I've been trying to stay away from denominational politics. Honest! At times, however, it's impossible to stay on the wagon. Indeed as my good friend, Chris Gilliam, indicated in the Facebook thread (see below), one gets tired of the simplistic rhetoric.
Below is a brief commentary I pecked out on my cell phone in response to an article detailing Russell Moore's indictment of widespread racism allegedly embedded within the Southern Baptist Convention. A Facebook friend asked me to post it on my blog so he could point his friends to the commentary. Except for a few links I provided, the commentary stands unedited as it is written on my Facebook page.1
Recently Southern Baptist churches got another tongue lashing by the president of our ERLC for fostering racism in our ranks. Dr. Moore indicated to his audience at Southeastern seminary that Southern Baptists are just too White, and many of the seminarians were informed they would face persecution by mean and cantankerous racist church folk who opposed anyone (especially Blacks) joining their church who was not White.
I've been pastoring since 1981. While I've dealt with racist remarks and notions from several individuals through the years, I've encountered nothing coming close to what Moore suggests is embedded all through our convention. My question is, just how many grassroots churches has Moore been in since he became president of ERLC? Or, even when he was professor at Southern for that matter? I'd bet a week's worth of Starbucks it could be counted by fingers on one hand. I get the distinct impression many of our leaders have become similar to Washington politicians who couldn't tell you the price of a gallon of milk. They have no real connection with what's going on in the real world. They're all about abstract, theory, and ideology cold as steel.
Moore seems to think Southern Baptist churches are too White. For argument's sake, let's grant him to be correct.
Consider, however, if Moore personally lives up to his own ideal. If you click on the ERLC website and scan the staff most of whom Moore hired after becoming President, what you'll find is that the overwhelming majority of the ERLC staff are young, White males. Ethnic Diversity is all but absent.
Consider further the faculty of the very seminary to which Moore was speaking (Southeastern). It too is almost exclusively White male.2
Finally, consider Southern seminary's faculty where Moore taught before becoming President of the ERLC. It too is almost exclusively White male.3
Those three Southern Baptist institutions where Moore's influence remains considerable all should be in Moore's sights as deplorable examples of the ethnic diversity he insists is absent from Southern Baptist churches. Instead he slams churches.
What is more, since churches depend on voluntary attendance, churches have no control on ethnic diversity in its membership. In short, many factors control whether churches become ethnically diverse, factors including worship style, music choice, demographics, preaching, etc.4
Contrarily, not one single obstacle prohibits either an educational institution or an entity like the ERLC from becoming broadly ethnically diverse EXCEPT THE LEADERS WHO DO THE HIRING.
Here's the reality: if Dr. Moore thought Ethnic Diversity was so important, why did he hire virtually all young, White males when he was absolutely free to create an entirely new staff broadly ethnically diverse?5
1I also added a few explanatory footnotes
2Russell Moore is also listed as Adjunct Professor of Public Theology at Southeastern, a school hardly displaying the ethnic diversity for which Moore indicts Southern Baptist churches.
3After being commissioned as President of the ERLC, Dr. Moore remains at Southern seminary as Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics. Nonetheless, as one may observe, Southern remains virtually White. Or, said another way, Moore ignores the absence of Ethnic Diversity at his employer while scolding churches for what he sees as lack of Ethnic Diversity.
4Serving for several years as Senior Pastor of a church in an increasingly ethnically transitional area of metropolitan Atlanta, I can speak first-hand of the excruciatingly difficult task churches and pastors face in successfully making ethnic transitions work. Rarely do churches simplistically decide to become ethnically diverse, a decision Moore implies is about all that's involved for churches to become ethnically diverse. Rather they must commit to being so, a visionary commitment which begins afresh each and every day, year in and year out by a leadership who themselves have "seen the light" and remain unapologetically committed to "sharing the light." It's a comprehensive paradigm shift if you will, a shift which can neither be hurried along by sound-bite, condemnatory rhetoric like Moore employs nor by do-nothing organizations that preach diversity but practically dance to the tune of another--ethnic homogeneity. To the puzzlement of my ministry comrades, I recall once ordering several sermon series via video by T.D. Jakes. Albeit Jakes' theological affinity with historic Modalism, I was not interested in his theology. Instead I wanted to analyze his amazing rhetorical presentations (i.e. his preaching style) in order to learn, if I could, insight into African-American congregational expectations. In short, I hoped to better communicate to the overwhelming diversity we faced in our community. At the time, we had a private Christian academy--a thousand students strong--an academy the demographic make-up of which was from 2/3 to 3/4 minority children. And, I can tell you this: the cheap rhetorical shots concerning the racial make-up of Southern Baptist churches presently fired from Moore and the ERLC would have turned me off as much then as now. We were in the trenches...doing transitions...dealing with the extraordinary difficulties...solving problems every church faces who see themselves as a church of all nations. Office-chair rhetoric or cleverly spun soundbites marketed to culture and media offer nothing substantial to assist in eradicating racist tendencies of any form. Even so, with interest we continue listening as many SBC leaders passionately implore us to be gentle, kind, and sympathetic to illegal immigrants on one hand and homosexuals on the other. After all, homosexuality cannot be switched off and on like a typical light bulb. Let's be patient and loving, they demand. Then, they turn around and imply racial notions and resistance to racial diversity most certainly can be turned on and off like typical light bulbs, and those who don't stand condemned by God. No patience. No love. Just condemnation. SIDENOTE: Why is it many of our SBC leaders reserve only the harshest, insulting contempt for Southern Baptists while giving culture a free pass so to speak? They come across as if they represent Jesus, and we are the scribes and Pharisees. As I've indicated elsewhere, it's a confusing time to be a Southern Baptist.
5The difficulty I perceive in this is, Dr. Moore's tunnel-vision apparently inhibits him from understanding the raw moral duplicity in working for at least three Southern Baptist organizations that self-consciously and deliberately neither display nor practice virtually any Ethnic Diversity on the one hand, but then publicly slapping Southern Baptist churches on the other for their supposed lack of Ethnic Diversity. The truth is, Dr. Moore had the perfect opportunity--not to mention undeniable authority-- to stack the ERLC with an ethnically diverse rainbow of credible scholars when he became president. Instead he chose to bring in his closest acquaintances from Southern seminary and The Gospel Coalition almost all of whom are young, White males. I'm sorry. The way I see it, Moore fairly well forfeited any moral power he possessed in convincingly criticizing the racial make-up of Southern Baptist churches when he single-handedly hired an ERLC cabinet which, in essence, looks exactly like him. In short, Dr. Moore's rhetoric and practice appear in every way a significant part of the very problem he condemns in others.