Dwight McKissic on Why He Decided to Attend the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting Despite Disappointment Over Lack of Minority Representation

I. I seriously internally and externally debated about attending SBC ’19 Birmingham because SBC entities repeatedly refuse to hire minorities as president of one of the entities, even when they are highly qualified. There have been five entity head vacancies in the SBC over the past 18 months. Four of the five have been filled. No minorities have been hired to date. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement.

II. The ten entity heads of the SBC assemble at least biannually, in a meeting known as the Great Commission Council. In a Convention comprised of 20% minorities—Asians, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, it is disheartening that SBC entity trustee boards, always find a way to deem minorities less than the right fit or not the best qualified candidate to be offered an entity head president’s job—consequently, disqualifying any minority service or the Great Commission Council. For the Great Commission Council to look like the White Citizens Council in the SBC is painful and shameful.

III. It is my intention to ask the chairman of the five entities who have hired, or will be soon, to answer these questions: (1) Were there any minorities interviewed as finalist for the job of president of the entity that you represent? (2) If not, why not?

IV.   I have received three responses from the five entities that I wrote letters to asking pointed questions regarding minority hiring/interviews as entity head presidents.

The SBC Executive Committee and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary did not offer a response to my letter of inquiry regarding minority interviews or finalist; again, I am very disappointed with their non-response. I did get an email from Ronnie Floyd, recently elected President of the EC, stating that the Chairman of the Search Committee and/or the Chairman of the EC Trustees would have to respond to my letter because he was new on the job and literally did not have the information to answer my questions. In a brief text message exchange with Dr. Adam Greenway, recently elected President of SWBTS, he responded similarly to Dr. Floyd; new to the job, did not know the answers to my questions; answers would have to come from the search committee for President, from SWBTS or Trustees.

Dr. Chuck Kelly, the recently retired President of NOBTS, responded with a thoughtful and thorough four-page letter. Honestly, I was encouraged by Dr. Kelly’s letter.

Regarding the report that he had stated that a minority hiring at NOBTS would not be good for fundraising reasons—Dr. Kelly said he has “been misrepresented, but have no intention of responding in kind with criticisms…or making elaborate defenses.” Dr. Kelly further stated:

“To get to the point of your question, I believe any person of any race can raise money effectively when they are doing what God wants them to do. Based on my experience as a candidate for a seminary presidency, I will say that any candidate, Anglo or minority, should expect Trustee perceptions about their ability to raise the millions of dollars required by academic institutions in today’s world, to be an important factor in candidate evaluations. It is not a racial issue. It is an experience issue. What evidence will Trustees see that you can do this?”

Dr. Kelly laid out four recommendations at my request, to increase the odds of a minority being hired as an entity head at NOBTS:

1. “Doctorate required, PhD strongly preferred; extensive, effective ministry experience in SBC churches expected; have a healthy marriage with no divorce in your past; clearly know and have a long-standing commitment to CP, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and the NOBTS Articles of Religious Beliefs (required of all faculty members and Trustees); and get clear experience in as many elements of a President’s role and/or the school’s mission and story as possible.”

2. “[G]et connected to the NOBTS family in as many ways as possible, such as participation in alumni activities, MissionLab ministry involvement, interaction with professors, etc. In other words, know the school and be known by people in the NOBTS family.”

3. “Get recommended…The number of recommendations can make a difference and the significance of the people making a recommendation can matter. I would advise against recommending yourself. For many Baptist search committees, self-nomination to be a President will send you to the bottom of the stack.”

4. “Understand and be able to articulate how and why you believe you fit into the larger NOBTS story…”

5. “We have forty Trustees. At present those forty Trustees include one African American, one Korean and three women.”

I know from independent sources that NOBTS actually interviewed two African American candidates who were finalists. In my judgment, the single most important factor related to why neither of the African American finalists was selected: because there is only one African American Trustee. That is where the crime is! Minorities in the SBC are experiencing taxation without representation.

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Source: Dwight McKissic