Dr Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, proposed three resolutions to be considered by the SBC in Orlando this month, and made a motion dealing with the practice of racism in the churches. The motion, to amend the constitution to declare that churches which act to “affirm, approve, or endorse…racial discrimination and bigotry in any form,” are not in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, was referred to the executive committee. If you know a whole lot about the way business is conducted in the SBC, then you know that referral to the executive committee is generally a way to kill motions the convention’s leadership does not want to consider. Referral is a procedural “out” to avoid the risk of putting something on the floor for a vote that comes up in a business session designed to demonstrate an “open democratic forum” kind of atmosphere. Some motions get very detailed, restrictive, and are not always representative of the best interests of the convention or its churches.
This one didn’t fall into those categories, hence, I really didn’t see why the convention couldn’t take a straight up vote on getting the process started toward amending the constitution and bylaws.
The resolutions are different. They must be submitted through a committee, and are essentially statements related to the particular convention meeting at which they are passed. They are non-binding on the churches.
Dr. McKissic’s motion to amend the constitution was simple and to the point, and followed a previous precedent which took similar action to establish a specific guideline by which to determine whether or not a church was in “friendly cooperation” with the convention. That guideline defined affirming, endorsing or approving homosexual activity as grounds for not being in friendly cooperation with the convention, and has already been used on one occasion to remove a church. The referral in this case may not kill the motion, but it certainly places it on a lower level of consideration than the amendment related to homosexuality, which the convention quickly and enthusiastically passed. Can we interpret this to mean that Southern Baptists do not think racism is as serious a problem in the churches as homosexuality?
As an organization, the SBC has apologized for racist actions and attitudes of the past, something which was clearly evident in the history of its entities and organizations. Though the convention itself does not control the behavior or attitude of individual church members, and there have been some courageous Southern Baptist pastors and church members who took heroic stands against racism and, in some cases placed themselves in danger or at a personal disadvantage in being advocates for reform during the civil rights movement. But there were many other individuals, and congregations, who either stood by without taking action while African Americans endured discrimination and persecution, or took an active part in it. An amendment such as the one Dr. McKissic proposed would go a long way toward dealing with that in the future.
Well beyond that, it is next to impossible for Caucasians to understand what African Americans in this country have endured, from the very roots of its founding right up to the present, and particularly during those dark years when segregation was legal. Few of us have ever had to endure anything like it. It was a cruel persecution that left physical and emotional scars on generations of African Americans. It is the greatest abberation of the principles on which America was founded in our entire history. Because of that, I think it is important to listen to the African Americans among us who wish to lead us to some level of understanding of their position, and to their ideas for helping to make it right from a soundly Biblical perspective. I know of no one in the SBC better equipped to address these issues, and lead Southern Baptists to a resolution than Dr. Dwight McKissic.
The executive committee needs to give full consideration to his amendment, and rather than finding an excuse not to bring it to the floor of next year’s convention, they need to have Dr. McKissic come and educate them on why they need to make the recommendation and stand behind it.