Outspoken African American Southern Baptist Convention Pastor Dwight McKissic, who threatened to leave the SBC over a dispute about critical race theory, recently received a letter that disparaged blacks and urged the convention to “bid them goodbye and good riddance!”
The letter in question was authored by John V. Rutledge, an author who is no longer part of the SBC. The controversial document was sent last Monday and addressed to McKissic, who pastors Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
“In recent years the Southern Baptist Convention has been repenting (foolishly) of the ‘sin’ of whiteness, and has rebaptized itself as an exemplar of diversity,” wrote Rutledge, who also sent a copy to managing editor of the Baptist Standard, Ken Camp.
“Verily, it has brought fruits meet for repentance: a Negro Convention president; a Negro candidate for the pastorate of a white church (FBC, Naples, Florida), five million dollars in seminary scholarship for — and only for — Negroes; appointive positions reserved for, and elections rigged to install, Negroes.”
“But it has not been enough,” Rutledge added. “For the Negro, nothing is ever enough.”
Rutledge, who authored the 2017 book A Church Has Gone To Hell - Southern Baptists: A Denomination in a Decade of Decline, argued that despite various efforts to assist black people, “they remain savages” as well as “defile and diminish every arena in which they parade.”
Rutledge claims that African Americans are also set on destroying the SBC. It is better, he argued, that the denomination let them all leave.
“If Negroes [have] come to improve rather than to importune, they would have deployed the alleged-to-exist ‘collective wisdom of black Baptist pastors’ to pick apart the Baptist Faith and Message, to challenge denominational denial of settled science, to extract the Convention from its unsophisticated doctrines and dogmas of yesteryear. All desperately needed,” Rutledge wrote. “But those are beyond the Negroes’ intellectual capacities. Like two-year-olds, they know only how to whine and throw tantrums. The SBC should bid them goodbye and good riddance!”
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC’s Executive Committee, wrote in a statement on Twitter that Rutledge left the SBC 20 years ago and his views do not reflect the values of the convention.
“The author of this letter, John V. Rutledge, left the Southern Baptist Convention twenty years ago. It is best he did because his words and spirit of his letter to @pastordmack does not represent us at all,” Floyd assured. “It is contradictory to our BF&M and our commitment to human dignity.”
Kyle Howard, a preacher, theologian and Christian counselor who shared the letter on Twitter, said the letter was not an anomaly for black Christians advocating for racial reconciliation in evangelical circles.
“Beloved, don’t be surprised by the date, shock at the date means you haven’t been listening,” Howard stated. “Every black Christian I know who has engaged w/ racial conciliation and/or justice work in evangelical spaces has received letters like this, many w/ threats as well. This is our life.”
Popular black Christian Rapper Lecrae agreed.
“If People only knew how NORMAL this is for many of us,” he replied.
The letter comes after the six members of the denomination’s Council of Seminary Presidents, who are all white, voted last year to condemn “racism in any form” while also rejecting critical race theory as incompatible with the faith at their annual session last year.
The six seminary presidents who form the council are Danny Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jason K. Allen of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jamie Dew of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Adam W. Greenway of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeff Iorg of Gateway Theological Seminary and Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mohler, who is currently among three candidates vying to become the convention’s next president, argued that advocacy based on ideas like critical race theory and intersectionality “has no rightful place within an SBC seminary.”
The decision has since sparked an ongoing exodus of black leaders from the denomination as many maintain, as previously noted in SBC Resolution 9, that critical race theory can be a useful analytical tool to help people understand systemic racism.
While the council has expressed regret for any unintended offense its statement has caused, Greenway has since defended the position. He argued that some disagreements over the statement are a matter of emotional misunderstandings.
“Feelings and sentiments are undeniably visceral, but not unimpeachably veridical. Specifically, the CSP statement not only did not deny systemic racism, but reaffirmed denominational condemnations of it,” he explained. “I want to make this point as charitably but honestly as I can: misconstruing the CSP statement’s rejection of CRT/I as being synonymous with or code for the SBC seminary presidents denying systemic racism is bearing false witness."
“Furthermore, when feelings become all-consuming and paramount in determining courses of action irrespective of the facts contained in plain language, we commit the fallacy of eisegesis, or reading into texts meanings we feel or interpretations we want to impose," Greenway continued.
McKissic announced last month that he is ending his relationships with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention after SBTC leaders issued a “strongly worded, anti-CRT policy that denounces all aspects of critical race theory.” McKissic also vowed to leave the SBC if the convention’s leaders rescind Resolution 9 on critical race theory passed by messengers in 2019.
Last July, Pastor John Onwuchekwa, who pastors the diverse but predominantly black Cornerstone Church Atlanta, announced that his congregation voted to leave the SBC.
Last December, Rev. Ralph West of The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas announced that the congregation cut ties with SBC over the recent statement from the seminary presidents denouncing critical race theory and intersectionality.