I am African-American. I was ordained in a church that was National Baptist (for those who don’t know, National Baptist can include one of four conventions – National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International; National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; and Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.) and SBC. Matter of fact, I went to SBC schools initially, through extension opportunities in my home area.
Having said all of that, you are right on target. I have pastored four congregations – two have been SBC/National Baptist; two – National Baptist only. I have even held positions in the African-American Fellowship in my state and held a Vice President role in a state convention). There was always a “tug” by National and independent baptists for our churches to leave SBC because of the perception that it was not a productive partnership, instead it was sharecropping (their words not mine).
I had an associate minister that was up in age and I put him up to preach during our early morning worship. I had arrived late and was in my Study preparing for the Sunday School and second Worship service. One of my deacons ran to the office and said “Pastor, you better come to the worship and hear this sermon.” I came in and walked into the pulpit and the minister stopped, looked at me, said “Good morning Pastor. And now back to my sermon, ‘Why God Doesn’t Want Our Church in the Southern Baptist Convention…”
It was heart-wrenching and humiliating.
Anglo brothers don’t know the pressure. Our deacons hang out with deacons of all denominational stripe. So do our ministers and church officers. When Richard Land spoke, it was the shot heard around the world, because of the PERCEPTION that when he speaks, he speaks on behalf of the SBC. ERLC has the PERCEPTION of being the mouthpiece of SBC life. SBC is the only convention in the world where the President is overshadowed by an auxiliary in terms of spokesman. Honestly, ERLC is the bigger problem – it should be dissolved.
Honestly, I’ve seen the SBC growth stats. If you take out the non-anglo churches out of the mix, the statistics would be frightening. There are very few persons of color in the SBC administrative side of things across the world. I remember saying once that while groups are off to the side meeting, the real decisions are being made in the session. I had the feeling that we weren’t welcome into discussions concerning SBC life.
If I had a congregation that was SBC at present, I’d be part of the group that would remove from SBC. The PERCEPTION is that we’re not wanted, other than for statistical purposes (my opinion). I admit I was furious when I first heard this. I refuse to label the incident as racist. Boneheaded, yes. Racist, no. But the PERCEPTION from all of our people, who have a social vested interest in the Martin tragedy is that the original words cannot be erased by a written crafted apology. If he said it publicly, he should retract it publicly. That’s why many of us don’t think it’s sincere.
Healing and reconciliation need to take place. SBC or GCB needs to signal a new era with a strong stance against statements like the ones that Dr. Land put forward as a spokesman for SBC. Otherwise, it’s business as usual and you’ll see not only a decline in African-American churches, but Hispanic churches, Asian churches, etc. and SBC/GCB will become insignificant and a stain on the religious fabric of the nation.