Randy Davis, President and executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, writing for The Baptist and Reflector:
Let’s make one thing clear from the outset: There is absolutely no denominational hierarchy when it comes to the Southern Baptist Convention… If we allow drift from this benchmark polity, the damage will be extremely significant and invite grave consequences.
Davis is writing in response to a “rushed” amicus brief filed in relation to the legal case of Will McRaney v. NAMB. by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on behalf of Southern Baptists.
Detractors from the overall program of ensuring that the Southern Baptist Convention does not forsake the principles regained during the Conservative Resurgence often note the absurdity of believing that Southern Baptists believe in anything less than the authority and infallibility of the Bible. In doing so, they miss the current point of contention. The concern is not, and has never been for the past twenty years or so, whether or not Southern Baptists are giving up on their stated belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. Nor is the worry over whether or not we have left behind the fundamentals of the faith, like the virgin birth and penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Rather, the problem is something like this: we say we believe them while failing to apply them to all areas of life.
According to a November 30, 2020 article from The Wall Street Journal titled, “Covid-19 Likely in U.S. in Mid-December 2019, CDC Scientists Report: New analysis of blood donations finds virus was present on West Coast earlier than previously believed” by Betsy McKay, “The new coronavirus infected people in the U.S. in mid-December 2019, a few weeks before it was officially identified in China and about a month earlier than public health authorities found the first U.S. case, according to a government study published Monday.” For some, the content of this article is quite the concession, since they were long ago questioning whether or not the infamous virus was in the States prior to the time scientists and health officials thought it had arrived. Not only did the timeline of learning about the virus from China indicate an earlier arrival, but inferences based on travel and speculation concerning stories of unprecedented flu-like symptoms in the population seemed to point that way as well. Those who highlighted these evidences as a basis for their belief that the virus was actually in the US prior to the official reckoning were generally dismissed as conspiracy theorists, accused of peddling the communist narrative that coronavirus came from the US, or even thought to be putting others in danger through misinformation and conflation of the seriousness of COVID-19 with that of other flu-like illnesses. So much for that.
According to this article from Baptist Press, “In a statement adopted in the council’s annual session, the seminary presidents assert that as ‘confessional institutions,’ the SBC’s six seminaries stand ‘together in this classic statement of biblical truth.’ Additionally, the statement declares that while condemning ‘racism in any form,’ the seminaries agree that ‘affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.'”
According to what some have called ‘theological triage,’ doctrine can be divided into categories of greater and lesser significance along the lines of primary, secondary, and tertiary importance. These categories are often introduced when one wants to shy away from the ‘fundamentalist’ error of emphasizing every doctrine as equally important or being open to accepting the particular position of the fundamentalist in question. However, having less confidence concerning so-called secondary and tertiary matters would, when consistently applied, lead one toward fundamentalist beliefs.
The contributors to Conservative Resurgence Voices have questioned what, if anything, separates us from the so-called ‘discernment ministries.’ Although we believe in discernment, and we believe in ministry, we nevertheless find some discernment ministries highly suspect, if for no other reason than they often make the work of ministry that much more difficult. We have reached a point where almost anyone who raises an objection to almost anything is dismissed as being a ‘discernment blogger.’ Certainly a celebrity culture that considers itself above the need for accountability and questions and critique can carry some blame. But discernment bloggers are hardly blameless.
James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) is a name all Southern Baptists should be familiar with. Granted, in the 2020 cancel crusade, some may have heard of him, albeit in a negative light. Yet, the SBC would do well to have more men among our ranks like James Boyce.
Update Scroll to the bottom of this post for an encouraging update via Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries
Recently a friend of Conservative Resurgence: Voices forwarded an email purportedly from Paul Chitwood, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB).
In it you will find details of extensive internal conversations that have resulted in planned revisions to the work of the International Mission Board.
CR:V has been vocal about the danger presented by Critical Theory and its derivative, Critical Race Theory, to society at large, evangelicals specifically, and the Southern Baptist Convention in particular. As readers likely know, Critical Race Theory has been the subject of ongoing controversy among Southern Baptists following the recommendations of the Committee on Resolutions at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Birmingham, AL. The language of diversity promotion has shown itself in recent years to be a name under which Critical Theory travels.
…author Heather Mac Donald has written, “[G]raduates of the academic victimology complex are remaking the world in their image.
In her 2018 book, The Diversity Delusion, Mac Donald explored how corporate human resources departments function as a social justice commissariat. Nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have diversity offices, she reports, and the corporate mania for “equity, diversity, and inclusion” informs corporate culture at many levels, including hiring, promotion, bonuses, and governing the norms of interaction in the workplace.
…Mac Donald found little to no empirical evidence to support social justice strategies within the corporate world. Despite this, these supposedly hardheaded business executives ignore the bottom line when it comes to diversity programs and corporate social responsibility initiatives. It’s as if these rites and catechisms were more an expression of religious belief than a response to real-world conditions.
The embrace of aggressive social progressivism by Big Business is one of the most underappreciated stories of the last two decades. Critics call it “woke capitalism,” a snarky theft of the left-wing slang term indicating progressive enlightenment. Woke capitalism is now the most transformative agent within the religion of social justice, because it unites progressive ideology with the most potent force in American life: consumerism and making money.
In his 2018 letter to investors, Larry Fink, CEO of the global investment company BlackRock, said that corporate social responsibility is now part of the cost of doing business.
“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” Fink wrote. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Poll results about consumer expectations back Fink up. Millennials and Generation Z customers are especially prone to seeing their consumer expenditures as part of creating a socially conscious personal brand identity. For many companies, then, signaling progressive virtues to consumers is a smart business move in the same way that signaling all-American patriotism would have been to corporations in the 1950s.
Within the IMB email below you will find much to agree with and celebrate, particularly the last paragraph (that begins with Pray). However, you will also find language that raises the question of whether or not the problem of Woke Human Resources has reared its head within the International Mission Board.
• We [IMB] are in the beginning stages of rolling out two new training programs within GE and MOBI and plan to begin expanding to all in the near future:
◦ Cultural Sensitivity
◦ Unconscious Bias and Sensitivity
To be clear, Conservative Resurgence: Voices does not believe the following email to be a proverbial smoking gun proving that the International Mission Board has embraced Critical Race Theory and began pushing it through their various training initiatives. Furthermore, Conservative Resurgence: Voices values the opportunity Southern Baptist have to participate in global missions through cooperative ministry in ventures like the International Mission Board. Like all Southern Baptists we want the healthiest International Mission Board possible.
On behalf of CR:V this author reached out to the International Mission Board asking for confirmation that the email presented below is authentic. I also asked if the IMB was planning on releasing details of what curriculum, resources, and teachers wold be utilized in the forthcoming training. As of the date of this post’s publication we have not heard back from the IMB but will be glad to publish a follow up once we do.
Here is the full text of the email under discussion:
From: Chitwood, Paul <redacted> Sent: Tuesday, September 8, 2020 1:01 PM To: Chitwood, Paul Subject: Belonging
Hello Brothers and Sisters,
In Philippians 2:3, the Apostle Paul instructs us: “In humility, count others more significant than yourselves.” In Galatians 6:2, we read, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
As a father of an Asian daughter and a foster parent to a biracial son, I’ve seen up close the pain that racism and racially insensitive comments and behaviors bring. I don’t want to contribute to that pain, nor do I want our organization to do so. Knowing your love and passion for the beautiful mosaic of those from every nation, tribe, people, and language who will stand before the throne of God and before the Lamb, I know you agree.
Racism a direct consequence of the Fall and has infected every culture but the history of the US and, frankly, the SBC, is a tragic example of how God’s image bearers whose skin is black have endured unspeakable injustice, exploitation, and pain. In June, our company hosted a call for our employees who identify as Black, African American or Biracial to discuss current events, provide support for one another, and to introduce themselves to one another for the sake of creating new relationships. It was a beautiful time of fellowship and some have expressed a strong sense of belonging. What does “belonging” mean in this context? Here is a link to AN ARTICLE that explains the importance.
From this call, new friendships were formed, mentors were identified, and I am prayerful that some healing began. I want to share with everyone in our company family some insights from the participants so that all of us may better understand the feelings that were expressed and what we can do in response.
We asked the participants in August, “How are you feeling now?” and heard:
• I am encouraged, but I’m still waiting to see viable action to diversify our organization both on the field, staff, and leadership.
• I am encouraged that many in our organization, including our leadership, are willing to listen and look at what changes need to be made.
• I’m feeling focused. The lament was necessary, and the time together was healing. Now my attention has turned towards how we can move forward together.
• While there are more public conversations going on about the issue of racism, I can’t see in my personal world that there has been much change in terms of dialogue and personal conversations with others. The “silence” is still there, which makes me sad.
• Time has helped me process many things about what I was feeling and really come to terms with the sins that pervade life. Listening to others, reading articles, talking with others, and most importantly seeking what the Lord says in Scripture has helped tremendously.
• I think it would be great for our organization to continue the dialogue of how we can do better and be better leaders in this area.
• I’m excited to get on board with the ways that the IMB plans to move forward. Whatever that plan is, I plan to get behind and see how I can help to achieve the vision and goals.
We also asked, “How can your coworkers who are not Black, African American, or Biracial best support you now and in the future?” Some participants said:
• Several ways: Listen well. Educate themselves on how to understand and promote diversity. Learn to empathize with people as they walk through a crisis. There are Scriptural reminders, love others, treat people like you want to be treated, and bear each other’s burdens. Advocate for people when you recognize they are being treated unjustly.
• I have found “silence” to be a bit hurtful in the past. While I understand that race is an uncomfortable topic for many, it doesn’t feel like an “optional” topic of conversation for me, especially when tragedies occur.
• As intentional as each Affinity is in preparing their missionaries to engage their host cultures, I would like to see the same amount of intentionality in each cluster to receive cultural sensitivity training. It would be beneficial to have more intentional conversations and training on racial issues.
• Our coworkers can assist with this by seeking to learn from the People of Color around them and not just when something happens. It’s important to seek the perspectives of People of Color on your team to know what changes need to be made for a more effective and fruitful future.
• I want to be able to commend this company to People of Color knowing that the company at every level is committed to growing and welcoming and better supporting People of Color.
• Don’t assume that everyone with the company has the same perspective on the issue of racism. Let’s seek what the Lord want us to do to move forward. As a faithful organization of like-minded followers of Christ, we must continue to improve in our efforts, and I am personally committed to do so.
We are already taking some actions based on what we have learned:
• Our mobilization team is focused on improving our engagement and relationships with churches throughout the nation that are predominately attended by People of Color. We hope this will also yield more People of Color as missionaries in the future.
• We are in the beginning stages of rolling out two new training programs within GE and MOBI and plan to begin expanding to all in the near future:
◦ Cultural Sensitivity
◦ Unconscious Bias and Sensitivity
• We created a TEAMS channel for our employees who identify as Black, African American or Biracial to have personal conversations and support each other in the future. New employees are also given the opportunity to join this as they are hired.
• We are working to develop an Hispanic Employee Network
• We will continue our efforts to become more diverse in our representation of our denominational family, in our thinking and across our teams.
• In the spirit of celebrating diversity, we will begin to formally recognize two days on the calendar in 2021: Juneteenth and Hispanic Day.We will celebrate these days both internally and externally with communications via all online channels.
◦ Juneteenth, observed on June 19, is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, and celebrates the emancipation millions of people who were enslaved in the United States.
◦ October 12 is Hispanic Day. For almost 75 years, the descendants of nations emerging from the Spanish empire have embraced the word “Hispanic” to give a name to the family of nations, comprised of almost 400 million people who are united by the common bonds of culture, history, and language. Many of our home office staff, and a growing number of our overseas personnel and the fellowships we serve in the US are Hispanic.
Pray. Pray with me that hatred or injustice towards anyone because of racial differences will cease. Pray that the horrific acts of violence unfolding daily across the US will end. And pray that we will see healing and reconciliation across our land and around the world. No one is better positioned to model what that can look like than us. Our mission to serve the most diverse religious body in the US as approximately 20% of SB fellowships are African American or ethnic. Moreover, our vision and work included every nation, people, language and tribe! I want to express my sincere thanks to the Human Resources team for moving us forward and I am excited to see what God has planned for us in the future.
Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries spoke with Dr. Chitwood and has returned with an encouraging report. This author, along with the rest of CR:V and, we trust, any Southern Baptist watching along are delighted to hear the news Ascol brings: