Like most ministry leaders, Pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas has undoubtedly received his fair share of criticism over leadership decisions he’s made or sermons he’s preached. But the letter he received last week is nothing short of hateful. And racist.
Calling African Americans “savages,” a letter signed by one John V. Rutledge says “they diminish every arena in which they parade: academic, political, corporate, judicial, military, athletic.”
Rutledge goes on to say “Seeking another white bastion to badger and beleaguer, they invaded the church.” By “church,” context indicates that Rutledge is referring to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Pastor Dwight McKissic Receives Letter After Big Announcement
The letter appears to have been prompted by the Baptist Standard’s coverage of McKissic’s decision to withdraw his church from one of the two SBC-affiliated groups to which it belongs. The subject line of the letter reads: “McKissic cuts ties with STBC, potentially with SBC,” Baptist Standard, January 15. The managing editor of the Baptist Standard and the author of the article about McKissic, Ken Camp, is copied on Ruledge’s letter.
A friend of McKissic’s, Kyle Howard, shared the letter on his Twitter account on Monday, February 1st. The letter circulated as others commented on its deplorable nature and used it as an opportunity to highlight the necessity of the church, and the SBC in particular, to address the lingering problem of white supremacy and racism.
You can read the full letter in the tweet below. Please be advised that it contains disturbingly racist ideas about African Americans and does not reflect the views of ChurchLeaders.com.
— Kyle J. Howard (@KyleJamesHoward) February 2, 2021
Who is John V. Rutledge?
Rutledge is the author of A Church Has Gone to Hell —Southern Baptists: A Denomination in a Decade of Decline (2017) and How to Fail in Life: Believe Everything You Learned…In Church (2015). In his books, Rutledge describes being involved in SBC churches for some 50 years, but leaving that denomination over grievances he goes to great length to explain. As is evidenced by the letter he sent McKissic, one of those reasons is likely the SBC’s efforts at racial reconciliation, even while many, McKissic included, don’t think the SBC has done enough of this work.
Other leaders in the SBC have been quick to denounce the letter, a stance for which McKissic has expressed his gratitude.
I’m not one given to name dropping, or publicly referencing personal communications, or social media conversations. However, hearing from Fred Luter, Tony Evans, Ken Ulmer & all of the SBC entity heads, through these mediums the past two days have enormously encouraged our cause.
— Dwight McKissic (@pastordmack) February 4, 2021
Gratitude for their condemnation of the letter aside, though, McKissic replied to that tweet saying that the leaders of the SBC (he refers to them as “entity heads”) don’t exactly have his back when it comes to other issues. McKissic has been very vocal about the things he believes needs to change in the denomination he has served for many years now. The most recent issue being the SBC leaders’ wholesale rejection of Critical Race Theory without so much as a phone call to pastors of color for their input. In the past, McKissic has also spoken up about how women are relegated to non-leadership roles while being openly criticized and how systemic racism and white supremacy continue to be at play within the church.
Professor Anthony Bradley of Kings College in New York City said this kind of letter doesn’t surprise pastors of color. Bradley wrote “I’ve received many letters like that as well & I can tell you that it’s traumatizing. Black church leaders will respond, ‘see, we told you this would happen!'”