I’ve been a Southern Baptist for as long as I have been a Christian. I came to know Jesus in a Southern Baptist church. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church. I was called to ministry in a Southern Baptist church. I was educated at Southern Baptist institutions, and I have given my life to helping others on their path to ministry. In good times and bad, I love the SBC and I thank our Lord for its investment in my life.
When I read Lawrence Ware’s New York Times article after the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting, I was grieved. I don’t know Mr. Ware, and he and I don’t see eye to eye on every issue, particularly some of the parallels that he drew in his argument. But that didn’t change my reaction. When someone suggests that the experience of African Americans in my denomination is such that the best option may be to leave, I only feel sadness. I wish with all my heart this was not the case.
I was, however, grateful to see three of my brothers—Fred Luter, Gabriel Stovall, and Dwight McKissic—respond that they will remain. They and others have been an encouragement to me that many want to continue this work together. But even in their responses, I have read a clear message that continuing this work is not easy. In fact, many of my brothers and sisters face challenges even within our family of churches that I have not and will never face. While I am thankful for the positive words they shared and their willingness to endure, their honesty about their own experience was both convicting and humbling.
People have asked me what I think about this conversation, and the truth is that I don’t have much of a response. Because right now, it is time for many of us to listen. I know that is true for me.
I and many others long to see a day when our churches on earth look like the Church heaven, but that won’t happen without all of us coming together as one Body of believers. We aren’t just pursuing diversity to no end. We want to see people come to Christ from every nation, tribe and tongue. Once again let me say, we have to do it together.
It’s time for Southern Baptists to make crystal clear—no one in our ranks is “in someone else’s house!” We should not stop and we will not stop working until everyone feels that this is their home. We are brothers and sisters, we are family, and we need each other.
Yes, these conversations are uncomfortable. But sometimes we must push through the uncomfortable to get to the beautiful. If that’s where we are headed, then sign me up. I want to be on that gospel ship!
Thank you to my brothers for staying. And thank you for speaking. I hear you.