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2007.05.28

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Big Daddy Weave

Joe Trull (former NOBTS prof and SWBTS alum) told me a story about L.R. Scarborough just a few weeks ago. During the early 40's, African-Americans were allowed to attend Southwestern. However, those who chose to live on-campus were forced to live in what Trull described as a "basement." They were segregated from their white Southwestern students.

As you know, T.B. Maston lead the fight for racial justice in the SBC beginning in 1927. Maston was a role model especially for the African-American students. Maston lobbied Scarborough to integrate the Southwestern dorms. But Scarborough refused, time and time again.

As the story goes, Maston declared that it would take an "act of God" for the dorms to be integrated. The following week, L.R. Scarborough died. Soon after his death, the dorms at Southwestern were integrated.

Michael Westmoreland-White

I like Scarborough's emphasis that these articles were not meant to be a creed and the limits to which the convention could do with them. When he says, however, that the New Hampshire Confession was adopted by "practically all" the SBC churches for 75 years, he's clearly exaggerating. If that had been so, there wouldn't have been such resistance to the Mullins committee. Especially in the Southeast, many churches had church covenants but no confessions of faith--especially in Sandy Creek traditions.

The Western churches hated creeds but often treated the "Old Landmarks" of the Landmarkers as a de facto creed. But they didn't want anything as elaborate as the New Hampshire Confession/BF& M.

BDW, I join you in saluting Maston's work on racial justice. At SBTS, that had been started by J.B. Weatherspoon, and continued by O.T. Binkley and Henlee H. Barnette. And, at first African-American students were allowed to attend SBTS. Then, Kentucky passed the "Day law" (named after someone named Day) which made it a felony to teach whites and blacks in the same classroom. SBTS profs. went to elaborate ruses to get around this--such as having black students in the hall with an open door or teaching them in their offices--or sometimes outrightly defying the law. (The last was risky because some racist students were known to turn in profs.) And at SBTS, President John R. Sampey was the racist who resisted.

Isn't it fascinating that racial justice is not a part of any SBC confession of faith?

peter lumpkins

Dear BDW,

Thanks for the cookie. And for reminding me of Professor Maston's role in leading the charge against racism. I think Dr. Trull's hero was Dr. Maston, was he not?

Incidentally, Dr. Trull was my ethics Professor at NOBTS, a great guy indeed. I tried to get close to him while there but it was at the height of the CR and many professors were suspicious of any student wanting to cozy up for fear, I suppose, of being revealed for their "closet Liberal views."

The first "letter to the editor" I think I ever penned was in response to Dr. Trull's little essay on Philemon in The Louisiana Baptist. I shall never forget him making ground chuck of my letter in class, though I've surely forgiven him :^)

Give him my regards when you see him again, Aaron.

Grace always, my Brother. With that, I am...

Peter

peter lumpkins

Michael,

I trust you are well. I agree the statement about the NHC appears entirely bloated. That aside, Dr. Scarborough holds a finely balanced view of Confessions that most SBs could embrace.

I agree also with the ugliness under which our otherwise wonderful heritage hangs concerning racism. The only consolation--if indeed any may dare be named--is that racism was, culturally speaking, an acceptable womb to tome concept few questioned. No one can whitewash (no pun intended) its dispicable presence from our past.

It seems, at least to me, we are attempting to deal with it and good Professors like T.B. Maston, whose prophetic voice continues to echo from the grave, begs much of our gratitude.

Peace, my Brother Michael. With that, I am...

Peter


volfan007

michael,

are we gonna get into this again? why cant you try to understand how things were back in that day of segregation? you can call it hate all of you want to...but, it just wasnt hate with a lot of southern christians. they just believed that the races should stay separate.

it was a different day back then....and it's very easy to judge them from todays perspective...after years of making great strides. maybe, one day, michael, people will look back on something that you just assumed was a way of life and condemn you for it in their day and age.

david...volfan007

Michael Westmoreland-White

I didn't bring this up, Big Daddy Weave did. Yes, it was different then. That means we should honor those who rose above those times and saw further: The T.B. Mastons, the Henlee Barnettes, the W.W. Finlators, the Clarence Jordans, the Carlyle Marneys. And, I think, we should see the failures of those like Scarborough to see anything wrong with racism as THEOLOGICAL failures, not just moral ones. Unless we address the theological inadequacies that allowed millions of Southern Baptists to lead the way in supporting slavery and segregation (and led to the marginalizing of those like Maston & co. who resisted this trend), we will not see whether or not those same weaknesses are blinding SBs to similar evils, NOW.

Michael Westmoreland-White

Southern Christians during segregation "just thought the races ought to be separate." Now, can we see the THEOLOGICAL errors here? Such a belief was similar to first century Jewish Christians who "just thought that Jewish Christians shouldn't eat with Gentile Christians." We know what Paul said about that to the Church at Galatia! We know what Peter said to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

Any belief in segregation or apartheid, whether or not accompanied by personal feelings of hatred, constitutes an error in atonement doctrine, too. For it denies that in Christ's death the "dividing wall of hostility has been torn down" as Ephesians says. Atonement is not only about our reconciliation to God, but to each other as well.

So, historic Southern Baptist support for slavery and segregation constitutes several enormous theological errors. If we are talking about the nature of Baptist confessions and about what kind of Baptist identity we need to be forging, now, shouldn't those kinds of errors be front and center?
And this doesn't even touch the accompanying errors of believing that one people group is superior to another.

We cannot separate our ethics from our doctrine and worry only about getting the latter right. The twain are inextricably linked.

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