Will “critical race theory” fracture the Southern Baptist Convention?

Black pastors have begun pulling their churches from the convention

Critical theory is a Marxist ideology that was formulated in the 1920s and 1930s. The purpose was to explain why the working classes of Europe largely embraced patriotism and rejected Revolutionary Communism during WWI. Marxist academics, largely based in Frankfurt Germany, espoused that the working classes must be separated from the traditional family unit, their heritage, culture, and religion in order to make them more likely to embrace Revolutionary Communism.

So-called “critical race theory” places race at the forefront. It embraces a conspiratorial world-view that says white males are responsible for the short-comings of others.

Last month, The Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] officially denounced critical race theory, with the six-member Council of Seminary Presidents each writing their own statements condemning it. The occasion was to re-affirm the SBC’s Baptist Faith & Message statement of 2000. The six members all affirmed that “Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.”

The back story here is that the SBC previously made an extremely weak denunciation of critical race theory in a resolution passed at their 2019 annual conference. That SBC resolution said  “critical race theory and intersectionality have been appropriated by individuals with worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, resulting in ideologies and methods that contradict Scripture.” However, the resolution repeatedly calls critical race theory “an analytical tool.” It states “critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture.” The resolution appears to try to appease all sides. Some members of the Council of Seminary Presidents had been calling for a stronger condemnation.

However, there has been some fallout. Several black pastors have now pulled their churches and left the SBC. This includes Joel Bowman, who pastors a church in Lousiville, KY. In fact, Bowman has now publicly denounced the SBC for “pitching its tent with white supremacy.”

W. Seth Martin, who pastors a church in Minneapolis, MN announced he was leaving, even though his church is financially supported by the SBC. Two other black pastors from Chicago and Houston pulled their churches. Others say they are considering it.

Black pastors leaving the SBC is now becoming a trend. Earlier this year, John Onwuchekwa pulled his Atlanta church. He denounced the SBC leadership for supporting US President Donald Trump. Onwuchekwa says he left, even though the SBC provided financial support to his church. He claims many more black churches would leave, but they rely on this financial support provided by the SBC.

Here is the full statement from the Council of Seminary Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention:

On this twentieth anniversary year of the Baptist Faith & Message (as revised and adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000), the Council of Seminary Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in its annual session, hereby reaffirms with eagerness the Baptist Faith & Message as the doctrinal statement that unites and defines Southern Baptist cooperation and establishes the confessional unity of our Convention. Our six seminaries are confessional institutions, standing together in this classic statement of biblical truth. All professors must agree to teach in accordance with and not contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message. This is our sacred commitment and privilege, and every individual faculty member and trustee of our institutions shares this commitment. We are thankful for the theological commitments of the Southern Baptist Convention, standing against the tide of theological compromise and in the face of an increasingly hostile secular culture.

In light of current conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention, we stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.

Danny Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Our goal is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission. We take that task seriously as we serve all Southern Baptists, and we ground our doctrinal fidelity in Scripture as expressed through the Baptist Faith and Message. While we must continue to speak with clear conviction against any aspects of racism, the sure and certain cure to any evil of this age is the gospel of Jesus Christ. No unbiblical ideology can solve the social issues that confront us. Every faculty member of Southeastern Seminary is fully committed to teaching biblical truth in service to King Jesus, and to standing steadfast in an increasingly secular culture.

Jason K. Allen, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

“At any given moment, there are a host of challenges confronting the church and to which Christians should speak. Yet, these days there’s a particular relevance to Critical Race Theory, and what it portends to mean for Gospel ministry and for the church. Clearly, Critical Race Theory is at the forefront of our cultural and denominational moment. Confusion abounds on Critical Race Theory, but one thing is clear: the closer you look into the history, advocates, and aims of Critical Race Theory the more troubling it becomes.

“Given our national and denominational history, causes and cures of racism are often emotionally charged, yet we need the moral and theological clarity to guard against racism and ethno-centrism, while also defending our most cherished beliefs: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, and the full body of truth contained in The Baptist Faith and Message.

“Unfortunately, the problem of racism still exists, but Critical Race Theory is not a biblical solution. We must be a people who stubbornly fight against both racism and Critical Race Theory, while fighting for racial reconciliation and the truth of Scripture.”

Jamie Dew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary:

“In keeping with the clear teachings of Scripture, countless resolutions passed by Southern Baptists, and the plain language put forth in the BF&M 2000, we fully condemn racism in every form. Our condemnation of racism arises from the teachings of Christianity itself, not from any modern secular ideology. CRT is not endorsed by any of our faculty members or administrators.”

Adam W. Greenway, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

“In these days of rampant confusion about biblical truth, Great Commission Baptists can take confidence that their seminaries are offering clarity and conviction when it comes to racism and other worldviews antithetical to the Bible and the only Gospel that can save, such as Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. I enthusiastically endorse this statement, which reflects Southwestern Seminary’s confessional commitments and our unfaltering cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention of churches.”

Jeff Iorg, Gateway Theological Seminary:

“While refuting distracting ideologies is necessary, our focus must be on promoting the Gospel rather than having prolonged debates about new ideas that gain cultural traction. Proclaiming the Gospel and inviting people to place faith in Jesus must be our priority. Anything that detracts from that eternal message is counterproductive to our mission of sharing the Gospel with the nations.”

R. Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

“In this statement, the six seminary presidents stand together to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the revised Baptist Faith & Message and to thank God for this great statement of biblical truth that unifies Southern Baptists as a denomination of unquestioned theological conviction. This anniversary offers an opportunity, two decades after this action, to celebrate and to rededicate ourselves and our schools to this commitment.

“The issues of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality have arisen within the last two years as issues of controversy in the larger world, and this controversy has reached into the Southern Baptist Convention. We stand together in stating that we believe that advocating Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message, and that such advocacy has no rightful place within an SBC seminary. I think it speaks loudly to Southern Baptists that we take this stand together.

“We also honor and affirm the Southern Baptist Convention’s very clear and historic condemnations of racism in any form and the Convention’s acknowledgement of our own history and the moral responsibility we bear. Instructed by the Bible and motivated by the Gospel, we are called to stand together in opposing the sin of racism. We must make clear that racism has no rightful place within the SBC, our churches, or our entities. Clearly, much work remains, if we are to be the denomination of churches we pray to be. We are thankful for our African-American brothers and sisters in the SBC whose voices are so needed and must be honored. We are not to be guided by secular ideologies, but by the Word of God alone and in the love of Christ. I believe that Southern Baptists are up to this task.

“We address this statement to the entire Southern Baptist Convention and we have great confidence in the Southern Baptist Convention, as a movement of churches, to work together as we seek to be ever more faithful to Christ with every passing year.”

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