Marshal Ausberry Urges Black Members of Southern Baptist Convention to Stay Strong Amid Race, Gender, and Sex Abuse Controversies

The Rev. Marshal Ausberry Sr. preaches during the Southern Baptist Convention’s National African American Fellowship dinner. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Marshal Ausberry, the outgoing president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, urged Black members of the predominantly white denomination to continue their affiliation in the face of recent controversies.

“Before you go through that door,” Ausberry told dozens of fellowship members on the eve of the SBC’s annual meeting, where debates over race, gender and sex abuse were expected to spill onto a convention floor, “I want to encourage you before you do anything, seek the will of God.”

The Virginia pastor, who is concurrently serving as the SBC’s first vice president, compared African American Southern Baptists to the biblical character of Jonah, who did not want to go to Nineveh, a place with much wickedness. But God wanted Jonah to go there anyway, “and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me,” he said, quoting the Old Testament.

Several prominent Black pastors have left the denomination since December, when the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents declared that critical race theory, an academic approach to understanding systemic racism, was incompatible with the denomination’s faith statement. Two years ago, the SBC passed a resolution that sought to settle controversy over critical race theory by calling its ideas “analytical tools subordinate to Scripture.”

The presidents’ December statement set off protests, meetings and a possible new resolution that Baptists attending the SBC annual meeting this week will be asked to address.

“Don’t worry about what the seminary presidents pontificate,” Ausberry recommended. “They ain’t God. They’re fallible.”

Don’t ‘follow the crowd’

Ausberry said he has heard many arguments for departing the SBC, which is estimated to be 6 percent to 8 percent Black, and has himself “been close to the door in tears” at times.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Adelle M. Banks

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