SBC theologian angers some with call for Matthew 18 discipline for churches that promote ‘wokeness’

Owen Strachan, formerly executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, was named Monday, May 12, 2014, as the organization's new president.
Owen Strachan, formerly executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, was named Monday, May 12, 2014, as the organization's new president. | (Photo: CBMW)

A Southern Baptist theologian in Kansas City, Missouri, is under fire from some pastors and Christian academics for recommending Matthew 18 discipline for those who “teach and promote wokeness.”

“In churches and institutions, those who teach and promote wokeness — binding the conscience of people with new unbiblical laws — must face Matthew 18 discipline. The church has tolerated the spread of wokeness too long. It is time for a line in the sand,” Owen Strachan, an associate professor of Christian theology and director of the center for public theology at the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in tweet Saturday.

The tweet drew attention to a recent series of presentations the professor made at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota, on Christianity and Wokeness.

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In Matthew 18:15–17, Jesus outlines a multi-step approach for dealing with unrepentant sin which culminates with excommunication from the church community.

Wokeness” is commonly associated with the Black Lives Matter movement and a social justice platform encompassing a push for racial and gender equality and an awareness and acceptance of controversial ideas such as critical race theory. 

Many black preachers and liberal advocates have used these ideas to argue that America suffers from systemic racism and inequality but many evangelical leaders argue that “wokeness” breeds division, is anti-Christian and doesn’t offer real solutions to the problems it highlights.

Ideas such as critical race theory and white privilege have also recently become political issues after President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing federal agencies to stop teaching government workers about them as they are “offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.”

“This destructive ideology is grounded in misrepresentations of our country’s history and its role in the world," Trump wrote. "Although presented as new and revolutionary, they resurrect the discredited notions of the nineteenth century’s apologists for slavery who, like President Lincoln’s rival Stephen A. Douglas, maintained that our government ‘was made on the white basis’ ‘by white men, for the benefit of white men.”

Strachan’s recent comments added fuel to the already fiery debate and roiled some Christian leaders and academics.

Deryk D. Hayes, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights in Kentucky, said he believes Strachan’s comments about “wokeness” makes him look like “an open and unrepentant champion of white supremacy.”

“His most recent attack isn’t against ‘wokeness’ as much as it is the affirmation of ‘whiteness.’ Among white male evangelicals like Owen, apathy and bigotry seems to be at an all-time high,” Hayes charged on Twitter Monday.

Anthony B. Bradley, professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York City and a research fellow at the Acton Institute, called Strachan “depressing” and his analysis hypocritical.

“I cannot tell you how depressing Owen Strachan is. These are people who quote Spurgeon & Edwards. Racism doesn’t require Matt 18 excommunication only the responses to it. This is why Eric Mason calls Reformed Evangelicalism a ‘hypocritical monstrosity,’” Bradley tweeted.

Southern Baptist Convention Pastor Dwight McKissic who is founder and current senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, also suggested Strachan’s take on “wokeness” is hypocritical.

“Owen Strachan is encouraging the SBC to disfellowship ‘woke’ churches & professors from the SBC. 3 AA professors have been targeted. One has since resigned. Would Strachan favor removing the names of the White Supremacist founders at SBTS from buildings? No, of course not!” McKissic tweeted Monday.

The Christian Post reached out to Strachan for comment on the reactions to his position Tuesday but a response was not immediately available.

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