JUSTICE, REPENTANCE, AND THE SBC

PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 18TH 2020, 
THE 155TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROCLAMATION OF THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT, ABOLISHING SLAVERY AND INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE

The first sermon of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke records His arrival to the synagogue at Nazareth, His hometown, and His reading of the prophet Isaiah:

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 

because He has anointed me 

to proclaim good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 

and recovery of sight for the blind, 

to set the oppressed free, 

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

Luke 4:18-19, New International Version

 

Upon reading this text, Jesus declares to an astonished crowd that “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your sight.”

 

We affirm that the fullness of the gospel speaks to our need for salvation as individual sinners as well as addresses the brokenness of the world by working to see the Kingdom of God advanced in this life with full assurance that the Kingdom will one day come in full.

 

We are all sinners in need of God’s grace, and as such, justice is something that tends to elude us. We often allow preconceptions and opinions to cloud our judgment. True justice is exemplified by hearts, lives, and actions staying in line with God's vision for the world through the Gospel. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we pursue Jesus’ vision as expressed in Luke 4, understanding that the fullness of this vision will come to pass upon  His return and the establishment of a New Heaven and New Earth. We eagerly anticipate this day.

However, human inability to achieve full justice before the return of Christ cannot become an excuse to avoid dealing with injustices in our lifetime.

 

The Southern Baptist Convention was founded with injustice towards African slaves at its very core. The SBC was founded, in large part, so that white southern slave-holding Christians could appoint and support missionaries while continuing to hold their slaves in chains. This historical reality is neither disputed, nor can it be ignored. 

 

Yet in the current moment, we see attempts to downplay this historical reality. Many people deny the existence of systemic injustice as a reality. Many who recognize systemic injustices are labeled as “Marxists,” “Liberals,” and “Critical Race Theorists,” even though they are theologically orthodox and believe in the total sufficiency of Scripture. 

 

While God desires us to continue growing in the area of racial justice, the actions  of some in the SBC appear to be more concerned with political maneuvering than working to present a vibrant, gospel-loving, racially and culturally diverse vision. While some progress has occurred, some recent events have left many brothers and sisters of color feeling betrayed and wondering if the SBC is committed to racial reconciliation.

 

While we do not stand in judgment of any other person, we do call every person to acknowledge truth and Christ-like behavior towards one another. For any person, our actions should never be motivated by a desire for power and influence.  Fear can also be an overwhelming motivation for any of us: fear of what has been lost, fear of what may happen in the future, or fear that the coming generation will err on gospel ministry. What has felt like progress to our brothers and sisters of color has caused many of our white brothers and sisters to believe they are on the “losing” side. We do not  believe this is about a “winning” or “losing” side. We believe this is about being faithful to the Gospel of Jesus and the ethics He calls us to as His people.

We stand with our brothers and sisters of the National African-American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and their statement of December 11, 2020 affirming their acknowledgement of systemic racism and their admonition to proceed with prayer for “better understanding through our mutual love for Jesus Christ and one another.” 

 

Further, we stand firmly in opposition to any movement in the SBC that seeks to distract from racial reconciliation through the gospel and that denies the reality of systemic injustice. To deny systemic injustice would be to ignore the effects that sin has on both individuals, societies, and institutions. 

 

We believe God is calling us to repentance as individuals and as a convention of churches, but our hearts have grown cold to His call, continuing to fight for money, institutions, and influence.

 

We must remember that God does not need the Cooperative Program to accomplish His mission. Nor does God need the Southern Baptist Convention to accomplish His mission. He will move forward in His mission whether or not the Convention survives our skirmishes over issues.

 

We need collective repentance - for our hardness of our hearts when it comes to addressing systemic injustice and mistreatment within our church buildings to People of Color; for attempting to address social problems through human power instead of prostrating before God and asking for revival and renewal in our lives, churches, and convention; for allowing our convention to be co-opted by outside political forces instead of our churches being the unique people of God we are called to be.

 

Future cooperation remains possible and preferred if we commit to biblical justice and repentance in the SBC. However, if these commitments are not upheld, then it will signal to many in the SBC that cooperation has already ceased to exist.

 

With Hope,

The Undersigned Signatories

 *The undersigned are individually represented. They do not represent the churches, ministries, or institutions with which they are affiliated, unless otherwise indicated.

LINKS & RESOURCES
ORIGINAL SIGNERS

Rev. Page Brooks, Ph.D.

Missional Lead, Missio Mosaic Network

Senior Pastor, Canal Street Church

New Orleans, LA

Rev. Stephen Partain

Pastor, Grace Community Church 

New Orleans, LA

Dr. Fred Luter

Senior Pastor, Franklin Ave. Baptist Church

New Orleans, LA

SBC President, 2012-13

Rev. Dr. Wm. Dwight McKissic Sr.

Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church

Arlington, TX

Rev. Dennis Watson

Senior Pastor, Celebration Church

Metairie, LA

Rev. Alan Cross

Pastor, Petaluma Valley Baptist Church

Petaluma, CA

Rev. James Thomas

Pastor, Epic Family Worship Center

New Orleans, LA

Anna Palmer

Executive Director, Crossroads NOLA

New Orleans, LA

Rev. Jay Adkins

Associate Pastor, Fellowship Church

Memphis, TN

Rev. Michael Hitch

President, The Restoration Initiative for Culture and Community

New Orleans, LA

Rev. Lee Cormier

Parish Pastor, Canal Street Church

New Orleans, LA

Rev. Jesse Byrd

Pastor of Teaching and Outreach,

Grace Community Church

New Orleans, LA

Rev. David Bumgardner

Evangelist and Student, Scarborough College

Member, Cornerstone Baptist Church

Arlington, TX

Dr. Ashley Brooks

Vice President for Holistic and Trauma-Informed Care

Founder, Restoration Counseling Center

New Orleans, LA

Sarah Barnett

Director, Restoration Journeys

New Orleans, LA

Rev. Ed Litton

Pastor, Redemption Church

Saraland, AL

Rev. Marshall Blalock

Pastor, First Baptist Church

Charleston, South Carolina

Rev. Todd Benkert

Pastor, Oak Creek Community Church

Mishawaka, Indiana

Rev. Adam Blosser

Pastor, Goshen Baptist Church

Spotsylvania, Virginia

Dr. Henry Roberts

Senior Pastor, Word of Life Community Church

Chickasaw, AL

© 2020 by Justice Repentance SBC. Proudly created with Wix.com