by William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
A Response to Lorine Spratt and Others
The recent MLK50 Celebration in Memphis was a phenomenal success: Almost 4000 in attendance; over a million have listened online; 25% of the live audience were minorities, predominately African American; incredibly powerful, persuasive prophetic, biblical and redemptive preaching, teaching, panel discussions, fellowship and networking across racial lines. The most diverse gathering in my 40 years of observing SBC Life, with approximately 1000 Blacks in attendance. The Annual Convention of the SBC has nowhere near that kind of Black attendance. Obviously, with a million listeners online, it has generated major positive word of mouth publicity, and print journalism publicity for the SBC. A generation of younger Black pastors, who had written the SBC off, is now giving her a second look because of the quality, content and inclusiveness of the MLK50 Celebration.
This event was appreciated and viewed as educational, edifying, inspirational, therapeutic and sparked hope for a “brighter day ahead” on the racial front in the SBC and our nation. Job well done, Dr. Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Convention and the ERLC!
Yet, there is an underbelly, subterranean, disagreeable, element in SBC life that view the MLK50 as “race baiting,” “cultural Marxism” advocacy; and a “social justice warriors” convocation. Of course, this element views “social justice” and “social Justice warriors” (their terms not mine) as a pejorative, although the Bible addresses justice, repetitively and affirmatively.
Sister Lorine Spratt has emerged, post MLK50, as a spokesperson and face of a subterranean SBC minority, who opposes the MLK50, its message; and strongly oppose Dr. Russell Moore—to the extent, that they want him fired. Rumor has it, that they will make an appeal to the SBC in June in Dallas, to express their dissatisfaction with Dr. Moore, on the floor of the Convention, with the view of influencing the ERLC Board to relieve Dr. Moore of his employment.
Russell Moore’s crime? Bringing the SBC together in an unprecedented fashion, to bring racial healing, hope and understanding to the SBC and the Nation. For this, they label Dr. Moore, “divisive.” GO FIGURE!!!
It is quite strategic and most unusual to have as a spokesperson for the subterranean group, Sister Lorine Spratt. She describes herself thusly:
“I am a born-again Christian, Conservative, Black attender of a White, Southern Baptist, Evangelical Church in Louisiana. In fact, I not only attend, I also work there and I am very concerned about the narrative that I’m hearing from our ERLC leadership. I am absolutely appalled by the comments perpetuated by Dr. Russell Moore concerning racism within the White Evangelical churches.”
Her twitter feed, identifies her as a loyal voter with the conservative, Republican, voting bloc. A popular SBC-related Blog (not sanctioned by the SBC) has affirmed Sister Pratt and her statement of opposition toward Russell Moore.
Systemically, culturally and historically, the SBC has not placed a high premium on the voices of women. That is the reason it is most unusual for Sister Spratt to emerge as the de facto leader, spokesperson of the MLK50, Russell Moore opposition. I respect her right to be a spokesperson. I support and celebrate her right to challenge Russell Moore and the MLK50. I am excited to discover, within certain context, the SBC will embrace a woman spokesperson, to address an issue not directly pertaining to women issues. I love the precedent being set here, irrespective of motive.
Sister Spratt offers the following objections to Dr. Moore:
“White churches are not advocating racism but Dr. Moore is. He is fueling racial tensions. I view his comments as divisive and antagonistic. His words do not promote unity!”
Interestingly, Sister Spratt does not offer one quote or one example of Dr. Moore advocating “racism.” Sister Spratt provides absolutely zero evidence that Dr. Moore’s comments are “divisive,” “antagonizing” and “do not promote unity!” I regret for her sake, her opinion does not equate to facts. Although, again, I support and celebrate her right and celebrate the subterranean group for affirming a woman and a Black woman in her role. I see this as progress, for which I am thankful.
Sister Spratt further accuses Moore of “wreak[ing] verbal havoc in our churches and assists in causing unrest in our society and it is even sadder if we continue to let him do so.” Again, Sister Spratt provides no documentation for these unfounded and untrue allegations. She tips her hat toward the SBC forcing Dr. Moore out of office.
Sister Spratt does provide a link to quotes of Dr. Moore, cautioning Southern Baptists to weigh the ethics of candidates having a presidential election. She reveals her angst with Dr. Moore for challenging the ethics of presidential candidate Donald Trump. Dr. Moore also cautioned the SBC about supporting Hillary Clinton for ethical reasons. He voted for neither candidate. Sister Spratt expressed her vehement opposition to Dr. Moore for addressing candidate Donald Trump.
“During the presidential election, he did the same and I am totally against anyone, especially a leader in our SBC, who sows discord among the brethren.”
She concludes by saying, “This matter deeply concern and disturbs me!”
It is hard to place a percentage number on the number of SBC congregants that share Sister Spratt’s perspective. But I assure you, the vast majority of Southern Baptists of all colors in the pew support Dr. Moore, I would go as far to say Dr. Moore is an iconic figure to many Black SBC pastors. Only, the late Dr. T.B. Matson, Ethics Professor at SWBTS, belongs in the same sentence with Dr. Moore relative to positively moving forward in bringing unity to the races. The large Black attendance at MLK50 is evidence of Black SBC persons’ appreciation and affirmation of Russell Moore.
If there is an effort to embarrass or remove Russell Moore, it will ignite a Civil War in SBC life.
The Spratt faction of the SBC and the Russell Moore faction hold irreconcilable positions relative to addressing racial matters. But my prayer is that we will come together under the cross and learn to live together in harmony, in spite of our differences. I am willing to live with the Spratt faction, without asking her to change. I pray that she will be willing to live with the Moore faction, without asking him/us to change. If so, we can avoid a Civil War. If the Spratt faction and Moore faction do not heal and come together, as MLK said, “We will perish together as fools.”
William Dwight McKissic, Sr., is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, where he has served for 35 years. He is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, and has received honorary doctorates from Morris Booker Baptist College and Arkansas Baptist College. He has served as a guest lecturer at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Criswell College, the University of Minnesota, Emory University, Southern Illinois University, Wheaton College, and Harvard University. He has served on the Board of Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, AR, an HBCU. He and his wife Vera have four children and twelve grandchildren.