Slavery and racism once supported by the Southern Baptist Convention’s oldest seminary needed to be documented for history’s sake, black alumni and a representative of nearly 4,000 black pastors told Baptist Press.
In this month annually dedicated to black history, the leaders are lauding Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. for initiating the report dating to the racism and slave ownership of SBTS founding fathers.
“Dr. Mohler’s commissioning the study and releasing the internal report on the history of slavery and racism at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is clear leadership akin to the men of Issachar,” said Marshal Ausberry, president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, referencing 1 Chronicles 12:32. “Dr. Mohler clearly understands the times and knows what to do!”
Southern Baptist executives Kevin Smith, Ken Weathersby, and Curtis Woods, all SBTS alumni, also praised the report, clarified its purpose and shared future hopes. Smith and Woods both teach SBTS courses while serving in leadership capacities at state conventions, and Woods served on the committee appointed to research and compile the report.
“The goal of the report was historical truth-telling. We knew the report would potentially produce lamentation and laudation in the hearts of various readers,” said Woods, co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and an SBTS assistant professor of applied theology and biblical spirituality.
A proclaimed righteousness of slaveholding and efforts to preserve it, support for the Confederacy, opposition to racial equality after the Civil War, and the restoration of Southern white rule after the war were all causes of the seminary’s founders, the report points out. Juxtaposed to professed Christianity and Gospel proclamation, 19th and 20th Century faculty and administrators taught white supremacy and segregation.
“The history of the seminary is like an antibiotic and a vaccine,” said Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va. “As an antibiotic it kills the lingering infection of racism and as a vaccine, kills a recurrence of the disease!”
The Gospel is greater than historical accuracy in moving beyond wrongs committed, those interviewed told BP of the document released in December, 2018 as a “Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
“I’m not certain a written document by fallible men will be stronger than the inerrant and infallible Word of God to increase ethnic diversity within SBC life,” Woods said. “C. Eric Lincoln correctly stated, ‘A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.’ In context, Lincoln’s aphorism means if the mind is not renewed, the report will be eschewed.”
Jesus Christ is our reconciler, Ausberry said.
“We reconcile to each other because that is the picture of Christ reconciling a sinful world to Himself,” is how Ausberry put it. “Southern Baptists have a golden opportunity to show the world how we can make peace with our past, and truly love one another, because the love of Jesus Christ binds us together.”
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Source: Baptist Press