The leaders of two majority-black megachurches in major cities announced this week that they will no longer affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention.
In op-eds announcing their decisions to leave, Charlie Dates of Chicago’s Progressive Baptist Church and Ralph D. West of Houston’s The Church Without Walls both criticized SBC seminary presidents’ declaration that critical race theory was “incompatible” with the denomination’s statement of faith.
The two pastors brought up recognizing the reality of systemic racism alongside the truth and authority of Scripture. Last month, in a joint statement and individual remarks, the six presidents of SBC seminaries called critical race theory “unbiblical” and instead emphasized the need to turn to Christian teachings alone, not secular ideas, to confront racism.
“How did they, who in 2020 still don’t have a single Black denominational entity head, reject once and for all a theory that helps to frame the real race problems we face?” Dates wrote in an op-ed Friday for the Religion News Service.
The recent departures caught the attention of Southern Baptist leaders who were disappointed to see them go, particularly fellow African Americans. The head of the SBC’s National African American Fellowship, which had raised concerns about the critical race theory statement a week ago, said he was “saddened” by the announcements.
“They are good men who are sending a big message to the SBC,” said Marshal Ausberry.
Dates’s 100-year-old congregation only began affiliating with the SBC last year, joining as a dual affiliate with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a mainline, African American denomination. The young pastor said he had to convince his members that joining the denomination for the sake of mission partnerships would be a good move.
Over the summer, Dates discussed with CT his frustration with the lack of diversity among SBC’s recently appointed entity heads, all of whom are white men, and the inconsistent support for racial justice causes. Dates—who spoke at several national SBC events before and after deciding to affiliate with the denomination—wrote that the statement was “a final straw.”
His decision came two days after West made a similar argument in a Baptist Standard op-ed. West’s The Church Without Walls (originally Brookhollow Baptist Church) has ranked among the 100 biggest in the country and averages 9,000 people in weekly attendance, according to its site.
A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and adjunct at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, West said he planned to withdraw from his current doctoral studies at Southwestern and will not associate with the SBC any longer.
“When I came back ‘home’ to Southwestern, I even encouraged other ministers to do the same. I took President Adam Greenway’s invitation to return as a statement of good faith, that the seminary wanted to welcome me and many other Black ministers to contribute to its legacy,” he wrote. “The statement on critical race theory and intersectionality has soiled that good faith.”
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Source: Christianity Today