations like Prestonwood Baptist Church outside of Dallas, Texas, escrowing their contributions to the Cooperative Program in order to steer resources away from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the agency Moore leads. This distresses some notable African-Americans within the SBC, many of whom generally shared Moore’s anti-Trump stance during the 2016 election and appreciate his emphasis on issues of racial justice.
Frank Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, said in an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday that while he does not presume to speak for all black Southern Baptists, he noted that many “do feel that Dr. Moore has spoken to issues that are of importance to them and so it would be very hurtful if he were to leave.”
Such is the sentiment of African-American Pastor Dwight McKissic of Arlington, Texas, who wrote Monday at SBC Voices that if Moore ends up being reprimanded or rejected, “it would be difficult for me to be able to continue to say, I’m proud and grateful to be a Southern Baptist. I am not sure how a reprimand will affect many like-minded black Baptists who are members of the SBC.”
Too many white Southern Baptists, he argued, are inextricably linked to the GOP and such blind political loyalty is being prioritized.
But other black leaders, while acknowledging the tensions in the denomination, attribute this to a generational cycle of sorts that occurs every so often, saying that current discontent is partially due to unusual political circumstances.
In an interview with CP on Thursday, Kevin Smith, an African-American pastor who is the executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware, said that as the SBC continues to stretch beyond its regional stronghold in the South it’s going to have to endure these kinds of challenges as they become more diverse in every way.
“More so than strictly along the categories of race, I just think the divisions are along the lines of political division as far as methodology” about how to engage culture and politics, Smith said.
Leading the ERLC is one “challenging” job, he added, and Moore is “finding that rhythm.”
While black and white Southern Baptists are on the same page on social issues like the sanctity of life and marriage, he said, “it’s just hard to speak for 16 million Baptists, and an even harder job as those people become more ideologically distinct.”
Smith further underscored the challenge of speaking in a strange year like 2016, especially given “the personality of then candidate Trump” and all that came with it.
Source: Christian Post | BRANDON SHOWALTER