CR:V has received a leaked copy of an article planned for release during next year’s Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. For the purposes of documentation it is provided below.
Southern Baptists Choose Name Change Rather than Deal with Racist Past
June 14th, 2021
Nashville A denomination in crisis, reeling from the scandal of widespread sexual abuse and facing a world that has largely moved beyond their sexual values, the Southern Baptist Convention – still the largest Protestant denomination in the world if their reported numbers are to be believed – voted today to change the name of the denomination in an effort to close the door on a legacy of racism which has dogged the denomination since its founding.
Hailed as a historic moment by its leaders, Southern Baptists hope the name change will provide a clear and final break with the pro-slavery past which led to the founding of the denomination in Augusta, Georgia in 1845. Previous superficial efforts at distancing contemporary Southern Baptists from their racist founders have largely failed to move the needle of public perception. SBC institutional leaders and pastors believe now that a change in branding may be the ticket to a less embarrassing future.
Reigning Southern Baptist President J.D. Greear’s tenure has seen some of Southern Baptists’ greatest challenges – the aforementioned exposure of a rampant culture of sexual abuse and cover up among SBC Churches, the refusal by a considerable number of SBC churches to honor the government’s dictates during the coronavirus pandemic, and the public relations disaster of high profile leaders supporting Donald Trump – is enthusiastic about the change. “Southern Baptists want to be a people who love their neighbors well. We thought we had struck the fatal blow to racism when I earlier retired the Broadus gavel [Editor – named for another Pro-Confederacy Southern Baptist founder] but after some soul-searching, conversation among our leaders, and external polling we decided that a name change was our best way to signal to the world that Southern Baptists are listening and responding.”
Stephen Balmer of Dartmoth University’s history department commented on the decision: “It is amazing to me that Southern Baptists, born in a pro-slavery moment and continuing to exist largely in the deep South, believe that a simple name change will gloss over both their denominational legacy of racism and continuing position on the wrong side of history when it comes to a progressive understanding of human sexuality. The Southern Baptist Convention never fails to surprise.”
Harry Banking, an historian of American Religion teaching at Baylor University, called the name change “a spasm of desperation coming from a people terrified to lose their cultural power.” He continued, “Surely someone within the Southern Baptist Convention is self-aware enough to realize that a PR stunt like this is going to be met immediately with just the kind of scorn it deserves from a world waiting for the SBC to get serious about the backward and fundamentalist elements at the core of its being.”
Meanwhile, Ronnie Floyd, President of the SBC’s Executive Committee sees the changing of the name as a meaningful step in the denomination’s efforts to bring advance their religion into the various cultures of the world. “Southern Baptists want to be a people on mission with Jesus and if we are going to do so in a way that is winsome and empathetic we have to make important changes in how we present ourselves to the broader world.” However, as Reverand Dawn Hutchings has noted, the pro-missions impulse Floyd refers to is itself an expression of problematic elements within evangelicalism. “…the so-called ‘great commission’ was added to the gospel by the Christian community sometime around 325 [and ] granted white European Christians the authority to claim, seize, conquer, and ‘Christianize’ any and all lands inhabited by people who were not Christian. Colonizing became Europe’s preferred method of evangelizing and in Jesus’ name indigenous people were slaughtered or subjugated.” Thinking of the consequences of this idea, Dr. Anthony Bradley has written that the idea of a “Great Commission” toward missions for evangelicals is driven by “a truncated view of the gospel, the kingdom, and redemption that may permanently keep evangelicalism one of America’s only predominantly white spaces.”
Vancouver-area SBC church planter Preston Spiccoli hopes that the name change eases the burden of reaching his neighborhood in the name of Christ. “Honestly, the previous name was a barrier. ‘Southern’ carries a lot of negative connotations here in Canada and I am hopeful the change lowers the degree of difficulty for us in terms of being understandable to our neighbors.” Spiccoli, however, finds himself struggling in a vocation fast becoming obsolete. The pandemic quarantine has demonstrated that churches need not actually gather in a physical location, as demonstrated by SBC President Greear dissolving his own church into a collection of home-gathering fellowships (in a state with lax masking and social distancing requirements) or Nashville-area Long Hollow Baptist Church looking to accommodate online-only church members. These changes toward an online Christianity leaves church planters like Spiccoli struggling to justify his work in a post-coronavirus America.
Time will tell whether or not this name change really is the seismic shift away from the problematic past of Southern Baptists and toward the more evolved values of the people which the SBC hopes to reach with their message. Choosing a re-branding over meaningful action against their movement’s legacy of racism nonetheless appears a strange move by a people claiming to represent Jesus’ teaching of love for one’s neighbor.
Neil Shenvi recently appeared on The Missions Podcast to talk about a host of issues. From the podcast’s website:
Social justice. Critical theory. Post-colonialism. Intersectionality. These issues have divided believers and unbelievers alike in the church over the last few years, and in 2020 the issue is impossible to escape. Is conservative evangelicalism beginning to compromise biblical teaching on complex social issues? And if so, what effect does that have on missions?
On Episode 13 of The CR:V Podcast we are talking with the authors of the new book The Pop Culture Parent – Dr. Ted Turnau, E. Stephen Burnett, and SBC Pastor Jared Moore about their Christian approach to pop culture and how it serves the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
The following was published initially on Twitter here.
That phrase – “…we’ve never known before” frustrates me deeply. Let me start here: Ray & I, as best I can tell from his tweets, see Christian faithfulness in 2020 in profoundly different & significant ways. I do, however, think he is a brother and I want to respect our common confession of faith & him as an older believer to the greatest degree I can. So, my frustrations: This newly discovered, high-minded, third-way-is-faithfulness approach that Ortlund is praising (and that shows up the writings of The Gospel Coalition, David French, Thomas Kidd, etc. – to name some recent examples) is particularly exhausting for those of us in the evangelical camp who were saying we were politically homeless years and years and years ago.
For myself, it was McCain & Romney. Others reading this tweet thread will go back further than I. Collectively, we represent evangelicals who long ago concluded the GOP was untenable for Christians who really wanted to see meaningful action taken on first-priority issues, abortion in particular. Want proof? Read this:
That’s my receipt. Others can provide their own. When we said this stuff in public the big-name evangelicals & Christian thought leaders who were used to sitting on big stages (here, again, Ortlund or
David French are good representatives) scoffed & outright
mocked us a political ideologues, naive daydreamers, simple people who didn’t understand the complexity of bartered goods in modern politics. I, and I think others, remember this.
Now Trump makes these guys feel icky. And as a result 3rd party voting & political
homelessness is the revealed way of Christian political virtue?
Thanks but I’ll keep my own counsel. Here’s what I know: progressives are literally – literally – burning cities, destroying lives, mutilating adolescent bodies in the name of transgenderism, attempting to, w/o any attempt at secrecy, overthrow the Western world, and continue bathing in the blood of the unborn in a way that the worst ethical monsters in history would recoil at.
Now is when voting gets complex? Now is when the third way is needed? Sure guys.
To begin landing this plane, remember: there are a bunch of us who got here long before you did. We got here earlier for better reasons. We got here when the conflict in society wasn’t nearly as pointed or high stakes. And we remember your laughter. We remember you taking the exact same condescending, above-your-petty-concerns, pedantic tone of voice – coming from you then in favor of voting for the established parties.
Now, when we hear it again you remind us you don’t have principles. You are culturally hide-bound and the culture you are hide-bound to isn’t the local church, at least not in a way you can be accused of consistency on.
Want some of the credibility you jettisoned back? Point out your political principles and the specific policies you think are a necessary conclusion from those principles. Show us either how you’ve held them for longer than 10 minutes or own that you changed in light of a mistake you made.
Otherwise you’re going to continue looking like a boat loosely tied to the evangelical dock, drifting first one way then the next according to whatever the current of culture is telling you. We specifically won’t see you as credible guides to faithful Christian political lives.
That phrase – “…we’ve never known before” – isn’t true for those of us paying attention & looking for help when you were scoffing. And every time you use it you remind us who you were then and who you are now.
Think I’m a nutty MAGA guy? Think again. I’ve got receipts here too:
The problem isn’t blind support for Trump. Or white privilege & maintaining white power. Or – good night – QAnon.
You are the problem; your track record is the problem.
What you have been consistent on is a mocking, condescending tone toward believers who came to different political conclusions.
As I’ve mentioned, we remember. And remembering lets us recognize the pattern today.
So please, own your failure. Or otherwise just do us all a favor and send that next tweet in a text message to your friends & stop trying to bind our consciences to yours.
On Episode 12 of The CR:V Podcast Jeff Wright speaks with Dr. Owen Strachan about the State of Masculinity in Evangelicalism. The conversation touches on a wide range of subjects: how the church can encourage authentic masculinity, where to look in Christian intellectual tradition for resources, and how Christians should think of cultural voices like Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, and Ben Shapiro.
2020 is, obviously, bizarre in a number of ways. One of the lesser indicators among evangelicals is that we are officially in the era of writing responses to responses to responses.
If you aren’t familiar with the genesis of this particular post, Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, CA (where John MacArthur pastors) recently announced their intention to resume meeting for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day indoors – a decision that defies California’s prohibition on just such gatherings – and, in doing so, articulated the theological conclusions that led to their decision.
Jonathan Leeman, editorial director of 9 Marks Ministries and an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in Maryland, felt compelled to write a response to the announcement from Grace Community Church (hereafter referred to as GCC). One important additional feature of this whole imbroglio is that, around the same time as GCC’s decision, Andy Stanley and SBC President J.D. Greear announced their own decisions, in various fashion, to do the opposite of GCC for the remainder of 2020. Greear, in particular, has described his church, Summit, as re-constituting into 2400 smaller churches. Leeman apparently felt no similar compulsion to respond to those choices, particularly Greear’s (who he shares a denomination with) yet did feel an impetus to respond to GCC (who he has no formal relationship to).
In response to Leeman’s response (what a strange phrase to write) Tom Buck has penned a strong piece for Alpha & Omega Ministries, putting Leeman’s critique of GCC under a particularly precise microscope.
One of the most interesting features of Buck’s response is his quotation of Leeman’s own words about the central importance of the church’s structure in regards to the church’s nature and Jesus’ designs for it. From Buck’s piece on A&O (and quoting from Leeman’s One Assembly: Rethinking the Multisite and Multiservice Church Models published for 9 Marks in April of this year):
In discussing ways that churches can obey the government in the pandemic, Leeman appears to make an enormous shift to how churches can legitimately structure themselves.
In his most recent book, released this past April, Leeman argues that, “changing a church structure changes its moral shape” and applies that truth down to the specific details of how a church gathers for worship. He declared, “change the basic biblical structures and you’ll slowly, subtly change people’s understanding of what the church is, what the church does, and what members are responsible to do.”
9Marks has based much of its ministry arguing for what constitutes a healthy church and what its gathering is to look like biblically. It revolutionized my own ecclesiology as a young pastor. They have argued against the “multi-site” model, and have not minced words about their position. Leeman writes,
“We fight Jesus by redefining the church. We fight Jesus by forsaking any of the responsibilities he’s given to us… Multisite and multiservice churches repudiate the Bible’s definition of a church, redefine what the church is, and so reshape the church morally. And all that means these models pick a fight with Jesus. The fight involves abdication by the members and usurpation by the leaders, even if unintended… What is a church? It’s an embassy of Christ’s kingdom. It’s a group of Christians who together identify themselves and each other as followers of Jesus and as the church through regularly gathering (in one place at one time) in his name, preaching the gospel, and celebrating the ordinances… So next time you hear someone say, “the church is a people, not a place,” you might respond: ‘Sort of. The people become a people by regularly assembling in a place. You can’t call the team a team if they never play together.’”
Yet now, Leeman and 9Marks seem more comfortable with pointing to the solution of the multi-site model of J.D. Greear to “turn the 12,000-member Summit Church into hundreds of house churches for the remainder of the year.” When you consider 9Marks long-held views on ecclesiology, how are they more comfortable commending the decision of Greear’s church to create 2,400 multi-sites that are essentially “churches” without elder leadership, than the decision of MacArthur’s church to come together under the authority of their elders to worship? If I may be so bold, I am as concerned, if not more so, about the inconsistencies of Leeman and 9Marks on this issue as I am the current inconsistent practices of our government.
Do the circumstances of the pandemic mean Leeman does not believe that Greear’s church will be “picking a fight with Jesus” over the next 7 months in their 2,400 “churches?” How is that not raising the “fight with Jesus” to the level of an ecclesiastical revolution? Has 9Marks concluded that in this case it is better to “pick a fight with Jesus” than with Caesar? Has the circumstances of the pandemic caused them to rethink their position on multi-site churches? The inconsistency of the position of Leeman and 9Marks at this point seems equally glaring.
It seems quite clear that, in fellowship with Leeman’s words above, GCC has re-entered the essential structure at the heart of the church’s nature and Jesus’ intentions for the local church. In contrast, Greear’s church has done something… else. And yet Leeman has words of response and critique for GCC and MacArthur but not Summit and Greear.
Why is that?
More specifically, does this indicate Leeman has changed in his understanding of the church published a mere four months ago? If, not, the question arises again: why did he feel compelled to respond to GCC and not Summit?
On Episode 7 of The CR:V Podcast Aaron O’Kelley comes on to talk about the best way to train pastors for the local church and how the local church works with the seminary to accomplish that end. Aaron also details his church’s Pastoral Apprenticeship Program which helps wed the two institutions.
Find the episode on your favorite podcast app or stream it here.
Despite [Broadus’] devoted scholarship, his insight and contribution to lasting SBC institutions, his sacrificial spirit, his universal respect, his theological clarity and steadfastness, the character assessments carefully crafted by his contemporaries , we are weighing the name “Broadus” in the balance; do we seriously find it wanting? Have we come to a rare moment of clarity now to have transcended Broadus in piety and morality and have reached a depth of repentance for him finally to find ourselves purged with hyssop? Does the imputation to the Broadus gavel a racist ruse mature our growth in grace?
In the Spring 2020 issue of the Founders Journal, titled “Race and Racism: Biblical and Historical Perspectives” Tom Nettles, likely the premier Baptist historian of his generation, has written a challenging piece on John Broadus and his continuing relationship to the Southern Baptist Convention.
You can read the piece on Founders Ministries’ website here.