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.
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.
Rod Dreher has written extensively (on his blog at The American Conservative and in his recent best seller Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents) that it is often the Human Resources Department of a given company that functions as the delivery mechanism of Critical Theory’s soft totalitarianism. From Live Not by Lies:
…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
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:
Danny Slavich wrote an article in response to Tom Ascol’s post calling for pastors to step up to the plate in the Southern Baptist Convention. [Please see Danny’s Comment in response to this post here.] Slavich appeals to the popular parallel between the populist politics of President Donald Trump and the way grassroots groups like Founders Ministries and the Conservative Baptist Network are – intentionally or not – mirroring what we have seen from Make America Great Again fanatics for the past five years or so. Although such an appeal is generally little more than a smear tactic, I suspect Slavich may be on to something here.
In this post, Tom Ascol writes, “To put it bluntly, the Southern Baptist Convention needs to be led by pastors. Granted, there are some pastors who are eager to be enablers of or fellow travelers with wayward bureaucrats. I am not talking about those guys.”
A general sentiment among those raised in the past forty, maybe fifty years, is expressed clearly by Derek Webb in his song, “A King and a Kingdom”:
There are two great lies that I’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class Republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
A younger generation (that isn’t so young anymore) has cast off, or attempted to cast off, the lie referenced by Webb above. They’ve done so by more readily voting third party or Democrat, and they’ve certainly done so by distancing themselves from right-wing rhetoric, the Republican Party, and without a doubt, the current President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.
Some pastors have noted parallels between the politics of the Southern Baptist Convention and the politics of the local church. One idea along these lines is that you don’t want to be that church member as you work for reform in the SBC. Yeah, you know the one. Sure, you’ll love that church member anyway, but you’ll also wonder if you’re required to like him or her. Don’t be that kind of convention member.
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.
My three-year-old was doing a three-year-old thing at breakfast. He wouldn’t drink his milk because he said it smelled funny. Every time he put his cup to his mouth to take a sip he curled his nose and told us “This milk smells yucky!”
Finally, I did what dads do. I took the cup and gave it a sniff. Turns out, he was right! Sort of. It wasn’t the milk that actually smelled funny but the cup. The inside hadn’t been cleaned properly and it gave off a noticeable odor when you put the cup to your nose. I attribute the problem to my older children who are too much like the adolescent version of their father who thought washing dishes poorly might get him out of having to do it (as an aside I was wrong, and so are they!).
Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten my youngest to drink the milk if I would have taken a paper towel and simply shined the outside of the cup. The outside wasn’t the problem. It was the inside that was causing the issue. I could have put a sticker on the outside of the cup that said “Clean Cup!”, but alas, the inside is what needed changing.