Prominent Southern Baptist Convention Pastor Dwight McKissic Sr. has retracted his support of a controversial statement from SBC seminary heads that denounced racism and critical race theory. He believes the denomination could use it to rescind a CRT resolution it had approved earlier.
In an op-ed published in SBC Voices Monday, McKissic, who detailed his experience with discrimination in the SBC, argued that the statement from the Council of Seminary Presidents denouncing racism and CRT as incompatible with their beliefs is paving the way for the denomination to rescind Resolution 9 “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality,” which was passed with much dissent in the summer of 2019.
“Initially, for the sake of unity and in the name of Christian charity, I was supportive of the statements released by the council of presidents and the resolutions committee. However, it then became apparent to me that these statements were merely paving the way for rescinding Resolution 9 at the upcoming annual meeting,” McKissic, who founded and currently leads Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, wrote.
“From my 46 years of being engaged in SBC life, there are two unprecedented things happening here: 1. The presidents of the seminaries have never, ever, attempted to redress a resolution passed by the Convention. 2. The SBC has never, ever in her history rescinded a resolution, as now those opposed to Resolution 9 have pledged to do. The seminary presidents’ statement gives them the greenlight to now do so,” he said.
Critical race theory has been a lightning rod for debate and division in evangelical circles in recent years. The SBC defines it as a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society. Intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience.
While acknowledging that “critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin,” SBC leaders accepted in Resolution 9 that “these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences.”
Many prominent Southern Baptists decried the SBC for adopting the resolution.
“They are indeed ideologies that have arisen out of neo-Marxist, postmodern worldviews and are used by many to promote those worldviews today,” Tom Ascol, president of Founders Ministries, argued earlier.
Pastor John MacArthur, who leads Grace Community Church in California, branded it a march toward liberalism.
“… When the Southern Baptists met in June and they passed resolution 9 and they said intersectionality and critical theory are useful tools in interpreting the Bible, that was a watershed moment for that entire movement because if the culture has the right to interpret the Bible they will interpret the Bible and liberalism will take over,” MacArthur argued at his church in October 2019.
In September this year, President Donald Trump threw the power of his office behind the resistance to CRT when he issued an executive order classifying it and related concepts like “white privilege” as “offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating” after previously directing federal agencies to stop teaching government workers about the concept in diversity training sessions.
At their recent annual session, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the revised Baptist Faith & Message, the Council of Seminary Presidents, comprised of six seminaries, voted to reject CRT as incompatible with their faith while condemning “racism in any form.”
“In light of current conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention, we stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message,” the council said.
While the first half of the quote is innocuous, McKissic argued, “the bombshell comprises the phrase on the other side of ‘and.’”
“‘We also declare that the affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message.’ Those 25 words have created a fault line in the SBC that will have lingering repercussions and ramifications until Jesus returns or God sends a revival,” the Texas pastor explained.
“There may be one, but I am unaware of any SBC African American lead/senior pastor who would sign on to the seminary presidents’ statement without qualifications and caveats. Therein lies the fault line. Black pastors and churches, almost without exception, would oppose the above SBC presidents’ council statement.”
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 are all members of the council.
Mohler argued that advocacy based on views like CRT and intersectionality “has no rightful place within an SBC seminary.”
As a result of the statement, said McKissic, many black SBC leaders including himself are now rethinking their relationship with the denomination.
“The centerpiece of CRT is the existence of systemic racism and injustice, or the lingering repercussion and effects of the Jim Crow era. By denouncing CRT in totality, the seminary presidents have contradicted and taken back the words of the SBC in 1995. This is painful to watch. It is understandable why hundreds of African American Southern Baptists are reassessing their relationship to the SBC,” McKissic said.
While he doesn’t intend on leaving the denomination, McKissic argued that he intends to engage the denomination with a more mature perspective.
“For many years, I looked at the SBC through the eyes of a boy; and I really saw a very beautiful picture. But as Paul said, when I was a child, I thought like a child; I reasoned like a child. [But] when I became a man, I put aside childish things. (I Corinthians 13:11),” he wrote.
“As a man, I have sat at SBC tables and watched White churches pay 0% interest on small church loans, while Hispanic and Black churches had to pay 6%. As a man, while touring the SBC Nashville headquarters and requesting information concerning the highest-ranking person in the seven-story facility, I was introduced to the head custodian,” he continued.
“I have been a boy in the SBC, and like most Blacks, I have sat at the kid’s table. Blacks have systemically been excluded from entity head positions in SBC life. In 70 years, the SBC has never seen it fit to appoint a qualified Asian, Hispanic or African American to serve as an entity head,” he explained. “But on this issue and Resolution 9, we will not take this like a boy. We are going to fight back, like a man.”